Troubleshooting and Repair for Kenmore Sewing Machine Update 07/2022

When properly cared for, vintage Kenmore sewing machines can last a lifetime. Your machine will last a long time if you learn how to troubleshoot it! Check out this troubleshooting and repair instructions for Kenmore sewing machines.

Troubleshooting a Kenmore sewing machine entails lubricating the machine and untangling the threads. Machines that won’t stitch or sew in reverse are other common problems. Feed dog, zigzag, or tension issues may also be encountered by Kenmore machines.

You’ll learn how to fix ten problems with your Kenmore sewing machine in this post. Additionally, you’ll learn how to download a Kenmore manual. It is also possible to prevent your sewing machine from jamming by following these instructions:

What to Know About Kenmore Sewing Machines

Sears Roebuck, the historic American firm that introduced the nation to the mail-order catalog, sold Kenmore sewing machines made by a variety of various manufacturers. Appliances that Sears purchased pre-made from various manufacturers throughout the world were given the Kenmore brand name.

Sears was a household name in the United States, and as a result, American consumers appreciated the Kenmore brand as a result. This is not to say that the quality of Kenmore sewing machines has not improved over time. Kenmore sewing machines were sold by Sears until 2013 after the company first introduced them to its catalog in 1913.

Older Kenmore sewing machines have a reputation for being reliable and long-lasting on a tight budget. The plastic and electronic parts used in models created after 1970 may not survive as long.

A complete inventory of every Kenmore model ever created is difficult to come across, although information about the broad timeline of the company may be found easily.

Most of the first Kenmore models were manufactured by a firm called White. From 1950 until the 1960s, Sears bought Japanese-made machinery.

Singer produced a few Kenmore-branded sewing machines in the 1970s. After that, a well-known Japanese firm called Janome took control and produced Kenmore machines until 2013.

As a result of Sears’ bankruptcy in 2013, sewing machine sales were completely halted. Kenmore sewing machines are still available for purchase, but you won’t find any new models on store shelves!

Kenmore Sewing Machine Troubleshooting: 10 Easy Fixes

For Kenmore sewing machines of the old variety, you will need to focus on vintage sewing machine troubleshooting strategies to keep them in working order.

Kenmore machines manufactured by Janome between 1970 and 2013 may, of course, also include more current features than that. Some people prefer the solid-metal vintage Kenmores, which have a good reputation as long-lasting machines.

It is true that not all Kenmore appliances are equal, but most of the time, you can fix them yourself! There won’t be any major mechanical or electrical difficulties with these vintage computers. As a rule of thumb, if you open up your ancient Kenmore and uncover deteriorated wiring, it’s usually time to call in a pro.

Keep in mind, however, that the majority of Kenmore appliances don’t cost a lot.. Because of this, you may feel more confident in doing repairs yourself. It’s a good thing that you didn’t damage a pricey piece of equipment!

The majority of the time, you’ll be able to use one of these ten simple remedies to cure the problem yourself.

1. Sewing Machine Not Sewing

There are a variety of reasons why your Kenmore sewing machine may be refusing to sew. You can tick out each possible cause as you go down this helpful list!

  1. It’s possible that the power cord is tangled up. The sewing machine’s power cord may have come loose or a fuse may have blown in your home! Put your machine on a different socket and make sure the cord is properly plugged in.
  2. The foot pedal has to be checked out. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on the foot pedal cord when sewing with older Kenmore machines because they can rattle and vibrate a lot.
  3. Alternatively, you can buy a new power cord or foot pedal if you suspect that an old one has broken.
  4. A thread jam or a broken needle could be to blame if your sewing machine would not sew. See the following section for further information!
  5. This last possibility is less common, but you may have a problem with your machine’s wiring or a blown motor. Unless you have experience with electrical maintenance, it’s best to take this machine to a vintage sewing machine repair business.

2. Tangled Thread

When you sew, a tangled mess of thread will result from improper threading. Your sewing machine will grind to a halt if it develops a problem known as jamming or bird’s nesting.

This is a problem that affects all sewing machines and all sewers, not just Kenmore machines. The good news is that if you follow these simple instructions, you should be able to fix the problem!

