fix sewing machine timing

Are you looking for easy ways on how to fix sewing machine timing? Perhaps your sewing machine isn’t functioning correctly, and you’re suspecting an error in sewing machine timing. After all, this problem is the leading cause of a malfunction in almost any type of sewing machine.

In this article, we will tackle ways on how to diagnose errors in hook timing. We’ll also give you step-by-step instructions on how to fix those sewing machine timing errors.

The Mechanism Behind Sewing Machine Timing

Sewing machine timing or hook timing refers to the needle eye and hook tip’s relationship. The mechanism of sewing machine timing may differ slightly depending on the machine’s model. However, most sewing machines follow this general mechanism:

When you run your sewing machine, your needle goes up and down repeatedly. As it goes up, a loop between the fabric and the needle eye is created. Your hook tip should pass through this loop so you can achieve one stitch.

If the timing is working perfectly, you’ll get even stitches in your fabric. However, any issues with the needle eye, hook tip, or both can throw off the machine’s normal operations and cause errors in sewing machine timing.

Hook Rotation

Hook rotation plays an important role in hook timing. You must determine the direction where your hook rotates when your needle is ascending.

Most oscillating hooks turn clockwise. As such, you should adjust the needle position to the far right. Meanwhile, other hooks may turn counter-clockwise. In this case, the needle position should be adjusted to the far left.

You’ll appreciate hook rotation better when we get to the actual timing diagnosis part.

What Happens with an Erroneous Sewing Machine Timing?

Problems with sewing machine timing can cause the following sewing issues:

  • Thread gets jammed and caught up in the bobbin case
  • Getting uneven stitches in your fabric
  • Breaking needles
  • Sewing machine stops working altogether

These problems prevent you from completing your projects. Also, they could be dangerous for you, as in the case of breaking needles. Hence, it’s a good idea to learn sewing machine timing adjustment the DIY way to prevent all these problems.

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Identifying Other Possible Problems First

The first and most important step on how to fix sewing machine timing is to diagnose the actual problem first. It’s because other machine issues may present themselves as timing problems.

You can prevent yourself from taking your sewing machine apart unnecessarily by looking for other machine problems first. Hence, check for the following:

  1. Make sure your needle is completely inserted, tightly screwed down, and that it is not bent. Improper needle placement may cause various issues in stitch evenness.
  2. Check the compatibility of your needle, fabric, and thread weight. You’ll get problems if, for instance, you used a small needle with a lighter thread for a bulky fabric such as denim.

Diagnosing Sewing Machine Timing Problem

Now, if your timing problem isn’t related to any of those two aforementioned issues, you may proceed to do a needle and hook tip timing test. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Remove the needle plate, bobbin case, and base cover/s. Keep the needle threaded.
  2. Slowly turn the handwheel. Then, check if your shuttle hook catches the thread smoothly. There’s a timing problem if the shuttle hook doesn’t smoothly catch your thread.
  3. Check the direction of hook rotation and how your hook passes on the needle eye. Do so by slowly turning the handwheel again until the needle is in its lowest position. Then, raise it a little, around 3/32 of an inch (approximately 2.4 mm). You may use a ruler or tape measure for more accuracy.
  4. Keep that position and check if the hook met the needle just above the eye. There’s a timing problem if:
    • The hook passes below or through the needle eye
    • The hook passes above the needle eye but extends more than 2.2mm once the eye meets the hook’s radius

Step-By-Step Guide on How to Fix Sewing Machine Timing

Now that you determined a sewing machine timing problem, you may proceed to fix it the DIY way. However, please note that the guide we have here is for most sewing machines in general. There may be minor discrepancies depending on your machine’s type and model, so check your user manual or manufacturer’s guidelines as well.

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Here’s how to fix sewing machine timing:

  1. Gather the materials you’ll need such as:
    • Bright light/ small lamp/ flashlight
    • Small flathead screwdrivers
    • Sewing machine oil
    • Ruler or tape measure
  2. Set your machine position to straight stitch. Make sure your needle is positioned in the center, where it can descend at the center of the switchplate hole.
  3. Remove the switchplate, bobbin, base cover, and the needle bar cover.
  4. Set the height of your needle bar. You may refer to your machine’s manual for loosening your needle bar. Loosen the needle bar and align it to the proper height markings by sliding it up or down.
  5. If your needle bar doesn’t have height markings, turn the handwheel until the needle comes at its lowest point. Then, raise the needle 2.4mm from the lowest position. Make the necessary adjustments on the needle bar so that the needle’s eye is situated 2.4mm below the hook point.
  6. Slowly turn the handwheel until the needle lowers down to its lowest point again. Then, raise it slightly again, 2.2mm from its lowest point. Use your ruler or tape measure to determine the accurate height.
  7. Loosen the belt gear or hook pulleys. Use your flathead screwdriver for this.
  8. Turn your hook in the same direction it goes when the machine is run. Do this by hand. Note that the needle and the top shaft should remain in place and immobile.
  9. As you manually turn the hook by hand, watch its movement. Tighten all the gears as soon as the hook point comes directly behind your needle.
  10. Repeat the timing test. Keep in mind that the bobbin area should still be open. Also, thread your needle once again if you happen to remove the thread while working on the timing. Turn your hand wheel and re-check if the shuttle hook now catches the thread smoothly every time. If it does, your sewing machine’s timing is fixed!
  11. Clean exposed parts of your sewing machine while all the covers are not yet placed back. Then, add some sewing machine oil to specific parts that need to be lubricated. Check your user manual for these parts.
  12. Re-assemble your machine by tightening all screws as you place back the covers. Return the switchplate as well.
  13. Once your sewing machine is reassembled, test its timing further by sewing a piece of cloth. You should get even stitches with no skipping stitches or broken needles.
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Sewing Machine Timing Still Off?

What should you do if, after following all those above-mentioned steps, your sewing machine’s timing still has problems?

You may try to carefully repeat the process. A good tip is to ensure that your needle’s height is truly accurate when you raise it from its lowest position up to a 2.4mm height. This way, you can confidently re-adjust the hook to the needle and improve the chances of successfully fixing your machine’s timing.

Consider taking your sewing machine to a trained serviceman if problems persist even after repeatedly fixing the timing by yourself.

And that’s how to fix sewing machine timing the DIY way! It may seem intimidating and baffling at first, but the process is quite easy. You simply need to pay attention to needle shaft height accuracy to effectively re-time your sewing machine all by yourself.

Thanks for reading this article! We hope you find it helpful for your machine issues.

If you have a question, ask away in the comments section so we can answer you back. You can also share with us more unique tips on sewing machine timing! And yes, you can share this guide to your sewing community!

We wish you success in fixing your sewing machine timing!


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