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Thread: Basic motor cleaning tutorial

  1. #1
    Senior Member Bennett's Avatar
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    Basic motor cleaning tutorial

    I thought I'd share what I've been learning about basic sewing machine motors. First off, I am self-taught, so not an expert and certainly don't know everything there is to know about small motors. If you see a glaring error, please let me know! This tutorial is simply to show the steps I've taken to clean up a couple of grimy motors and help my "rescues" run better. This is definitely maintenance for those who like to get their hands dirty!

    First of all, you will need the following:

    Screwdriver(s)
    Cleaning supplies such as brushes, cotton balls, denatured or rubbing alcohol, paper towels, and so on
    Catch all for small parts
    Camera (very helpful to document your steps!)
    Drill or drill press
    400 and 1500 grit sandpaper (may find in automotive paint section) cut into 1/4-inch or so strips
    Sewing machine oil
    Patience
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Bennett's Avatar
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    Remove the motor from the sewing machine. Now remove the the carbon brushes if they are accessible from the outside of your motor (some are removed from the inside and not visible outside). Look for a couple of small non-metal screws/caps. Undo these. Be careful, the carbon brushes (small solid blocks of carbon) are attached to springs. They may pop out of their holes! They may also be stuck from grime. Try to pull them out, but not too forcefully. You may have to wait until you have the rest of the motor apart and poke them out if they are "glued" in there by the grime. Set these and the caps aside.
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  3. #3
    Senior Member Bennett's Avatar
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    Also, you will probably have to remove the motor pulley before taking off any of the housing for the motor. This is the place where the belt rests. Look for a small set screw holding it onto the shaft/rod sticking out of the motor. Remove and set aside.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member Bennett's Avatar
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    Now, look for some screws that hold the outside housing together. Remove these and take off the parts of the housing that you can. What you are looking to eventually remove is the armature. This is a shaft/rod (the same one that the motor pulley was on) with lots of wire coils and the copper commutator at one end. You may have to remove some other parts to totally pull the armature out of the motor. Document what you remove with the camera.

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  5. #5
    Senior Member Bennett's Avatar
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    When you are able to pull out the armature, be careful--there are probably a number of small washers around the shaft. Don't lose these! They may not be obvious if your motor is really grimy and may fall off when you are cleaning.

    Now that the armature is out, we need to clean it. Be careful of the small wire coils around the armature. If these are broken up or damaged, the motor is no good, and that repair is beyond this simple cleaning. Use your supplies to remove any grease, dirt, and other grime.

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  6. #6
    Senior Member Bennett's Avatar
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    Then comes the fun part involving power tools--polishing the copper commutator. This can be done with a pencil eraser, but the sandpaper works great to clean and polish the copper. Clean copper is a good conductor, and that makes your motor work better. (There is a lot of good information about how motors work on the internet if you are interested in the technical details).

    First, load the armature shaft into your drill or drill press. This is probably easier with a drill press, but I don't have one. I don't have a bench clamp either, so I have to use my knees for this part. I also had to use rig something to keep the drill on while I use both hands to hold the sandpaper strip. Start with the 400 grit. While the armature is spinning in the drill, hold the sandpaper strip around the commutator. This will remove a lot of grime. Get it down to the shiny copper. Now, repeat this process with the 1500 grit paper strips. This really puts a nice polish on the commutator. Now that your armature is all clean, set it aside to keep from getting it dirty again!

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  7. #7
    Senior Member Bennett's Avatar
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    Now it's time to clean the rest of the motor. I try to remove as few parts as possible, so I didn't undo any of the electrical components. Remove as much grime as possible. I use cotton wrapped around a pick and dipped in alcohol to clean out the slots where the carbon brushes go. Again, be careful of the wire coils that go to the fixed magnets on the sides of the housing.

    Don't forget to clean the small parts--motor pulley, washers, and the carbon brushes. You can use alcohol on the carbon to get the grime off. Again, this is a messy job. A note of caution, alcohol can hurt the finish on the outside of the motor. Be careful and use something else to clean these parts.

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  8. #8
    Senior Member Bennett's Avatar
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    On my motor, I had to replace the plug. This is about the extent of any electrical work I do, but it wasn't very difficult.

    Now you just have to put it all back together. This is where the pictures come in handy! Put a tiny amount of oil on the armature shaft so that it will move freely when the armature turns. Don't get it on your nice shiny commutator though.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member Bennett's Avatar
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    Last post, motor housing all together, new plug on. The final step is to plug it in and make sure it runs, then put it back on the machine. Good luck!

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  10. #10
    Super Member vintagemotif's Avatar
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    Thanks for the great tutorial with lost of photos! IF I ever decide to clean a motor (I treadle most of my machines), I will follow these instructions. Thanks for posting!

