Brother Sewing Machine Won’t Work

It’s so frustrating when you can’t get on with your sewing project because your Brother sewing machine won’t work. You’re tempted to throw it out the window, but that won’t solve anything. So, it’s probably better to understand what’s gone wrong and how to deal with it.

Some reasons why your Brother sewing machine won’t work include incorrect threading or using bent or damaged needles. Also, build-ups of lint can cause issues. You may also experience problems when using thread that’s not designed for use in machines, or the wrong needle and fabric combination.

We’ll explore below several common reasons why your Brother sewing machine won’t work and how you can avoid them. So, don’t let these issues wind you up. Spend a few minutes reading this handy check sheet, and in no time, you’ll be able to sew like a pro.

Brother Sewing Machine Jamming

There are several reasons your Brother sewing machine may jam, so let’s look at the common ones.

Check the Threading of the Top Thread

If your thread is bunching when you sew, it may be because the top thread isn’t threaded correctly. So, unthread it and start again.

When you’re threading your machine, there are several steps you have to pull the thread through. 

Your machine should have handy diagrams with numbers showing the order of the steps. There should also be arrows to show which way you need to move the thread at each step.

Some points to watch for as you thread, to avoid jamming are:

  • Make sure you’ve raised the presser foot or the tension discs will be closed, so your thread won’t sit between them
  • Check that the needle and the thread take-up lever are up by rotating the handwheel, so the threading line indicator points up
  • Load your thread spool on the spindle so that it comes off the spool from the back
  • Check that you’ve looped your thread through the top thread guide, the tension discs, the thread take-up lever, and the needle thread guide 
  • Make sure you thread the needle from back to front

Once done, try sewing. If your machine still jams with bunched thread, move on to the next step.

Check the Bobbin

If the threading of your top thread isn’t the issue, the next place to look is the bobbin.

First, check that the thread is wound onto the bobbin evenly. If you didn’t loop it correctly around the bobbin thread tension disc, when winding, this could cause problems.

Next, check the bobbin case is in its holder, the shuttle in the correct orientation. There should be markings on the shuttle and the bobbin case to show the alignment.

Also, the bobbin itself needs to be sitting in the bobbin case the right way round. That means that the thread should come off the bobbin anti-clockwise. Make sure you’ve looped the thread through the tension spring on the casing, as that’s easy to miss.

Once again, most machines have a helpful diagram near the bobbin holder by way of reminder.

If you feel you need to see the processes above, watch this helpful video. It shows how to thread the top thread and wind and insert the bobbin correctly.

Check the Top Thread Tension

You might find that adjusting the tension of the top thread may prevent jamming. If the tension is too low, it can’t pull the thread back up through the fabric. This can result in the thread bunching on the underside of the fabric and jamming the machine. 

Clean Under the Throat Plate and the Feed Dogs

The area under the throat plate can get clogged with lint and fluff. If these get caught up in the needle or thread during sewing, your machine may jam.

So, take off the throat plate and clean the cavity regularly by removing debris with a brush or vacuum. Don’t blow it, as this may just disperse the debris into the machine.

You may find you have this problem frequently if you use poor quality threads, as they tend to shed lint.

Also, cheaper threads often have tiny knots in them, which can get caught in your fabric, causing jams. So, all-in-all, cheaper threads may be a false economy.

When cleaning, don’t forget to clean the feed dogs. These are the teeth that draw the fabric through as you sew. This video shows where they are and explains their purpose.

They are prone to get clogged, which can prevent them from moving correctly. If that happens, your fabric won’t get drawn through as you sew.

While you’re checking the feed dogs, make sure also that the presser foot isn’t too low. When the presser foot is too tight against the feed dogs, the fabric won’t move through.

Although it sounds obvious, it’s worth checking that you have the feed dogs in the up position. If they’re set below the surface of the throat plate, they won’t do their job of moving the fabric through.

Make Sure Your Needle Isn’t Bent and Is Right for the Fabric

A bent needle is also a potential cause of jamming.

Lie your needle on a table with the needle’s flat surface facing down. Look at it carefully to check if it’s bent. If it is, you’ll need to replace it.

Also, check if the needle is blunt. That can also cause it to jam the machine, as the needle may struggle to get through the fabric easily.

