Why Does My Sewing Machine Run Slow?

It’s no fun sewing on a sewing machine that runs slow. There can be many reasons for that, and in this blog post, we will try to find out what causes the problem.

Why does my sewing machine run slow? A sewing machine typically runs slow because it is jammed or needs lubricate. Besides that, you can check the cord and foot pedal to make sure everything is plugged in properly. Lint can also be the problem.

These are probably the most common reasons, but there can actually be lots of other reasons as well as we will look at below.

Before we dive into the solutions we must acknowledge that there are so many sewing machine brands today that it can be hard to give a completely adequate answer. But in most cases, we can figure out what causes the machine to be slow so we can get it back up to speed.

Just follow along through the different steps and solutions. Hopefully, we will have your machine speed up again soon!

The first thing you must check

Switch the machine to bobbin winding position and have the machine run at normal speed. If that’s possible you will know that the problem is within the area of the moving parts. We can conclude that this is not a problem with the cord or foot pedal.

If you cannot make it run at full speed while winding the bobbin you can skip directly to solution 3)

By checking the bobbin winding mechanism you will also have checked another possible reason: The bobbin winder being engaged.

On some machines, the engine slows down when winding the bobbin. This is to make sure the thread is applied correctly to the bobbin without jamming. On most newer machines this will not be the case. A professional repair shop for your specific brand can probably tell you over the phone.

Also, beware that some machines like Brother, Kenmore, and Bernina will sometimes have a manual speed switch on the machine. Make sure it’s not set to slow. Check with your manual to see if there’s a manual speed controller.

#1 The thread may be jammed

Make sure the thread runs smoothly and is not jammed in any way. You can also check this by using the manual wheel. Be sure to unplug the power chord first before you check the thread.

Take a close look inside the bobbin case and along the thread from the spool to the needle. Everything should run smoothly and unhindered.

You can also try threading the machine all over. This way you will make sure that a jam isn’t causing the machine to run slow.

That’s an easy thing to do so we always advice to start any troubleshooting by doing so.

There are many moving parts along the thread line so a lot can go wrong and cause your machine to run at a slow speed. When you have made sure that the upper thread, as well as the bobbin, works just fine you can move on to check the next point.

#2 The machine needs lubrication

Maybe the machine just needs lubrication after too many hours of use.

Or maybe it has been a while since you have used the machine. This would definitely be something you should check because it is also easy and quick to do. Maybe you just haven’t oiled it lately and it needs a drop of oil here and there.

How often should you oil a sewing machine?
When a sewing machine has been used for around 25-30 hours you should apply oil to make sure the machine works flawlessly. This is also to make it last longer.

If you are using the wrong oil or lubricate this can also slow down the machine. A sewing machine needs really thin oil so you cannot use any other type of oil. If you have done so by mistake you should clean it off the best (with paper). Now you apply the correct lubricate a few times and wipe off with paper between to remove the old oil.

When you have removed all the old oil the right lubricates can get to work. Manually move the needle up and down a few times to make sure everything is moving at full speed again.

More reasons why the machine slows down

#3 The moving parts are dirty

When you open the shield to the bobbin case you can typically open up and see the motor parts. Check your manual if you cannot open the shield.

Remove lint, hair, and dust from under below the needle plate. You can also use a small vacuumer to remove dust and dirt. Clean it thoroughly and make sure everything can move correctly.

If you haven’t cleaned the machine in a while this could be the case. This can also happen if the machine has been stored in the closet for a while, especially if there is dust in the room.

Here’s a quick video about how to clean and oil your machine:

#4 Check the electrical cord

First, check that the cord is plugged all the way into the machine. If that’s the case the machine might not get the power it needs to run at full speed.

Note: This can be a problem specifically for some Janome and Brother models.

If you have the cord inserted properly into the machine you should take a good look at the prongs on the plug. Maybe one of the has been bent a little. We have actually found that to be the case previously, so that can totally be what’s wrong for you.

If the prongs are bent (just a little) try and straighten it with a plier:

Prongs on cord explained

Once you have straightened the prongs the machine should function at normal speed again.

If you have checked all the steps so far and the problem persists there is a good reason your machine is moving slowly because of the problem with the pedal. Let’s move on to the last point.

#5 Problems with the foot control pedal

Push the cord in as hard as possible and make sure there are no dust and dirt inside.

Try and do a little manual testing of the pedal and check that it’s not broken or damaged in any way. When examining the foot you can also listen to it carefully to make sure you haven’t got dirt or sand inside the moving part.

You can also give it a careful shake and check that nothing is knocked loose. If it sounds like there is something loose you should just get a new pedal.

Pedals can easily get kicked around and even some of the high-end brands come with a pedal that just not very durable. Some pedals can be opened and others are completely sealed off and cannot get opened without breaking it. If you cannot open the pedal it’s probably a cheap model and getting a new one should cost you more than 20-30 bucks.

Please note
Some sewing machine models can be operated without a pedal. These models will have a start/stop button on the machine as well as a way of controlling the speed. Be sure to check that this function is not engaged.

If you think the pedal is broken it’s not the worst that can happen. A new pedal is cheap. For many standard brands, you can get it at $25-50 in the shops so that’s a pretty easy solution.

If nothing else works

When you have checked all the possibilities listed above and the machine will still not run at the normal speed you might have a broken part of the machine.

If it still runs at a snail’s pace you should consider taking it to the shop.

If you have a newer model it can both be a mechanical problem and a computer error. Be sure to see a professional repair shop that works with your brand specifically as they will probably be able to locate the problem pretty quickly.

There are a ton of specialist that can help out with Brother and Singer models but you can also find dedicated shops for Bernina, Janome, and Pfaff in many towns.

If you have an old model it can be hard to find replacement parts.

Most machine repair shops will have to rely on flea markets and craigslist to find old machines that can be used for spare parts. And these parts are already worn from years of use so you are not guaranteed a long lasting solution.

So make sure you get a quote on the price before they open up the machine so you know exactly how much the repair will cost you.

Related questions

How do I make my sewing machine run slow constant speed? Some machines can be operated without the pedal. This is a good way of setting it at a constant slow speed. Industrial machines typically have this function built-in. 

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