  11. #11
    Super Member Charlee's Avatar
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    This is terrific Bennett!! Thank you SO much!
    One day, you'll only be a memory for some people. Do your best to be a good one.

    http://charleeturner.blogspot.com

  12. #12
    Junior Member justtrish's Avatar
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    Yippee thanks for this.
    “Experience is the name every one gives to their mistakes.” - Oscar Wilde

  13. #13
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    That was an exciting tutorial. I was holding my breath while reading. Now for the courage to try this! Thank you.
    Life is made up of bits and pieces. You won't know how it'll turn out till its done.

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    Thanks for the info, now if I could only figure how to save it so I can come back to it when needed.....lol
    Tammy

  15. #15
    Super Member Caroline S's Avatar
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    Thank you Bennett. I wish I had your tute when I took my first motor apart. It is now on it's way to my brother in South Carolina to clean and put it back together. Perhaps those of us who are attempting our first motor project should also have some info regarding what to look for in order to determine when a motor is not repairable.
    Sweet Caroline

  16. #16
    Super Member Caroline S's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mymsmess View Post
    Thanks for the info, now if I could only figure how to save it so I can come back to it when needed.....lol
    My little tute of basics for Tammy:
    1. Go to first page of thread.
    2. On the top right is a spot that says "Thread Tools", click on it and a drop down box line shows "Subscribe to Thread"
    3. Click on Subscribe
    4. To view after subscribing go to "MY Profile" at the top of the page.
    5. Click on "Quick Links" and voila there is the list of all of the threads you have subscribed to.

    Hope this helps you.
    Sweet Caroline

  17. #17
    Super Member franc36's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Caroline S View Post
    My little tute of basics for Tammy:
    1. Go to first page of thread.
    2. On the top right is a spot that says "Thread Tools", click on it and a drop down box line shows "Subscribe to Thread"
    3. Click on Subscribe
    4. To view after subscribing go to "MY Profile" at the top of the page.
    5. Click on "Quick Links" and voila there is the list of all of the threads you have subscribed to.

    Hope this helps you.
    Thanks so much for this information and thanks, Caroline, for telling me how to get back to this tutorial. I had bookmarked it; but was not sure how to get back to it. Now, thanks to you, I can read it any time I want to.

  18. #18
    Super Member valleyquiltermo's Avatar
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    This is really helpful for my old singers. I better get started, I have about 15, oh my...Thanks bunches
    http://www.skillpages.com/DonnaValleyquiltermo
    Sweet Dreams come from under Cozy Quilts made with love.
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    and do what you can for others.

  19. #19
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    That was a great tut. Thank you for sharing that with us. I may even tackle my old Kenmore motor. Still works like a charm.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Bennett's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by redmadder View Post
    That was an exciting tutorial. I was holding my breath while reading. Now for the courage to try this! Thank you.
    Believe me, the first one I tried this on was on a project that couldn't be hurt, it was in such bad shape. That made it easier! I still haven't take apart one of the Singer motors lying around that have the light direct wired in. All the wires still kind of intimidate me!

  21. #21
    Senior Member Bennett's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Caroline S View Post
    Perhaps those of us who are attempting our first motor project should also have some info regarding what to look for in order to determine when a motor is not repairable.
    What I think would make it a project I wouldn't (at this point) tackle would be:
    1. Major wiring problems like bare or broke wires inside the motor. Mostly I'm just not sure what would go where, so that's a little beyond me right now and I certainly wouldn't want to make anything dangerous!
    2. If all the little coils of copper wire on either the magnet or the armature were messed up. If they were broken, or if it looked like some spots were melted or burned.
    3. If the commutator (the copper "barrel" looking thing on the end of the armature) was broken or totally worn down to whatever material it is covering.
    4. If any of the mechanical parts, such as the shaft of the armature, were broken.
    5. Remember that small parts like the little motor pulleys, carbon brushes, electrical plugs, screws can be replaced. I think this would be important if you wanted to keep an original motor with a machine because of color or branding. Some repair shops might be able to re-wrap the copper coils if something is wrong with them, but I have no idea if it would be cost prohibitive or even, really, if it could be done.

    That's just what I can think of right now. If anyone else has any specifics to look for, I'd love to know.

  22. #22
    Power Poster sueisallaboutquilts's Avatar
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    That was so nice of you to take this time for a great tutorial!!
    Thanks so much- lots of us are on that vintage machine bandwagon!!
    What would life be-without song or dance what are we?- ABBA

  23. #23
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    Thank you for showing your expertise! Just think of the machines that could run again and have a good home....they are just thrown away. Thanks to you, I will be looking at sewing machines in garage sales more carefully....we appreciate the time it took to post your info.
    Diana

  24. #24
    Senior Member olebat's Avatar
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    This is how I plan to get my DH involved with my hoby. He has agreeded to rewire a couple of machines for me, but with an e-z to follow tute, perhaps he'll go a step beyond. I think I need to print out Glenn's cabinet restoration instructions for him too. (Oops, if I do that I may have to clean out a big space in the garage where he can work,)

  25. #25
    Junior Member Jeandrig's Avatar
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    Thanks. That's a very good detailed instructions. Hope a lot of sewing machine mechanics see it.
    Now I see why they charge so much.

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