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How To Fix Your Single Unit Tension Assembly

by Sarah

Hey, everyone! I’m Sarah with sewingpartsonline.com. Today we’re going to talk about the important parts that work together to control your tension. There are many different types of tension units. Some are built into the machine, some are digital, and some are standalone units like this Singer one. You see these very commonly on older machines. These are primarily what we’re going to be talking about today.

This unit controls your tension with this knob on the front. In short, you turn the knob to the right and the tension discs are pushed together. This tightens the tension. You turn the knob to the left and the tension discs come apart. This loosens the tension. It’s pretty straight forward.

However, over time you may notice that turning this knob doesn’t change your tension at all or your stitches are inconsistent. You really shouldn’t have to fiddle with this knob to correct a stitch that was perfect 3 seams ago. If you find that you’re constantly battling your tension knob, then it’s time to get a new upper tension unit.

The spring should have a little bit of resistance and should recover smoothly to its resting position. If the spring has no resistance or doesn’t recover, then it needs to be replaced.

You can buy just the springs or just the tension discs, but we’ve found that replacing individual parts, 9 times out of 10, actually makes the situation worse. See, these tension assemblies are very complicated and they have lots of little, finicky parts. Let me show you what I mean.

This is a tension unit disassembled by our lead technician, Dennis. Assembling this unit properly requires a skilled, experienced mechanic. Instead of fooling with this mess, we highly recommend buying the entire pre-assembled tension unit, especially because the rest of your assembly is just as worn out as the discs or the springs. There’s no point in rebuilding the assembly piece by piece. It’s more trouble and more expensive. Buying the entire assembly unit is only a few dollars more than each individual part. Best of all, this tension unit just plugs right into your machine. Simply tighten your screw and you’re good to go.

Now, let’s go over a few troubleshooting tips to think about.

Before you install your new tension unit, take a second to inspect the unit and make sure the factory settings are perfect. Just like I showed you before, you should feel resistance and the spring should recovery smoothly to its resting position.

Most of the time, the factory setting between #4 and #5 is perfect. However, just in case, I’ll show you how to adjust the spring tension. Gently lift and turn your spring so that this little bar fits into the next groove. Repeat this process until you’re satisfied with the tension.

While you’re adjusting this spring, you want to maintain the distance between this spring and this bar right here. On this Singer assembly, it’s approximately 22 millimeters (1/8th of an inch) apart. Also, make sure the bar is lined up with this line right here. Reduce your tension, move the bar in very small increments, test the spring, and adjust as needed.

I hope this was helpful. To buy a new tension unit, visit us online at sewingpartsonline.com. If you have any comments or questions, be sure to leave them in the comment section below. If you want to come hang out with our sewing community, visit us on Facebook at Facebook.com/sewingpartsonline, Twitter @sewingparts, Google Plus, Pinterest, Instagram….we’re everywhere. Be sure to like this video, share this video, and subscribe for our next sewing video.

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Jane Harring November 13, 2020 - 9:01 am

I have a Singer Confident Quilter and want to quilt. However, even at the highest tension, my quilting is eyebrowing. Little change, if any at all from 1 to -3. What is going on?

Ann July 13, 2020 - 4:54 pm

Hi. I own a singer Touch and Sew model 750.
I am having a problem with the tension pull down. I believe the spring is broken or loose.
However I would like to know how to remove it in order to put a new part.
Part on line is # 172820- 656 on your online site. Thanks.

Cheryl July 9, 2019 - 8:26 pm

I have an old Singer Fashion 360. My daughter took apart the thread tensioner years ago, and I haven’t been able to use the machine since. I’ve watched numerous videos, and seem to have all the parts, but when it goes together, the disks are still loose . I think I can buy an new assembly from you, just unsure how to install it without taking it apart.

CustomerService July 11, 2019 - 4:29 pm

Hello Cheryl!

Other than our video, my best recommendation would be to contact the manufacturer and see if they can provide you with a service manual for your machine. Thank you for watching!

Michelle October 18, 2018 - 12:14 am

Hi Sarah,
I have a Janome 1200D and my upper looper tension knob locked up and won’t turn to adjust at all. What woukd cause a tension knob to completely lock up? Thank you!

CustomerService October 19, 2018 - 8:20 am

Hello Michelle! We might be able to help you. Please email us at [email protected] and we can offer some advice. Thank you!

Malin kraemer July 15, 2018 - 2:09 pm

I need to gind out how to replace the whole tension unit.can figure out how to install rod inside unit

CustomerService July 18, 2018 - 1:15 pm

Hello Malin! Other than this video, my best recommendation would be to see if there is a service manual for your machine. If you can contact us with your make and model, we will be happy to see if we can assist you. Our number is 888-824-1192 or our email is [email protected].

Connie Vaughn March 2, 2018 - 3:55 am

I have a dressmaker 101 with the thread tension dial broke off,how do i go about getting a new dial for this machine.It is a dial for the top thread .thanks a million.