  1. Using a sharp knife, snip the thread just above the spool. Then cut the thread above the needle and pull the tail down to remove it from the thread pathways and tension discs.
  2. Untangle and cut the fabric from under the presser foot with a seam ripper or sharp scissors.
  3. Any lint that has found its way into the bobbin region or the top thread path needs to be removed. If your machine came with a little brush, make use of it. Alternatively, you can dust with a clean makeup brush.
  4. Re-threading your machine is safe at this time. Despite the fact that not all Kenmore models seem alike, you can often follow the clear lines between the spool of thread and the needle!
  5. The presser foot must be raised before threading, though. Performing this action frees up the tension discs, which then enables the upper thread to be inserted appropriately.
  6. Thread the needle, finally! Automatic needle threaders are available on some models. Before attempting to thread the needle, elevate it as high as it will go on the handwheel to ensure everything is working properly.

3. Broken Thread

For a variety of reasons, thread can come loose while you’re sewing. The most likely causes are given at the top of this list. If none of the tried-and-true treatments work, move on to the less likely but still viable alternatives!

  1. Incorrect threading is the most likely cause of a snag in your sewing machine’s sewing machine needle. Turn off your machine, delete the old thread, and then rethread the upper thread path. It is imperative that you remove any thread pieces from the tension discs to avoid jamming and snapping the thread while sewing.
  2. If you sew with too tight of a tension, you run the risk of the upper thread snapping. Check read the “tension issue” part of this post to learn how to change the tension on your Kenmore machine!
  3. The thread could get tangled if the needle plate or bobbin case has a lot of rough spots. Check your sewing machine thoroughly for any scratches or defects, just in case!
  4. The thread may be broken if the needle hits metal as it descends. Changing your needle frequently is the best way to avoid this problem.
  5. It’s possible that the tension on the bobbin casing has to be adjusted if the bobbin thread keeps breaking. Using a screwdriver, release the screw on the back of the casing. The bobbin section may also require a thorough cleaning, as lint or old oil may have clogged up the workings there.
  6. When you’re sewing, a cheap or worn-out thread is likely to break. You may notice that threads that don’t match your fabric, such as polyester thread sewed into silk, may snap or break as you sew.

4. Troubleshooting Bobbin Thread

There are numerous reasons why your bobbin thread may be malfunctioning.

  1. First and foremost, did you simply wind the bobbin on the machine? Spindles that may be used for winding bobbins are common on several Kenmore models. Make sure the spindle is pushed back to “off” before moving the needle, or you won’t have bobbin thread!
  2. It’s been how long since you’ve thoroughly cleaned the bobbin area. The needle plate can be removed with a screwdriver, so be sure to get all of the lint! The bobbin is the sewing machine part that accumulates the most filth and dust, and it will eventually stop working properly.
  3. It’s possible that you’ll start sewing without first putting the presser foot down. The bobbin thread can get tangled up as a result of this practice. Take out the tangle, reinsert the bobbin, and start over again with the presser foot down to fix this problem
  4. Using the improper bobbin size or shape is another typical problem with vintage sewing machines. The sort of bobbin used by your particular Kenmore will be described in detail in the manual. Class 15 bobbins can be used in several antique Kenmore machines.

5. Tension Repair

It may be intimidating to learn how to adjust the tension on a vintage sewing machine, but it’s actually much simpler than it seems. To that end, finding the perfect level of tension for a given project often necessitates some iteration.

What is sewing machine tension, and why is it important?

The amount of pressure exerted on the top thread as it goes from the spool to the needle is known as tension. There are discs inside the arm of your sewing machine that exert this force.

Tighter stitches can be achieved by increasing the tension on the thread, which causes it to spool more tightly. Allowing the thread to move freely results in looser stitches.

There is no single answer to the question of what number to set the tension on your Kenmore sewing machine. The average tension setting for cotton and midweight material is between numbers four and five.

However, each type of fabric and thread is handled by your machine in a somewhat different way. This means that the upper thread may need to be tighter or looser for each sewing project!