It’s the same thing if you choose the wrong type of needle for the fabric. Generally, the heavier the material, the sharper your needle will need to be. But, it’ll also need a sturdy shaft to avoid the needle bending or breaking.

Brother Sewing Machine Not Catching Thread

If your machine isn’t picking up the bobbin thread, there are several things to check.

Check the Top Thread Tension and Threading 

Check the tension setting and that you’ve threaded the top thread correctly. You can look back to the steps outlined above for pointers.

It’s worth re-threading even if everything looks okay. The thread may have caught on something that you might not be able to see on a cursory look. If it’s snagged on something that will change the tension, making it too tight.

Check the Needle

If your machine isn’t catching the bobbin thread, a bent or damaged needle may be the culprit. With a bent needle, the gap between it and the shuttle hook will be wrong. This will prevent the hook from catching the thread.

You should also check that you’ve installed the needle correctly in the needle holder. Otherwise, it won’t drop to the right level for the hook to pick up the top thread loop. 

Also, check that the needle’s flat surface is facing the back of the machine, and you’ve threaded the needle from front to back.

Check the Bobbin and the Bobbin Case

If the bobbin hasn’t been wound correctly, this may be a reason why the thread isn’t catching.

As discussed above, the bobbin thread should be wound evenly.

Remove the bobbin and its case to check for any lint or other debris. These accumulations can prevent the bobbin or the case from sitting correctly. 

Check the bobbin and its case for any damage like holes or chips. Such things can prevent the thread from moving freely, which may be the cause of it not catching. If necessary, replace the bobbin case.

This useful video shows some examples of damaged bobbin cases, so you can see what to look for.

Make sure the bobbin turns anti-clockwise, with the bobbin thread leaving from the left. Check that it’s looped through the tension spring.

Check the Timing

For your top thread to pick up the bobbin thread, you need synchronization between the needle’s movements and the shuttle hook.

The hook must pass the needle at just the right time to hook the top thread.

You can check the timing by manually rotating the wheel to see where the needle is when the hook passes behind it.

The following video shows how the timing works.

If the timing is out, you may be able to adjust it manually, as in this video.

Brother Sewing Machine Not Feeding Fabric

Check the Feed Dogs Are Up

The first thing to check if your fabric isn’t moving as you sew is the feed dogs, as mentioned above. 

They need to be set to the raised position so that they’re above the throat plate’s surface. There’s usually a switch or a lever to do this.

You can see how the feed dogs work in this video.

You should also check if lint or fluff is clogging the feed dogs, as discussed above. That could inhibit their movement or prevent them from getting any traction on the fabric.

Check the Presser Foot

Next, check that you’ve lowered the presser foot. Otherwise, it won’t hold the fabric down against the feed dogs.

If you have lowered the presser foot, but the fabric still isn’t feeding, check that the presser foot isn’t set too low. If it is, it may be pressing down too hard onto the feed dogs, preventing the feed dogs from pushing forward.

Is the Stitch Size Set Too Low?

It may be that the stitch size has somehow been set to the zero position, or close to zero. Some machines won’t feed the fabric through if the stitch size is too small.  

Brother Sewing Machine Not Stitching

The reasons for your Brother sewing machine not stitching are similar to those discussed above.

Check the Tension of the Top Thread or Re-Thread

Adjusting the tension if it’s too high or too low may solve this problem.

If the tension setting is okay, try unthreading the machine. When you release the thread from the tension discs, you should no longer feel any tension on the thread.

If you do, it may be that the thread has become knotted or tangled up somewhere, possibly on its spool. So, remove the thread and start threading from scratch, as outlined above.

Check the Needle

You’ve seen above that the condition of the needle is essential. Any bend or other damage to the needle can put it out of kilter, causing many issues. 

Check the Bobbin Case

This is another step mentioned above. Damage to the bobbin case may prevent the smooth flow of the bobbin thread off the bobbin.

You’re looking for scratches, holes, and nicks taken out of the case. If you see anything like this, you’ll need to replace the bobbin case.

Also, double-check that the bobbin thread hasn’t slipped out of the tension spring on the bobbin case.

Brother Sewing Machine Not Threading

If you have a needle threader on your machine, it can really make needle threading a breeze until it stops working.

