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How To Fix Sewing Machine Handwheel – Tips & Guidelines

How To Fix Sewing Machine Handwheel
Credit: Sewing Machine Gallery / Shanta Roy

The handwheel in the sewing machine is a vital part. it is available in both manual and electric sewing machines.

It is also called the balance wheel in automatic machines. It is this wheel that you use to turn when you want to initially wind some thread to the bobbin to secure it.

You will also use the handwheel to bring the needle up or down when threading the top thread.

The wheel also helps to bring the thread take-up lever to the upper position when threading. But sometimes the handwheel can get stuck and stop your sewing completely.

Before we see how we can fix the handwheel let us see the reasons for the handwheel getting stuck. 

The Upper Thread Having No Tension

Sometimes there is no tension in the upper thread. You may at times find that the thread is tangled beneath the fabric. There will be several threads there. Most people are inclined to believe that this could be due to the problem with the bobbin.

But it is not that. It is because of a lack of tension in the top thread that leads to such a mess. There is not enough tension for the needle to pull the thread upward through the cloth. You can remedy the situation by rethreading the needle again. Please raise the presser foot for this purpose. Go through the instruction for threading your machine very carefully.

Dust And Lint Preventing Free Movement

Lint is a common by-product of sewing. Lint can accumulate in large quantities when you are stitching continuously. Dust is another thing that can get between the various parts of the machine. Oil and grease are commonly used to keep the parts lubricated for smooth functioning.

But if you don’t clean the machine regularly these two could become your enemies by making the lint and dust cling to them. The combination of all these will form a hard and sticky mess that will prevent the parts from moving. This is another reason for your handwheel to refuse to rotate.

Loosen The Inner Knob To Free The Handwheel

In older sewing machines you can see an inner knob which is a smaller wheel that is fixed in the middle of the handwheel. This inner knob might be locked which will not allow the handwheel to turn freely. Once you unlock the knob the handwheel will turn without any difficulty.

When you wind the bobbin and have to turn the handwheel you will unlock the inner knob. In the same way, you must unlock it to free the handwheel. If you are using an older model of sewing machine this is the first thing that you must do to get the handwheel to turn.

Threading The Sewing Machine Again

If there is the tangling of the threads then it is possible that the handwheel will not turn freely. Tangling can cause an increase in tension. You must not forcefully turn the handwheel. The best thing to do is to remove the thread fully and do the threading again.

Check the threading and do it properly and ensure that there is no excessive tension in the thread. You must also make sure that you have done the threading correctly. This can get the handwheel to turn smoothly if it has been stuck due to wrong threading. If you still find the handwheel turning to difficult then you may have to seek other remedies.

Removing The Bobbin Case And Cleaning The Area

As we have already seen a build-up of lint is very common in sewing. You must clean regularly to make sure that there is no lint accumulated anywhere in the machine. One of the places where lint can accumulate a lot is the area around the bobbin case. This can also make it hard for the handwheel to move smoothly.

You must remove the bobbin case and clean the area with a brush. Special attention must be given to the bobbin sensor and the race. Clean these properly and check the movement of the handwheel. Once you are satisfied then you can place the bobbin case back.

Release The Handwheel For Bobbin Winding

This is a very important step for winding the bobbin in older models of sewing machines. In these models, you must unlock the know inside the handwheel and release it so that you can turn the wheel for the initial winding of the bobbin.

If you feel it is hard to turn the handwheel when winding the bobbin, it could be because you have not unlocked the inner knob. Once you unlock it will become easy. The reason for this is to prevent the needle from moving when there is no fabric to be sewn. Hold the handwheel and turn the knob to release it.

How To Prevent Damage To The Sewing Machine

While talking about jammed handwheel we must discuss how the handwheel should be moved by hand. You should start turning the handwheel only in the anticlockwise direction. This means that you must turn the handwheel towards you when you are turning it for winding the bobbin.

It is the same when you want to turn the handwheel manually for changing the position of the thread take-up lever or the needle. If you turn the wheel in a clockwise direction or away from you, you could cause serious damage to the sewing machine.

When you turn the handwheel in the wrong direction you can end up disturbing the timing of the machine. This will then require repairs that can be very costly. On some rare occasions like unlocking a bobbin, you are allowed to turn the handwheel away from you. Even when doing this you must do it very slowly and carefully. If you find it hard you must not apply any force. 


Your handwheel may start moving freely when you do the above remedial actions. But if it doesn’t turn even after the above measures, then you must take it to the mechanic.

Any repair on the sewing machine, especially an electric sewing machine, must not be attempted by you. When you try to do anything without an excellent knowledge of its mechanism you can end up damaging the machine further.

This could result in your spending more money on repairing the machine. If you are not sure about doing any of the above actions you can always call up the service centers and ask for a visit. It is better to be safe than sorry. 

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5 thoughts on “How To Fix Sewing Machine Handwheel – Tips & Guidelines”

    • Thanks for messaging me. Here are some suggestions to help you.

      1. Ensure your machine is properly set up and threaded.
      2. Check for any jammed or tangled threads in the machine.
      3. Check the bobbin winder mechanism.
      4. Apply lubricant.
      5. Check the hand-wheel clutch.

      If none of these suggestions work, it may be best to take your machine to a professional for repair.

  1. Hello, thanks for your quick reply, I should have added that the hand-wheel is not tight or stuck. It does not always move the needle.


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