As you begin a project, follow these simple procedures to narrow down that number:

  1. Using some spare cloth, sew several inches of a straight stitch together.
  2. After you’ve taken out the fabric from the machine, take a close look at the top of it. Are there any stray, skipped, or crooked stitches visible?
  3. Reduce tension if you observe puckered stitches or thread loops on this side of the fabric. Try stitching again with a lower number!
  4. Look at the stitching on the backside of the fabric. Once more, are there any tangled threads or missing stitches?
  5. Incorrectly threaded machines or excessively tightening the tension can cause tangled threads. You’ll know it’s true if you can see the upper thread snaking through to the bottom of the fabric itself.
  6. Increasing or decreasing the tension by one number at a time may be effective. Inspect the stitching after every few inches sewn.
  7. Using the correct tension setting means that the top and bottom threads are perfectly blanched and you can see tidy and even stitches on both sides.

It’s also a good idea if you’re having difficulties with your tension to fully clean the thread path and tensions discs by running clean thread through them!

6. Feed Dog Troubleshooting

After purchasing an older Kenmore sewing machine, you may need to clean the feed dogs to get them functioning properly. Feed dogs resemble little metal teeth and are used to help move the fabric under the needle while sewing.

You may run into a variety of feed dog issues.

  • If your feed dogs seem to be frozen and aren’t moving, start by cleaning and lubricating your machine thoroughly. Stitch length should not be adjusted to zero on newer machines with variable stitch sizes.
  • With smooth or sheer fabrics, the old feed dogs may not be able to hold onto them. If this is the case, gently guide the material through with the palm of your hand. Alternatively, you can use a variety of fabric stabilizers to speed up the sewing.
  • Finally, in some cases, you may find that the feed dogs’ timing does not match the needle’s rising and falling motion. The problem you’re having is a mechanical one, but it’s so complicated that you’ll probably want to take your equipment to a repair facility!

7. Reverse Problems

Many Kenmore sewing machines, even those that are decades old, have the ability to go backwards. Your machine may not be able to stitch in reverse in some cases. Reverse buttons or levers can also get stuck, causing your machine to only sew in the opposite direction!

If you’re dealing with a vintage machine, you’re more likely to see this problem than if you’re dealing with a well-oiled, meticulously maintained one.

There are a few things you can do before taking your Kenmore to the shop if this happens.

Take out the reverse switch/lever and locate the spring that’s hidden beneath it. If the spring appears to be stuck in a position that causes all of the coils to contract, try wriggling it loose or repositioning it.

To begin with, remove the machine’s cover and clean the gears behind the reverse button. All the working parts can be frozen when old grease or sludge gets into the system and hardens.

8. ZigZag Trouble

A zigzag stitch on your Kenmore machine may also be problematic.

The zigzag stitch may not be available on all old Kenmore machines. If you are looking for zigzag and other stitching options on a midcentury model, you may need to insert plastic discs called cams. Automated zigzag stitches are, of course, available on more recent machines.

What if the machine refuses to zigzag?

  1. Make sure you read the instruction handbook. Determine what settings or special equipment you may need to tell your sewing machine to make a zigzag stitch before you start sewing.
  2. Make sure your machine is clean and lubricated in case one of the thread-lifting hooks needs lubrication. Later in this article, you’ll find a section about oil!
  3. You may not be able to use the zigzag function on your Kenmore because of a worn-down gear. You’ll have to replace a gear if the teeth on it wear out.
  4. Finally, zigzag stitching, as well as other stitching patterns, might be affected by timing difficulties. If this is the case, you should seek the assistance of a specialist.

9. Loose Stitches

Loose stitches can be caused by a variety of issues when sewing with a Kenmore sewing machine.

  1. The thread path should always be the first place to start when troubleshooting! See if a simple rethreading of the machine fixes the problem. In order to get exact sewing, the thread must be tightly wound around a hook or the tension discs.
  2. The bobbin thread should also be checked. A front-loading or drop-in bobbin is possible on your Kenmore. In some front-loading bobbin cases, the bobbins might rest loosely and cause issues.
  3. Make sure you use the correct thread for the fabric you’re sewing. For example, thick cotton thread is unlikely to stitch nicely in fine silk.
  4. Finally, loose stitching might be caused by tension issues. To fix this problem, see the part on adjusting your upper tension earlier in this post!

10. Oil Issues

There are numerous moving metal parts in old Kenmore sewing machines, and these need to be lubricated on a regular basis.