It’s a mechanism that uses a hook, a bit like a crochet hook, that rotates through the eye of the needle. You then loop the thread under the hook. When you release the mechanism, the hook pulls the thread through the eye of the needle.

You can see how it’s meant to work from this video.

If you’re struggling to get the threader to thread your needle, there are a couple of things to check.

As you’ve seen from the video, the hook and the needle’s eye need to be correctly aligned. If they’re not, the hook won’t rotate through the eye, so it won’t be able to pull the thread through.

So, check that the needle is sitting correctly in the needle holder. Also, don’t forget that the needle needs to be up.

Additionally, check the condition of the needle. If it’s bent, that will take the eye out of alignment with the threader hook.

If the needle’s okay, it may be that it’s the threader hook that’s bent or out of position. You can try to nudge the hook back into place yourself. Use thin tweezers or a precision screwdriver, as demonstrated in this video.

Brother Sewing Machine Skipping Stitches

This is another problem that can occur because of a bent needle, so replace it and see if that solves the issue.

If not, check that you’ve threaded the machine correctly and that the thread is suitable for machines.

You’ll also experience this issue if you aren’t using the right needle for the fabric. It’s always worth checking your manual if you’re in any doubt about the correct needle to use.

Skipped stitches can also result if the thread tension is set incorrectly. Try adjusting the setting and see if that helps.

Brother Sewing Machine Thread Breaking

Check Your Thread Type and Quality

This often happens if you’re using a thread that’s not designed for use on a sewing machine. It can also occur when using a low-quality thread.

In either case, you should replace your thread with a good-quality sewing machine thread. Thread for hand-sewing isn’t suitable for use with sewing machines.

Try Adjusting the Thread Tension

Another reason why thread may break is that there’s too much tension. That can cause the thread to snap.

Correct threading is also important. So, if none of the above works, unthread and start again. 

If you’ve threaded the machine correctly, but the thread still breaks, it may be because it’s snagged on something. Check it’s not caught on the spool. For example, some spools have a notch where you can place the end of the thread when not in use.

If the thread is snagged, it will cause excess tension. That will break the thread, even if you threaded the machine correctly to start with.

Check for Problems With the Bobbin

Even if it’s the top thread that’s breaking, the problem may be because the bobbin tension is too high. Too much tension there may cause the bobbin thread to snap the top thread. 

You should see a screw on the bobbin case for tension adjustments.

You might have to play around with the tension settings and test them out to see what works.

It’s also worth checking the bobbin for any damage. Bobbin thread may be catching on it and snapping.

Also, if there’s damage on the shuttle hook, the top thread may catch and snap on those damaged sections. 

Brother Sewing Machine Wheel Won’t Turn

This can occur if there’s too much tension in the thread. You can try to rotate the handwheel to see if that solves the problem.

If not, then try re-threading the machine. If that still doesn’t work and you’re sure you’ve threaded correctly, the problem may be with the bobbin. 

So, remove the bobbin and check if the handwheel now moves. If so, something was likely wrong with the bobbin installation. So, re-install it taking care to orient it correctly, as discussed above.

You can also try cleaning the machine to remove build-ups of lint and fluff. These can accumulate in areas where they’ll prevent parts from moving properly.

Brother Sewing Machine Won’t Sew

It might sound obvious, but double-check that you’ve powered on the machine. Also, make sure that the electrical cord and the foot pedal cord haven’t become disconnected.

If all is okay with the power supply, check if the drive belt is intact. The drive belt is rotated by the motor, and in turn, it rotates the handwheel. This won’t happen if the belt is broken. 

Check the foot pedal as it tends to gather dust and lint. A build-up of these can collect on the electrical contact points. That will prevent electricity from passing through them.

If everything else looks okay, you may have a broken motor. If the motor isn’t working, the drive belt won’t rotate the handwheel. You may need to replace the motor. It’s not as complicated as it sounds, as you can see from this video.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, if your Brother sewing machine won’t work, you can take some simple steps to resolve it.

The problems highlighted above are common problems that everyone encounters at some point. So, while they can be frustrating, you’re not alone. 

And, you now have the knowledge to deal with them to make your sewing experience as seamless as possible.

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