Sarah March 12, 2018 - 10:53 am

Hi, Connie! Unfortunately, I have limited information on your machine. Would you mind sending us a picture of your tension dial? Does it have a part number stamped on it? Please send a picture to [email protected]

Angela January 28, 2018 - 9:17 am

Thank You! I have a machine that looks just like the one in your video except it’s a Webster. I’ve been having trouble keeping the tension consistently adjusted. As you say, I shouldn’t have to keep messing with it. I don’t think the tension unit on my machine has ever been replaced, I think it’s original to the machine (1950’s to 2017, wow they don’t make them like that anymore). Question though, will issues with the tension cause a machine to break needles, or is something else out of adjustment?

Sarah January 30, 2018 - 9:43 am

The tension unit would not cause the needle to break. The needle breaking is likely due to the hook being out of time. You tension assembly likely needs to be replaced. A local sew and vac repair shop should be able to fix both.

eli January 17, 2018 - 9:54 am

also a just realised i have a computerized machine. its a singer confidence. it isnt doing much for my confidence by the way. so maybe this fix will not work.

Sarah January 17, 2018 - 10:52 am

Oh no! I had a Confidence years ago – is it jamming on you? I had that problem.

eli January 17, 2018 - 9:51 am

thanks so much!! i have been trailing thorugh trying ot understand the problem, my machine has auto tension but even with the presser foot up it is super tight, it is so far to bring it to a repair man so i hopefully can do something myself. it would nearly be cheaper to buy a new machine than go to a repair man. it is still usable, might there be thread stuck in it making the spring tight? its a relatively new machine and so i feel like the spring shouldnt be flubbered so quickly. i also feel like if i pull the thread through each part individually it seems fine but all togther then it is so tight have to put on the loosest setting and go really slow. thank you hope you can help.

Sarah January 23, 2018 - 11:35 am

Hi, Eli! What is the make and model of your sewing machine?

cheryl trudeau-Goodman January 9, 2018 - 4:54 pm

hello , i ordered a “Dial Tension Unit” AND FINALLY i got it and I am so sorry for my angry , childish email, it was not in any way ur companies fault, u did ur part so i apoliigize hope we can continue doing business. Now, for my question, are there instructions on how to put this part on? LOL yes, after all the issues trying to find my package and i finally get it, and make a fool of myself on a email, i come to u and ask for help. Talk about karma, so I am Humbling come to u for help. k well , hope to hear from you soon Thank you Cheryl Trudeau

Sarah January 10, 2018 - 7:11 pm

No worries! We are glad to help! I don’t have your information in front of me – may I have the make and model of your machine? I may need to get our technician, Dennis, to help us.

Peggy October 9, 2017 - 7:12 pm

My mom bought a pfaff machine model number 1183 don.t know much about it can we get a manual

Sarah October 10, 2017 - 11:34 am

Hi, Peggy! I will see if we can get one for you. I will let you know as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience!

Sarah October 11, 2017 - 3:55 pm

Hi, Peggy! I did find the manual, but we would have to email it to you. Can you send us an email to [email protected] asking for the Pfaff 1183 manual? I only ask you to email us so that we know we have a good email address to communicate by.

Jeanine Mason September 4, 2017 - 3:48 pm

Hello Carol,
I just received my Brother vx 810 tension assembly and would like to know if the screw and the small hole in the assembly should be aligned? Also, the numbered covering seems to be upside down when I insert the assembly as I think it should be. Thanks for your help.

Sarah September 5, 2017 - 8:54 am

Hi! Our technician, Dennis, should be able to help you with this. Call us at (888) 824-1192 and ask to speak with Dennis.

Carol July 28, 2017 - 8:22 pm

The little wire spring on the unit similar to one in the picture seems to be upside-down on my Kenmore machine. I didn’t get a manual for it so I didn’t know how to include it in the threading of the machine. I took the whole tension assembly apart and cleaned it. After putting it back together I put the thread in the assembly and after coming back out, I put the thread into the wire loop and up to the thread take-up lever. The machine now works like a new machine and it is a 1970’s cabinet model. It is all metal and in a cabinet, well worth the $125 I paid for it as a back-up machine to my Singer Confidence Quilter. It came with cams and a lot of useful presser feet so now I enjoy using it. Lint was a problem around the disks and now that I put the thread into the tension assembly and then through the fine wire and on to the take-up lever it is no problem. One of the mysteries was that the wire guide is a spring inside the tension assembly and on the outside it loops around and the one side is unattached with a small loop on it. I thought maybe it had come loose from inside the tension assembly but by taking it apart, I now believe it is that way to slip the thread in more easily and I am just leaving it unattached since I found nowhere to attach it inside. I also have two Huskqarna/Viking 600E HClass embroidery machines and I do most common cleaning and adjustments myself. Guess I am not too afraid of screwdrivers and brushes to keep them running smoothly. Just thought I would share my experiences as when I was in Jr. High, my sewing teacher would have me put down my sewing and help other students adjust their machines (tension) and tell me to “take your sewing home, your mother can help you if you have a problem. My mother was an excellent seamstress and my teacher knew this so she needed help to keep the other students working. That was the best class I had, as I learned early not to be afraid of a sewing machine and how to handle tension problems.

Sarah July 31, 2017 - 9:41 am

Hi, Carol! That’s awesome that you are able to take such great care of your machines. Thank you so much for sharing your story!


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