Please read your sewing machine’s instruction booklet before commencing on this undertaking!! You’ll find out exactly what to oil if you consult the guide. Also, sewing machine oil is the only lubricant you should ever use.

You may also need to consult your owner’s handbook to learn how to access the machine’s internals. Many Japanese-made 385 models, for example, include a hinge that enables them to open their casings at the end of the arms. Using this method, you can lubricate the gears and the tension discs.

Any moving part in your vintage sewing machine needs to be oiled regularly as a general rule of thumb.

Why Does My Kenmore Sewing Machine Keep Jamming?

Sewing machine jams are almost always the result of faulty threading. After that, the second most common cause is wrong upper tension settings..

In some cases, you may discover that your machine is blocked because the motor has died or halted. Alternatively, there may be a problem with the handwheel. Handwheel gears can become jammed if old grease becomes solidified inside them.

It’s also possible that your sewing machine is jammed up because of a bent needle or the improper sort of needle!

Stop stitching if you hear a noise like a squeak or a grinding sound. Under the presser foot, untangle any tangled cloth or thread.

Once you’ve done all of this, switch off your sewing machine, re-thread it, and replace the needle. A lot of the time, that will get you out of jams!

Kenmore Sewing Machine Model 385 Troubleshooting

Kenmore Sewing Machine Troubleshooting

A Kenmore 385 sewing machine can be fixed with a variety of simple troubleshooting methods.

Janome manufactured Kenmore sewing machines with model numbers beginning with “385” between 1965 and 2013. The 12-stitch form, which has become a symbol of the 1990s, presumably originated in that decade.

Even the earliest versions have a fantastic reputation, especially those that still have solid metal parts. Later models from the 1980s and 1990s often used subpar plastic parts or outdated computer components.

It’s safe to predict that, depending on when the Kenmore 385 was manufactured, the methods for diagnosing and resolving issues will be vastly different. Earlier in this essay, it was said that most 385 models had issues with threading, tension, or bobbins from time to time.

In the event that you come across an older computerized Kenmore, you might wish to pass on it. Over time, these versions won’t hold up as well, and they’ll require an expert’s knowledge of outdated computer boards and wiring to keep them working!

Kenmore Sewing Machine Repair Manual Free

The original owner’s manual that came with your Kenmore sewing machine included instructions on how to set up and repair the machine. When it comes to Kenmore machines, it’s possible they don’t all have the original paperwork. Finding a manual for your Kenmore sewing machine comes with both good and bad news.

They’re not available for free on Sears’ website, either. There is, however, a free “repair guide” available online!

However, if you are looking for, example, a Kenmore 385 sewing machine manual, there are two ways you might go about it.

The first thing to know is that you can now get just about any sewing machine handbook on the internet. Shop on Etsy or, both of which specialize in handmade goods. Sears also carries a selection of publications.

Second, join an online sewing forum to see if you can get a free manual. Members of an old-sewing-machine forum frequently submit manuals that they find. Sewers love to lend a helping hand to one other!

Kenmore Sewing Machine Parts

More and more vintage Kenmore models are becoming difficult to find replacement parts for. Through Etsy and eBay, you may still be able to locate parts. You might also check with a local antique sewing machine repair shop to see if they have the necessary parts.

When Sears ceased selling Kenmore sewing machines, they began to decline. It’s a common practice for some sewing aficionados to buy antique Kenmore sewing machines at yard sales or flea markets and dismantle them for their parts!

Because Kenmore machines have never become valuable and aren’t normally considered high-end models, they are sold at a discount. For less than $100, you can often find a vintage Kenmore sewing machine.


Kenmore sewing machines have been sold by Sears for many years, however new models are no longer available. In order to troubleshoot an older Kenmore model, you’ll need to employ skills from vintage sewing machine repair. Knowing how to lubricate your machine and where to get the right parts and bobbins are two of these strategies.

Using a sewing machine also entails resolving issues like incorrect tension and tangled thread. It’s possible that the feed dogs or bobbin thread need adjusting as well.

Is there a Kenmore sewing machine in your possession? Do you know what kind of stitching you used on it? The best way to let us know is to leave a comment below.

Please consider giving this post a star rating.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.