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Thread: Should I overhaul my Singer 401A or purchase a Janome 2012?

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    Should I overhaul my Singer 401A or purchase a Janome 2012?

    I have my mother's 401a and is going to cost $179.00 to overhaul and put in good shape. I am planning on sewing crafts, beginning quilting, and some home decor projects. Should I have the overhaul performed or purchase the Janome 2012 (my price range for a new machine)? The Singer has never been serviced and was having serious tension problems.

  2. #2
    Super Member nygal's Avatar
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    I am not familiar with the 401a but if it only stitches straight stitches...maybe a new machine that does more would be a good purchase at this time. Then sometime in the future you could spend money to have your Mother's machine worked on.
    When it seems like the world is falling to pieces remember that the pieces are falling into place. We are nearing closer to the End Times.

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    Thanks Nygal,
    The 401 does have a very nice selection of stitches built-in and through internet searches and blogs, etc...I've figured out there are 2 additional "cams" that offer more stitches. I'm leaning toward servicing the 401 and buying a new machine for my daughter...if she absolutely loves it...then maybe I'll break down and become a "Two-machine" owner within the next year!

  4. #4
    Super Member jlhmnj's Avatar
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    401A is a good machine but not worth a $180 cleaning and tune up.

    Jon

  5. #5
    Super Member Caroline S's Avatar
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    What is wrong with your sewing machine that would warrant spending $179.00?? If it just needs servicing then that is something you can do yourself. If you have the machine's manual follow the oiling and greasing instructions.

    Something similar happened to me with my very first vintage sewing machine. I asked at a local Sew/Vac store how much it would cost to service it and as I remember it was $130.00 plus tax. No way!!! I have since learned to do it myself here on the QB.
    Sweet Caroline

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    Super Member Candace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jlhmnj View Post
    401A is a good machine but not worth a $180 cleaning and tune up.

    Jon
    I agree you can buy a functioning 401 for less than that, but it is "worth" much more than a new, plastic machine. That seems like a steep amount for just a cleaning and tension tweak. Unless there is something seriously wrong with it.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Skyangel's Avatar
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    Where do you live in Oregon and where did you get the $179 quote? I live in Oregon too and if you are in the Portland area I can probably refer you to a very good sewing machine tech who works out of his home shop. I had a major problem with one major sewing shop/dealer in the area and what they did to my Mom's machine. PM me if you want more info. My decision of which machine might depend on what types of sewing you plan to do. The 401 is a great machine (INHO one of Singer's best ever) and I learned to sew on my Mom's. But it has it's limitations. Her's hasn't been used since the 70's because knits cams out and it didn't have any stretch stitches for knits. Other that that I would highly recommend the 401 and a lot of shops just want you to buy new. The 401 has many stitches built in and besides cams 1-4 that came with it there were about 5 more that would add to it. If you PM, I can give you those numbers too.
    Kim
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    private pilot, quilter, vintage sewing machine addict, silversmith, lapidary

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    Quote Originally Posted by Caroline S View Post
    What is wrong with your sewing machine that would warrant spending $179.00?? If it just needs servicing then that is something you can do yourself. If you have the machine's manual follow the oiling and greasing instructions.

    Something similar happened to me with my very first vintage sewing machine. I asked at a local Sew/Vac store how much it would cost to service it and as I remember it was $130.00 plus tax. No way!!! I have since learned to do it myself here on the QB.
    I am a new member here at Quiltingboard and am sensing that with all the online manuals and help here at "QB" , I just might be able to do it myself!

  9. #9
    Super Member jlhmnj's Avatar
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    401A is not the best machine to start on. I'm not sure what the going rate to work on these things are but best to shop around and seek out experienced SM repair tinkerer's nearby. Best of Luck.

    Jon

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    Quote Originally Posted by Skyangel View Post
    Where do you live in Oregon and where did you get the $179 quote? I live in Oregon too and if you are in the Portland area I can probably refer you to a very good sewing machine tech who works out of his home shop. I had a major problem with one major sewing shop/dealer in the area and what they did to my Mom's machine. PM me if you want more info. My decision of which machine might depend on what types of sewing you plan to do. The 401 is a great machine (INHO one of Singer's best ever) and I learned to sew on my Mom's. But it has it's limitations. Her's hasn't been used since the 70's because knits cams out and it didn't have any stretch stitches for knits. Other that that I would highly recommend the 401 and a lot of shops just want you to buy new. The 401 has many stitches built in and besides cams 1-4 that came with it there were about 5 more that would add to it. If you PM, I can give you those numbers too.
    Thanks Skyangel,
    I'll do that! I do have 4 extra cams I'll have to look to see which ones they are.

  11. #11
    Senior Member happyquiltmom's Avatar
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    My 401A is my "go-to" machine and I would be lost without it! I've had it since I graduated from high school and have learned to fix it myself. My DH even replaced the motor brushes once.

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    I don't understand the 185 dollar quote. That is excessive. Try to oil it and grease it yourself. It's fairly easy and it will run fine. Worse thing that could happen is that the timing is off or the bobbin winder spring is broken...

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    i have a 503a, which is fairly similar to the 401. it's the only machine i've ever had, never needed any repair and i bought it at an estate sale in 1989. since then i've made a zillion kids' clothes and at least a dozen quilts and a few craft-type projects. i'd try oiling and greasing it yourself and asking here if that doesn't do the trick. there's a wealth of advice here and i imagine people could guide you in anything else that might be wrong if oiling/greasing doesn't work.

    if it were me, i'd probably restore your mom's machine just for sentimental value.

