Why sewing machine needle won’t move?

Nothing is more frustrating than a faulty sewing machine because any other thing may not stop you from sewing but when the sewing machine itself stops, it completely halts your sewing project. The sewing machine is composed of many minor to major tools and just because it is machinery, anything can get wrong. One such thing is sewing needles which can break, bend, or stop as well.

As there could be many causes behind this issue, you may wonder, why the sewing machine needle won’t move. Just because there are many reasons behind this issue, this problem may seem too messy and almost impossible to solve at home. But the thing is that you only need to troubleshoot the actual cause and you will be able to solve it with simple solutions, in most cases.

Why sewing machine needle won’t move

In this article, we will talk about sewing needles not moving along with many other related aspects as well. We will go through the sewing machine maintenance, cleaning, and oiling aspects as well. So, without wasting your time, let’s just dive directly into the bunch of information. If your sewing needle keeps unthreading, you may take a look at our article, Why does my needle keep unthreading?

Why is my sewing machine needle not moving?

A clogged sewing needle bar, broken drive belt, faulty internal drive gear, disengaged clutch, clogged bobbin, bent needle, and many other such things can be a cause of the sewing needle not moving.

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These are just the most common problems but if we look at some other issues that look minor but can prevent sewing machine needles from moving, the list will go on as follows.

  • The bobbin winder is engaged from the previous time when you winded thread on the bobbin. Just un-engage the bobbin winder and put the sewing machine back in sewing mode and the needle will start moving.
  • After you winded the bobbin the last time, you may have left the handwheel clutch out of the gear. It can be resolved by tightening the small screw located usually in the middle of the sewing machine’s handwheel.
  • If you have an electrical sewing machine, there is a safety mechanism that stops the sewing machine from working at all. This thing only happens if you don’t lower down the buttonhole lever before converting the sewing machine to buttonhole mode. Simply lower the buttonhole lever first and then put the sewing machine on buttonhole mode.
  • Some newly designed sewing machines come with a mechanism that if the presser foot is up in position, the machine will not sew at all. This is just a feature but looks like a problem. You can resolve this simply by lowering down the presser foot and then start sewing.

Why does the needle bar not move on the sewing machine?

Many reasons can become the cause behind the needle bar not moving completely or partially. The reasons mentioned in the previous section about sewing needles not moving can also be a cause of needle bars not moving.

However, below are some major reasons behind this issue.

  • Too low feed dogs can be caused and can be resolved by raising the position to a certain extent.
  • Setting stitch length to 0 can also stop sewing needles from moving. Stitch length should always be higher than zero even if you are not sewing at all.
  • Wrongly loaded thread or thread having tangles can also clog at hooks causing the needle bar to stop at once. Thoroughly analyze the thread throughout its path to find any knot, tangling, or missed hook while loading the thread.
  • Faulty or wrongly positioned presser foot can also be a cause of sewing needle bars stuck in one place. Adjust the foot position or simply lower it down.
  • Thread stuck in the bobbin cover or needle plate is one of the reasons which can be resolved by checking the tools and removing the piece of stuck thread in the needle plate of the bobbin.
  • Hand-wheel clogging can cause the sewing machine to stop. In this section, you are not required to find the problem with sewing needle bars but resolve this issue with a hand wheel.

Why is my sewing machine needle not moving on Singer?

On Singer or any other sewing machine, using the right needle for each particular type of fabric and sewing project is important. Using the wrong needle can cause the machine to stop especially if it is dull as well.

Also, some fabrics are two stiff that light sewing needles cannot go through the fibers. In this case, you should avoid sewing until you buy a suitable needle because the needle can break down and can damage the machine and hurt you as well.

Why is my sewing machine needle not moving on Brother?

While facing such an issue on Brother sewing machines, you should follow these tips to get things going again.

  • Ensure that the bobbin winder is not engaged.
  • Make sure that the sewing thread is loaded properly.
  • Check if the hand wheel is in the wrong position.
  • The bobbin is not stuck because of the sewing thread.

Why does my sewing machine lock up?

Sewing machines can lock up from many causes but incorrectly installed bobbin is the major one. When a bobbin is wrongly installed or is damaged, it doesn’t rotate properly and makes your sewing machine stuck once and for all. There is one solution take the bobbin out and re-install it properly. If the bobbin is damaged, replacing it is the only option available.

Why does my sewing machine handle/arm not moving?

New sewing machines come with advanced safety features to protect users and people around from getting any injuries or hurt.

One such feature is that the sewing machine stops working if it gets too hot. The handwheel of the sewing machine gets blocked by the machine mechanism itself in case you were working too much or too fast.

Simply wait for some time and let the sewing machine rest. As soon as the machine comes in a suitable temperature range, the handwheel will start spinning again.

How to tell if your sewing machine needs oil?

