How to Unfreeze a Sewing Machine

Jean Chaney
Jean Chaney
Research Writer
Jean is the brains behind her fashion label. She's a whiz with a needle and thread, and has been sewing since she was old enough to hold a pair of scissors. Jean has always read more
Reviewed By
Isabel Misner
Isabel Misner
Expert Consultant
A professional seamstress. Isabel has her own video blog where she shares her experience about all the aspects of sewing – from choosing suitable materials to step-by-step read more
Last updated: August 15, 2023
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Like with other machines, you are likely to encounter hiccups when using your sewing machine. A common usage hiccup most sewists face is freezing. You will know the machine is frozen if you cannot move the handwheel to continue sewing. Experts warn against forcing the wheel to turn as this might lead to other problems. Before you learn how to unfreeze a sewing machine, you must first figure out its issue.

Some of the external factors that can make your sewing machine freeze include exposure to environmental pressures, regular abuse and neglect. Proper regular maintenance can prevent freezing and many other sewing machine problems regardless of how frequent you use your machine. The type of oil you use to lubricate your machine also plays a huge role in determining its likelihood to freeze. Lily White comes highly recommended by top reviewers as a reasonably priced top-quality lubricant for any type of sewing machine.

What causes a sewing machine to freeze?

For great functionality all the times, you must take proper care of your machine by regularly lubricating and maintaining it. One of the major causes of freezing is exposure to environmental factors like sunlight and dry wind. When you don’t use your machine for a long time, the oil, you used to lubricate it gets mixed up with dust, dirt and lint. The contamination affects the oil’s viscosity, and it slowly begins to dry. It also becomes sticky.

The dry and sticky oil eventually crystalizes and sticks in the sewing machine. This causes the machine to freeze, such that you cannot move the handwheel.

Jamming is also a possible freezing cause. It is mainly caused by tangling of sewing thread. You can check for and solve jamming by simply removing the bobbin, or the throat plate to release the tangled threads. Sometimes, even a slightly bent needle or low-quality thread can cause a thread jam. ThreadNanny is one of the best polyester thread set that you can get. It has multiple color options, and the threads are strong, elastic and tenacious enough for high-speed embroidery, that you wouldn’t experience any breaking, looping or puckering.

Tools you need

How to Unfreeze a Sewing Machine

If you notice that your antique Singer Sewing machine needle is not moving, then you better roll up your sleeves and get tooled up because it’s probably frozen. Some of the crucial tools you will need to unfreeze your sewing machine successfully include a brush or a mini vacuum cleaner if you have one, an air compressor, a screwdriver, a lubricant, and a solvent. A hairdryer might also come in handy at some point.

How to unfreeze a sewing machine: basic steps

Here are a few basic steps on how to unfreeze a your sewing machine:

Step 1

Start by removing the bobbin, which is the cylindrical part of your sewing machine that holds the thread. Ull it out then clean it with a brush. Next, remove the bobbin case by sliding the needle plate cover and pulling the case out with your fingers. Clean the bobbin case thoroughly with a brush as you did the bobbin. If you have a mini vacuum cleaner, you can use it instead of a brush for added convenience.

Check if there is anything like a broken needle in the shuttle area before fixing the bobbin case back in place. Ensure you return the bobbin case in the correct position. Sometimes the machine freezes because the bobbin case is not in the right place or there is something in the shuttle area.

Once you have laced back the clean bobbin place, try to move the handwheel. If it moves, then it is debris in the case that caused freezing. If it doesn’t move, then you need to continue looking for the cause of freezing.

Step 2

If your sewing machine locks up and the issue is not in the bobbin area, then you need to do further investigation. Remove the top, side and bottom covers of the machine to inspect other parts for possible causes of freezing.

The covers are pretty easy to remove because they are all screwed to the machine. All you have to do is locate the screws then get an appropriate screwdriver to unscrew them. If you still have your user manual, you can refer to it for steps on removing the covers.

Once all the covers are down, blow the machine with an air compressor. This will effectively remove lint, thread or dust stuck inside the machine. If there is thread tangled up on any of the parts you can release it with your hands.

Check that all the parts are dust-free then refer to your user manual again for parts that need lubrication. Before lubricating ensure that the areas are well-cleaned and free of dirt or debris. When lubricating, be extra keen on parts with two joined metals.

Now turn the wheel to see if it is moving. If it does, you can return the covers and screw them on, if not, then you must do further investigation.

Step 3

How to Unfreeze a Sewing Machine

The remaining parts that you should check for your machine’s cause of freezing are the tensioner, drive mechanisms, and pulley assemblies. They are the parts that maintain perfect tension for the machine to function well. You need to be familiar with the sewing machine’s anatomy to be able to know these parts and their functions. If you have any doubts, refer to your user manual. Clean all the parts well then try to turn the wheel. If it doesn’t move then maybe the parts, have stubborn lubricant residue in them.

Grab some solvent or even a hairdryer to clean the tough lubricant residues. The hairdryer will provide even heat. Soak the parts with the solvent for a couple of hours before cleaning them. It will not only make your work easier but will also yield great results.

When you feel you have given the parts a thorough cleaning, turn the wheel. If it doesn’t move then, you should seek professional help. If your machine’s warranty is still valid, you can reach out to the manufacturer’s customer service center.

Do note that unfreezing a sewing machine will take a significant time of your day. It can be a few hours or a whole day, depending on the cause of freezing. Therefore, you have to be sure you have enough time to do it.

Final thoughts

A sewing machine, like all other machines, requires proper maintenance to function correctly. So, when your white 742 sewing machine locks up, it’s probably because you haven’t used it in a long time or you have been using it but ignoring to take care of it. To avoid freezing and other common sewing machine problems, use your machine frequently and always repair it any time it gets damaged.

We have provided clear steps on how to unfreeze a sewing machine of any kind. The steps are very straightforward even a beginner can follow to unfreeze their machine. When your machine is frozen, do not try to fumble with the handwheel, forcing it to move. Just leave and start finding out what the issue could be. If you are unable to unfreeze it after following all the steps, seek professional help. There are times when it can be tempting to try to fix the machine by all means, especially when you have near project deadlines, but you might end up doing more damage to it.

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