Monday, January 28, 2013

Bobbin Winder Clutch

Sometimes, if you're working with an older sewing machine, your bobbin winder won't disengage, and the needle will go up and down while you're trying to wind a bobbin.  This can be caused by 2 things.  #1)  you've got some old oil on the shaft inside that needs to be removed.  Or #2)  the ring under the bobbin winder clutch is in the wrong position.  Here's how to fix it...

Here's a picture of a bobbin winder clutch.  It's on the handwheel of this old Kenmore.  First, loosen the small screw on the center knob.  You don't have to take it all the way out, just loosen it.  Then twist the center knob to the left (righty-tighty, lefty-loosey) until it comes off.  This is a picture of what you'll see under the knob.  Can you see the metal ring that's sitting on the center shaft?  Remove it.

You may need to take the top lid and/or the side panel off to allow the handwheel to move in and out.  If you're not sure you can get the belt back on correctly, you don't need to take the belt off, just loosen the outer panels so you can move the handwheel on it's shaft, like this...

Can you see how the center shaft has moved back inside, as I push the handwheel out?  Use some "solvent" (WD-40) to remove the old, gummy oil on the shaft.  Squirt it inside the hole and work the handwheel around until the gum is dissolved.  Then wipe out as much of the solvent as you can.  If you have a can of air, you can blow it out -- we use an air compressor at the shop.  Also use the solvent to wipe the old oil off of the metal ring and center knob.

Put 2 drops of oil on the shaft and put the machine back together.
The metal ring under the knob will have 2 or 3 raised nubs on the inside.

The raised side of the nubs should be facing outward.  Put the ring in place, with the nubs in the slots on the shaft.  (Take a closer look at the second picture above.)  Then screw the center knob back on and tighten the little screw.  You should be able to release and re-tighten the center knob.

Run the machine and see if it's doing what it's supposed to do.

If the machine isn't working well with the ring in its current position, turn it counter-clock-wise one position.  Screw the center knob back on and tighten the little screw.

That should take care of it!


  1. Thank you so much for this post! I'm a bit of a dunderhead when it comes to mechanical things, but I was able to fix my sewing machine, although it took two days for me to get the center knob off. It was almost as though it had been glued on!

    1. How did you finally get centre knob off. I am having the same issue.

  2. You saved the day for us. There was no gunk on the shaft, but we put some oil on it regardless. When we took off the top, we discovered that the bobbin shaft was frozen. We put WD-40 and then oil on it and rotated it with a wrench until it loosened. Now everything works fine. Thank you very much.

  3. I purchased a used kenmore 12 model #385.1284180. The metal ring under the knob & clutch stop screw were both missing. Do you know where I might find to purchase them? Don't know part numbers. Any help appreciated.

  4. If you’re a thrift store shopper, you can probably find a whole machine for about $10 – $15. The parts aren’t available from Brewer, so I don’t have a part number for you. It’s a great machine, and worth fixing. There are a couple on Ebay right now, but the price is kinda high if you just need parts.

    When someone comes to the shop asking for parts like that, we have a bunch of loose screws and other parts, and we just try them on the machine until we find one that fits.

    You can call the Sears repair department, to find a part number--they may even have the parts. There’s a Yahoo Group for owners of old Kenmores. There are some nice people there, who have a lot of resources. They would be your next best option for finding a part number.

  5. Thank you so very much for this information especially that the "nubs" need to face out. I was able to fix my Kenmore 148.19370 and she runs beautifully now.

  6. Thanks this fixed the problem on my mid-90s Janome where the knob and wheel were stuck together. Turns out there was a bunch of thread wrapped around the spindle. I took out the small screw then moved the knob back and forth to get it off. After a quick clean up my stuck clutch was all better. Thanks so much.

  7. Thank you! This worked on my Kenmore 148 15600 (model 1560) from the mid seventies. It also gave me the confidence to take it apart, which I was previously afraid to do!

  8. Can't get centre knob off when unscrewed.

  9. Hi Carolyn,

    Here’s how I got a very stuck handwheel off.
    Heat also helps. Try using a blow dryer on it as you work with it. You want to be careful not to bend the shaft, or break the handwheel.