What to do when the machine “jams!”

Posted by on June 2, 2014

Bam! Don’t you just hate that sound? And then the machine is locked up.

The first thing to do is stay calm 99% of the time it is only a fuzzy or thread jam.


If you are in computer mode—save your layout. Don’t worry, you can get back to where you were in the pattern if you save the layout. Then turn everything off.

Go to the back of the machine and grab on to the fly wheel and see if there is any play in the motion of the wheel. In simple terms, rock the wheel back and forth and see if you can get it to free up. Don’t force it; you don’t want to turn the hook on the shaft into another position. You can be firm with it but, let’s check some other things before we go to brutal force.
PHOTO2Rock the fly wheel to get motion between the hook and race to help clear out threads.

Take the bobbin case out.
Take the needle out. You might have to unscrew the needle bar screw to get the needle out—and it might be that you have to take the needle out to get the bobbin case out.

PHOTO4Look in the bobbin basket area and see if there are any threads or fuzzies that you can clear out. Pull them out and use a tweezers if necessary. Then use a lint brush and really work at it to get every bit out that you can.

Oil the bobbin basket/ hook. Oil it until the oil can saturate the fuzzy. Sometimes you will need to let the oil set for a while. Rock the fly wheel a little and then re oil in sequences so that you can work the oil into the fuzzy.

PHOTO5A PHOTO5B PHOTO5COil at the top          Oil on the left        Oil on the right

Try to get oil between the outer part of the hook and the inner part that is called the race. That is generally where the fuzzy is. Our plan is to oil up the fuzzy and when it is greasy enough we will be able to turn the fly wheel and spin the fuzzy out.

PHOTO6Now begin to rock the fly wheel. You will know if you are making headway by how far you can rock it back and forth. It is definitely a fuzzy or thread jam if you can get the fly wheel to respond and loosen up. I remember that I once had to rock that fly wheel 500 times to get the oil worked into the fuzzy so it would then turn.

Once you get the fly wheel turning free, you can turn the machine on without any needle or bobbin case and spin the fuzzys and extra oil out.

It is possible that during the initial thread jam the hook could be turned on the shaft. You will know that this has happened if you cannot get a full rotation of the needle without hitting the hook. You will also know if you are slightly out of time if you begin sewing and skip stitches. If the hook is no longer synchronized with the needle then check out one of the timing videos on our website or YouTube channel, or look in the manual for timing instructions.

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Leave a Comment


  1. Thank you so much for posting this helpful information! My Handi Quilter Avante 18 had jammed due to a thread caught in the bobbin housing. I thought I was going to have to take it to the shop for repair.

    I followed the instructions and photos you posted and fixed it myself in just a few minutes.

    Thank you again!



    • Myrl Breinholt says:

      You are welcome! Our whole purpose is to help you love quilting and find satisfying success. We are thrilled we could help.

  2. Marie Peters says:

    I am having trouble with the tension. My bobbin thread is not caught in the material;i.e., it is laying flat and can be pulled out easily. What do you suggest?

    • kelleyn says:

      Hi Marie,
      Read our blog post on tension. There’s so much good info in here. Hoping this helps!

  3. vivian latham says:

    I have a tin lizzie 18. and my machine has jammed I’ve oiled the case tried to rotate the wheel won’t move. i let it sit tried again still wont move oiled again. .do i need to take out the bobbin assemble and clean it also if so how do i do that nothing in the library to show me. I am in the middle of a customer quilt. thank you vivian

    • kelleyn says:

      Sounds like you have a thread jammed in the hook. You need to turn the hand wheel counter clockwise and that should break it free. Make sure the belt guard is off and the machine is turned off. Stand behind the machine and turn it counter clock wise. If that doesn’t work, call 888-QUILT-18. Thanks, Vivian!

  4. linda knabke says:

    my bobbin basket is completely frozen …..have taken the basket out and the inner part will not rotate….therefore cannot fix the timing…

    • kelleyn says:

      Please contact service at 888-QUILT-18 to discuss your options. We could have fixed this very easily without having to take it apart, but let us help you get back on track. Thanks, Linda!

  5. Karen says:

    This video is not helping! I have cleaned and oiled, and it won’t budge. At least the needle was up when it locked, but really? With only 8 hours on the machine, this is frustrating. Of course when you work all day, there’s no one available by the time I get home to be able to work on it.

    • kelleyn says:

      We realize when thread gets jammed in the hook area this can be very frustrating. If you will call 888-784-5818 and ask for the service department, they will get back to you for your assistance. If you were not able to un-jam the machine, it may need somebody with a little more strength to turn the hand wheel. By what you have explained, this will be the only way to get the machine free. This is a very common problem and can be taken care of.

  6. Charlotte says:

    My Tin Lizzie Empress is one week old. It was sewing great, then BAM, it locked with the needle down. I wiggled the bobbin out and had to break the needle to remove it. The wheel will not even rock to release and turn. I need help!

  7. Pamela Jackson says:

    I could not find anything pertaining to the messages that I got on my Tin Lizzie Long 18 arm machine in order to try and fix the problem: The messages are….1, A motor – related error has occurred (error 0x02), and the 2; A motor flag – related error has occurred (error 0x03), the machine is locked up, needle down HELP!!!!!! there is not a single thing in the manuals about trouble shooting this error. And why isn’t there for people!

    • kelleyn says:

      Pamela, please call your local dealer or 888-784-5818 to troubleshoot.

    • Beth Pape says:

      I am dealing with the same error message and am also frustrated that there is no trouble shooting mention of the error. I have tried rocking the wheel, removing fuzzes and thread and can’t see anything else to remove. Guess I’ll go back and try the oil.

      • kelleyn says:

        Please refer to our website under the Learning Center and look at our Video Library. There is a video called ‘Thread Jam’ that should help in getting your machine up and running.

    • Brendaschley says:

      This is what mine is doing. What happened with yours, if you don’t mind me asking?

  8. Frances Quigley says:

    I really like this tutorial. Has been a big help.

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