Sewing Machine Handwheel Problems and How To Fix

Vintage sewing machines have a handwheel that you can use to initiate the sewing process. But just like other components of a sewing machine, there is also the possibility of it having problems. 

What happens when your sewing machine starts having handwheel problems? In this article, we will be discussing what causes handwheel problems and solutions to those issues.

Sewing Machine Handwheel Problems and How To Fix

 A sewing machine handwheel problem is when the handwheel does not rotate freely. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including worn bearings or gears, jammed stitches, and other problems with the mechanism that operates the handwheel. 

Here are certain factors that could cause problems for your sewing machine’s handwheel.

i. Incorrect Threading

Even the most seasoned sewers may be reluctant to acknowledge this potential reason for a jammed handwheel. 

Your machine’s threading issue could occasionally result in a jammed handwheel. As a result, it’s a good idea to double-check that the sewing machine is properly threaded

You could spot knots while inspecting the thread, which is a frequent cause of blockages. Before connecting your thread spool and feeding it through the tension discs, be careful to thoroughly unthread the machine and rethread it from scratch by turning the take-up thread lever to its highest level. 

After that, pass the thread through the needle’s eye, leaving a short tail of thread.

ii. A buildup of lint and dust

It’s rather typical for the sewing machine inside to fill up over time with a lot of dust and lint. It’s very possible that the accumulation of lint and dust is what’s causing your handwheel to feel jammed if you’ve never opened up your sewing machine to clean it out. 

Before cleaning out your sewing machine, you’ll want to switch it off.

iii. Broken belt

If the belt within your sewing machine is damaged, it could affect the handwheel and the needle’s ability to operate properly. 

It can be challenging to try to replace the belt on your own. Therefore, we advise taking the belt to a specialist to have it replaced.

iv. The machine needs lubricating.

Older-style sewing machines will require routine oiling. The handwheel’s internal gears are the key parts that require routine lubrication in order to maintain smooth operation.

The gears simply need to be oiled with a very small amount of sewing machine oil. Apply only a drop of oil, then test the handwheel to see whether it spins more easily. 

If not, gradually add a little more oil until turning the handwheel feels easier.

v. Upper thread tension 

Your initial reaction will probably be to blame the bobbin case if you discover tangled threads below the cloth you are stitching. 

You might be correct in certain circumstances, but in others, the stress in the top strands might be the source of the tangled threads.

The sewing machine finds it more challenging to get the thread through the fabric when the higher threads are not tightly wound. In this situation, re-threading the needle per the instructions for your particular model is your best chance.

vi. Mistakenly using your handwheel backwards.

If your handwheel is in good condition, it should turn smoothly and readily without your assistance. 

You should notice the needle rising and falling as it turns. You should always turn your handwheel in your direction when using it. The handwheel can only be turned in an anticlockwise direction.

Its operation may have issues if you turn it in a direction that is counterclockwise or away from you.

In What Direction Should I Turn My Sewing Machine Handwheel?

Make sure to rotate your handwheel counterclockwise at all times. The motor within your sewing machine may suffer severe damage if the handwheel is turned in a clockwise direction. 

This is particularly true if you constantly flip it completely counterclockwise. However, if a thread becomes stuck and you need to unravel it, you can crank the handwheel in a clockwise direction. 

Apart from that, you should only rotate the handwheel counterclockwise to avoid issues with the motor that require expensive repairs. It is simple for people to overlook this information because sewing machine user manuals don’t always provide it.

How To Fix a Sewing Machine Handwheel

There is a common problem with sewing machines—the handwheel. If it becomes jammed or if its gearing gets worn, this can cause severe problems for the machine and even lead to the need for the replacement of parts. 

It’s important that you know how to fix the sewing machine handwheel so you can get your machine back up and running as quickly as possible. Here is how to fix your sewing machine handwheel: 

– Rethread The Sewing Machine

Because errors with this configuration can result in the handwheel being stuck, learn how to thread the specific sewing machine you own. 

This is due to the knotted thread that results, which raises the handwheel tension. Check the machine’s threading or look for any knots that may have developed.

Rethread the component next in accordance with your instructions. The order in which the thread should pass through the sewing machine should be shown in the instructions. 

However, the focus must be placed on going in the order listed in the handbook until you reach the needle eye.

– Clean the sewing machine

Are you aware that neglecting maintenance can lead to handwheel problems? For instance, the handwheel of your sewing machine may jam if it is dusty and clogged with lint and debris.

Check the bobbin case, especially because lint may have gathered there over time. Never use canned air to remove them because it could force the debris into the machine. Instead, remove them with a brush or tweezers.

Keep in mind that the handwheel tension can rise if lint or other debris accumulates on the machine. Establish a routine of cleaning your sewing machine after each job or 8 hours of nonstop use.

– Make inner knobs adjustments 

Making modifications to the knob on the interior of the sewing machine is one potential remedy for an older sewing machine. 

Your handwheel may feel harder to turn as a result of this inner knob being locked. Therefore, those of you with older sewing machines should examine the interior knob and adjust it as needed to loosen it. 

The inside little wheel being jammed is another potential reason why the handwheel is difficult to turn. If the smaller wheel appears to be stuck, make the necessary adjustments so that the handwheel is simpler to turn.


Handwheels are very common in an older sewing machine, and they are one of its main features.

Most of the time, handwheel problems are caused by dirt accumulating in the machine over time or the user’s neglect to lubricate the machine. Following the guide, you should be able to prevent and fix your sewing machine handwheel problems.