Sewing machine pedals (electrical)

Troubleshooting Sewing Machine Foot Pedals

In Helpful tips by Maria Storgaard

Has your sewing machine foot pedal stopped working or are you just having trouble with it? With this through troubleshooting post, we try to cover all and every issue you may have with your electrical foot pedal.

Because the foot pedal rests on the floor most at the time it will collect a lot of dust and dirt and over time it might stop working.

Let’s dive right in and start with

Before we start, let’s take a look inside the foot pedal and see what’s in there.

Why is my foot pedal getting hot?

There can be many reasons why your foot pedal gets hot. It’s basically just alright that it gets hot as long as you can rest your foot on it.

If your foot pedal is getting too hot to the point where you cannot operate it with barefoot you should take it to the shop. It should not get that hot and it’s probably a problem with the electronics inside.

If you suspect your outlet is not delivering a stable current you can use a surge protector.

You might be sewing too slow

When you sew too slow the foot pedal can easily get very hot. This is OK. But you can fix it by increasing the speed.

The reason for this is this: When you run the machine at low speed for longer periods of time the current is constantly being cut off (lowered) by the rheostat (explanation above).

This “energy-burn” can cause the rheostat to become hot and eventually the foot pedal will heat up too.

So try to increase the speed a little and see if that fixes your problem. If it does and you are not comfortable running any faster you can either put on shoes or just give the pedal a break by unplugging it for a couple of hours once in a while.

Don’t rest your foot on the pedal

If you rest your foot on the pedal you might be turning it on (just a little bit) without noticing. This way we will have the same problem as above.

The pedal will be activated and start sending a very small amount of current to the engine.

The amount of current might be so small that the needle is not even moving at all. But the pedal will still have to reduce the current to a minimum and that will cause the pedal to get hot over time.

So always remove your foot from the pedal when you are not actively sewing.

Use a surge protector to protect from voltage spikes

This is a good idea is your house is old and the current in the wires are spiking once in a while. If you have trouble with this you should get a surge protector. You can find them at good prices here at Amazon (from $20-30).

They look like this:

surge protector

A surge protector is designed to limit the amount of voltage input to electronic devices like a sewing machine. It does so by blocking or shorting any spikes so you always have a stable output.

By using a surge protector you also help protect your home from fire. If you have regular power spikes you might also have a spark from your electronics or cords which can cause a fire. Especially from a sewing machine pedal which is placed directly on the carpet.

Other issues

The foot pedal is unresponsive or too fast

If this is the case you need to have it checked. It will be a problem with the electrical parts inside. The pedal is simply not able to supply the correct amount of current to the motor.

If you are technically minded and know your way around electric parts (or you know someone who does) you can try to fix it yourself.

It will probably be the rheostat that isn’t working properly and that’s quite easy to replace.

The foot pedal smells burned

This is not good. You should definitely have it checked. It can be dangerous to use an electrical device that smells burned.

There’s probably a problem inside the pedal that causes it to overheat or maybe one of the electronic components is fried. Either way, you need a new pedal or you can take it to the shop to get looked at.

Ticking and clicking

Some pedals will make weird sounds if they have moist inside. If you have stored it in a room with moisture (basement or outside in the car) you might experience these types of sounds when you start using it.

It’s typically alright.

These sounds can be caused by the pedal “burning” the moisture and you should expect it to go away again. If it doesn’t you need to take it to the shop.

Also, pay close attention to sparks. If the pedal gets very hot and there are sparks you need to stop using it because it can cause it to catch on fire.

Running too fast

If the pedal will not run at low speeds we have a problem with regulating the current from the pedal to the machine. This is almost always a problem with electronics inside the pedal and not a problem with your machine in general.

You should always be able to run the machine at all speeds and if you cannot make it do so you should have it checked.

You can also try to take a thorough look at the foot pedal and see if it has any broken parts that you can see without opening it. If it looks scratched or you just kicked it by accident you might have been knocking something loose.

Hurting feet from operating the feet pedal

Your feet can easily start hurting from pressing down the pedal for long periods of time. You might also experience cramps. It’s not uncommon to get foot pain on the upper side of the pedal foot.

The best thing you can do is to take a break and do some stretching once in a while. You probably tried that. So what else can you do?

You need to start using both feet if you are not doing that already.

By doing so you can rest the foot for a period by switching to the other foot. You should not continue sewing if your feet hurt. After a few runs, you will quickly get the feel for it and you will be an expert in using both feet. It’s one of the things you have to learn when you sew for long periods of time. Otherwise, you will experience pain or sore feet after a while.

You can also get a machine that will work without the pedal. You can use a knee-operated machine of you can get rid of the pedal all-together if your machine has an on/off switch and a speed regulator built-in.

The Brother CS6000i (retail price is around $260) can be operated without the pedal. This model has a start/stop button on the machine, which you can use instead of the pedal.

How to keep sewing machine foot pedal in place?

A non-slip mat for sewing machine pedal is a great way to fit that. If you are sewing on hard floors (wooden floors, tiles etc.) this is often a problem. The foot pedal will slowly move or slide forwards when you are sewing.

You need a non-slip mat (some places referred to as a “non-skid pad“) to help the pedal stay in the same place. It’s a super easy solution and one that you can bring with you at all times. Just place it inside your sewing machine bag or trolley when you are not using it. After all, we only need the non-slip mat when we are sewing on hard floors.