It is an extremely simple process, whenever you hear a squeaking, clinging, ticking, or any other kind of noise coming out of the sewing machine, it is clear that your sewing machine needs oil. With lubricating the sewing machine, it is also a good practice to thoroughly clean it out as well.

What type of lubrication is used for sewing machines?

A specific oil comes with a general name of “Sewing Machine Oil” which is specially designed to be used for lubricating sewing machines and its different tools. This doesn’t have any odor and color while it also has light viscosity which means that it will not remain fresh for a long time. Lubricating a sewing machine with oil will make it run smoothly while protecting metal parts from rust as well.

What are the alternatives to sewing machine oil?

Although the specified sewing machine oil is the best for machines, you can also use alternatives that may not be as good as sewing machine oil but can work to a certain extent.

The major alternatives include white mineral oil which has petroleum by-products and can be purchased at a lower price as well.

Can I use vegetable oil for sewing machines?

Vegetable oil is good for sewing machines as it is light and has good lubricating properties as well. It may bring good results, but there may be some drawbacks as well. So, you may use it sometimes but not always for your sewing machines.

Can I use olive oil for sewing machines?

Yes, you can feed olive oil to your sewing machine in place of sewing machine oil as it is good for lubrication. The main purpose is to make tools smooth and help them run flawlessly which can easily be done by olive as well as other oils such as silicone and coconut as well.

How often does the machine need to be oiled?

It mainly depends on your sewing machine usage. If you are a seamstress who sews clothes regularly, oiling the sewing machine at least two times a week is recommended.

But if you only use a sewing machine twice or thrice a week, you may follow the rule of thumb which suggests giving oil to the sewing machine once a month.

Make sure you don’t add too much oil as it may affect the fabrics and stain them as well.

What can happen if you don’t use an oil sewing machine?

Sewing machine oil keeps the parts lubricated which results in a smooth run of the machine. It also protects sewing machines from rust and related issues in the long run.

If you don’t oil a sewing machine for a long time, different sewing machine parts will begin to get stuck and the machine will get locked very often.

In the long run, the different parts of the sewing machine will begin to break down completely and the machine will be of no use in the end.

What parts should never be given oil while sewing?

You can put oil on almost all moving parts of the sewing machine, however, it is better to practice skipping those parts that are too close to the fabric.

Sewing needles, presser foot, plate, and bobbin are some of such moving parts that should be avoided as they can cause stains to the fabric.

Still, if you want to apply oil, it is recommended to put oil on, once you complete a sewing project as it will get dry before you start your next sewing project.

How to clean and oil a sewing machine?

Cleaning or oiling a sewing machine doesn’t require any additional skills, however, it may take a lot of time as many minor parts need to be cleaned one by one. The best step-by-step procedure is as follows:

Cleaning the sewing machine:

  1. Start by unplugging the sewing machine and removing all the thread from its hooks.
  2. Remove the needle plate and clean it as it has most of the dust. It may slide off with a gentle push or you may need to unscrew it using a driver.
  3. Use a nylon brush to remove dust from crannies, hooks, and minor parts. Never blow air as it will take the dust even further into the sewing machine parts.
  4. Take out the bobbin and clean it properly. Get rid of dirt and stuck thread pieces using clippers.
  5. Push screwdriver and nylon brush into the feed dogs as it also has a huge amount of dust and fibers stuck in between.

Oiling the sewing machine:

  1. Start by oiling the handwheel. Simply keep on rotating the wheel to analyze which parts are causing friction. Put some drops of oil exactly at those places and give multiple fast turns to the handwheel afterward.
  2. There are many oil holes on the front, top, and back sides of the machine where oil should be dropped. You don’t need anything but an oil bottle to put some drops into those holes. These holes are connected to moving parts and take the oil to places where the hand may not reach easily.


  • Take a piece of fabric that is highly absorbent and wipe off the oil from areas that are too close to your fabric while sewing.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do re-engage the safety clutch on a sewing machine?

If you look under the sewing machine arm, there will be a big silver button right on the base plate. This button is connected directly to the machine safety clutch pin. To re-engage the safety clutch on the sewing machine:

  1. Press the silver button on the base plate.
  2. Hold it firmly with your thumb while moving the handle wheel or arm of the machine towards yourself.
  3. Lift your thumb once the handle has completed a single rotation as the clutch will have been re-engaged in that time.

Can I use WD40 on a sewing machine?

Yes, WD40 is a multipurpose product that can also be used as an alternative to sewing machine oil.

You can use WD40 to clean the body and internal parts of the sewing machine. Lubricating sewing machine moving parts with WD40 will make sure that they move smoothly and operate efficiently.

What way does a handwheel move?

The handwheel of a traditional sewing machine moves in a clockwise direction in simple words, it should always rotate against yourself. You can determine whether you are moving the handwheel is the right direction or not by looking at the presser foot.

If the feeder is moving towards you, it means you are moving the handwheel in the wrong direction. Because the feeder pins should be moving forward so that the cloth can be fed forward instead of coming backward.

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