Here’s a link to a cheap and great options over at Amazon ($18).

You can also use a footrest for sewing machine pedal. Just make sure you are not lifting the pedal too much as you might just make it worse. You need to be able to place your heel on the ground (or close to it) so you are not lifting your foot while sewing.

You can make a footrest yourself but we recommend using a mat as they will keep your feet close to the ground at all times.

Good exercises you can do

It’s always good to do some stretching and massaging of your feet if they feel tense or when you have been sewing for a long time.

The feet are sensible parts of the body and when they are not properly taken care of you might get pain somewhere else in your body. So make sure you don’t press them too hard when you are sewing on a big project.

Here is a good little video with a couple of exercises you can so anywhere:

It’s also good to take a break whenever your feet, calf, etc. gets sore. You shouldn’t continue working through if your feet are not feeling too well. You might get a cramp going or work up a more serious problem over time.

These are some of the same exercises you might know from the running class. You can also use a massage ball (one of these soft tennis ball size balls with little spikes). It’s an easy way to loosen up any tension or sore muscles under your feet.

Those places are not easy to massage yourself unless you can roll your feet over a rubber ball to release the stress.

Where to find a new pedal and parts online?

If your pedal is broken or you have lost your sewing machine pedal Amazon is a great place to go looking for a new model. You need to make sure you get a new one that works with your sewing machine.

By doing a little searching on Amazon you can quickly find a new model that works perfectly with your machine. They typically cost around $15-30. You can start on this page to look for your model (link to Amazon).

You just search for your sewing machine model name + “pedals” and you will immediately see a long list to go searching for the perfect pedal.

Can I use a generic pedal?

Some pedals might work for other machines than what is listed on the store. You should consult your dealer or shop regarding this. They will be the best ones to guide you about your specific machine.

You might be able to save a few bucks by getting a cheaper model which were originally designed or another model or version. So that’s definitely an option. Just make sure that it works while you can return it or even better: before you leave the shop!

How to open sewing machine foot pedal

Note: You should never open a sewing machine pedal yourself. It can be dangerous if you are not completely sure about what you are doing. So always take it to a professional repair shop if you cannot get it to work from the tips we provide in this article. If you are curious about what the inside looks like you can look at our pictures in this article. But if you know what you are doing and want to open it up, here’s how you do it.

Most household sewing machines are not easy to open. Our Bernina and Pfaff models do not have screws you can use to open it. So what do you do?

You need to use a screwdriver.

First, you remove the cord if you can detach it. On many models you cannot remove the cord, so you might not be able to do so.

If you cannot remove the electrical cord from the pedal you should be extra careful and make sure you insert the screwdriver in the opposite side. Don’t insert the screwdriver beside the cord. You might damage it.

You gently insert the screwdriver beside the joints like this:

How to open a sewing machine foot pedal (with screwdriver)

When you insert the screwdriver just beside the joint you can gently press outwards to open it. Make sure you don’t insert the screwdriver where it says “Not here” on the picture above as you will probably end up breaking the plastic exterior case.

Most older cases are made of bakelight (a type of plastic) and other models are made of metal or other types of plastic. This is typical for Bernina, Pfaff, Singer, Janome, Brother and a lot of other brands. Singer pedals are also made from metal.

If it’s a very old pedal you might risk breaking it if you try to open it with the screwdriver.

Other models might have screws you can loosen to open the case. If that’s the case it’s an easy task to open the pedal. This is typically the way you open industrial models.

The parts of a sewing machine pedal (with pictures)

The mechanics and electronics of a sewing machine pedal are actually quite simple. There are not a lot of advanced elements just pretty basic electronic parts.

Here’s a picture from the inside of our Bernina foot pedal:

Electronics of the sewing machine foot pedal

And here you can see the two parts of the case. For this model, we could not remove the electrical cord, so it’s still inside the case.

But as we said, if you can remove it be sure to do so before opening the pedal.

The inside of a sewing machine foot pedal

After all, all it does is to regulate the power to the electrical motor to increase and decrease the speed.

Let’s look at the full list of the different parts and their functions.

  • Rheostat – This part regulated the current by changing the resistance. So it will change the output (Ohms) going to the sewing machine motor. By doing so the motor will either start running faster or slower.
  • Capacitor (also called a condenser) – This part can store electricity and works kind of like a battery. You can build up This part can only be changed by using a soldering iron.
  • Mechanical parts – Most of the pedal is plastic and joints to make the pedal move up and down. If you happened to open your pedal you should lubricate all joints with just a tiny drop of oil. Not too much – just a small drop or two.

Related questions

Can you use a sewing machine without a pedal? Yes is the short answer. Many machines can be operated with knee pedals or even without a pedal at all. If the machine has a start/stop button you might also be able to control the speed directly on the machine.

We have another post about sewing machines for elderly and handicapped people. Here you can read more about 100% hand-operated sewing machines.

There’s also great info about what you can do if you are visually impaired or your hands shake a bit.

Should I unplug my foot pedal? When you aren’t using the pedal you should always unplug it from the outlet. It should not be plugged in at all times, because it will have current running through it. Give it a break when you are done using the machine.