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    Super Member k9dancer's Avatar
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    Go for the 401 rehab or send it to me; I'll give it a good home!
    Stephanie in Mena

  15. #15
    Super Member oldtnquiltinglady's Avatar
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    Sewing machine repair people (in shop type) are my worst of all worlds "go to" people. I know they need to make a living, but "make a payment on their new BMW"; no thank you ma'am or sir. Did he see "idiot" tattooed on your forehead, or is your machine in that bad shape? I am like many on this board, I have studied their comments and pictures and learned a lot on how to service and repair sewing machines. Thank you one and all..... At $180, you can buy lots of new parts via internet and be a lot smarter in the long run too. I love working on the old "treasures" and getting them working, and an old Singer beats any new one hands-down on a smooth, even straight stitch, which is absolutely necessary to you as a quilt piecer. I say go for the "learning, do-it-yourself" and keep your mama's machine. And, failing that, tell me where you live and I might buy it from you.
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  16. #16
    Super Member J Miller's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gigigigina View Post
    I have my mother's 401a and is going to cost $179.00 to overhaul and put in good shape. I am planning on sewing crafts, beginning quilting, and some home decor projects. Should I have the overhaul performed or purchase the Janome 2012 (my price range for a new machine)? The Singer has never been serviced and was having serious tension problems.
    OK, I did not read everybodies posts between yours and this one. So I'm gonna risk saying something that's been said before or asking something that's been asked already.

    What exactly does the machine need that's going to cost nearly $200.00 to fix?

    You can do cleaning and maintenance yourself. The tension problems could be nothing more than old oil, dirt, lint, fuzz and thread in the top tension and bobbin areas. Nothing you can't clean yourself. The owners manual gives detailed info on lubing the machine. There are other threads here, including one I did with pics, showing where to put oil and grease.

    There are sites on the web such as TFSR that give very detailed instructions on disassembly, cleaning, fixing, reassembly and adjusting the tensions.

    I'm just asking, not trying to be a smart arse.

    Now to answer your post title question: "Should I overhaul my Singer 401A or purchase a Janome 2012?? Yes.


    Joe

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    Thanks everyone for your input so far. The needle bar is very sloppy, the machine is skipping stitches and yes...the machine is very dry and desperately needs oiling and greasing.

  18. #18
    Super Member thepolyparrot's Avatar
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    I would *definitely* overhaul the 401. I have two of them and have given away a third. It's the machine I learned to sew on and if you're not feeding it a steady diet of canvas and jeans, it will be a wonderful machine to learn on.

    You can buy additional attachments and cams (although I don't think you really need the cams - most of my sewing is straight-stitching with the occasional blind-hem stitch - I'm pretty sure that's built in to the 401) If you look on eBay, pretty full sets of attachments and cams for the Touch & Sew machines go for a song. The white cams and the chain-stitcher sets from those machines won't work on your 401, but the black cams and the other slant-shank attachments will be just fine. Usually a lot less expensive than the sets made and marketed for the 401, too.

    You're not going to be able to buy as sturdily built and versatile machine as the 401 for what it's going to cost you to refurbish it.

    And you might save even that, if you like to tinker around with machinery (which I absolutely love as much as I love sewing! LOL! ) You might find that it's fun for you, too.

    Have fun with your old gal - nobody makes 'em with that quality any more.

  19. #19
    Junior Member overdew's Avatar
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    401a is a great machine!

    Quote Originally Posted by Gigigigina View Post
    I am a new member here at Quiltingboard and am sensing that with all the online manuals and help here at "QB" , I just might be able to do it myself!
    There is a ton of info on the net about this machine. The main problems can be solved with cleaning and oiling the machine. The decorative stitch controls on my $25 one were "stuck" from not being used. There is a great video about where to oil to restore movement. These machines have no belts, and all metal gears. These gears love oil. The slant needle makes a lovely stitch and you can get excellent speed from these machines. That price for adjustments is and oiling is outrageous, imho.

  20. #20
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    I learned a lot about repairs on one. Here is a service manual link: http://parts.singerco.com/IPsvcManuals/306W25.pdf
    you will have to scroll down 125 pages to find it though.
    There is a LOT of information right here on QB - you might need to do an advance search. Several of us on here can tell you how to do that $180 job for nothing but your own labor. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFE4I..._order&list=UL
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sEr3...eature=related
    If you run into any problems please post a pic and some idea what isn't working - we'll try to help.
    NEVER let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.

  21. #21
    Senior Member pheasantduster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gigigigina View Post
    I have my mother's 401a and is going to cost $179.00 to overhaul and put in good shape. I am planning on sewing crafts, beginning quilting, and some home decor projects. Should I have the overhaul performed or purchase the Janome 2012 (my price range for a new machine)? The Singer has never been serviced and was having serious tension problems.
    I have had my 410A since Sr in High School (1959!) and had to have it overhauled only once in 1992. Main problem was that it was losing power. I still have the repair slip in my Instruction Booklet and the charge then was $207. It was well worth it as there were a couple of replacement parts like brushes and ring and adjusting of needle shaft as it was off kilter. Over time, I have paid attention to the "sound" of my machine I oil and grease the required spots periodically. The bobbin tension can be tricky but with patience things can be adjusted to stitch properly. Now, 20 years later my machine is still giving me great service. I am one to sew frequently so it is well used. In recent years I have only been doing straight stitching and using the zig zag stitch for quilts and alterations of clothing. You must understand that this machine is all metal not plastic like newer machines. I would suggest that you carefully take apart and clean bobbin area with a soft brush then oil and grease where required.
    If you do not have the instruction booklet, PM me and I will be happy to mail you a copy of the pages (6) showing exact places to oil and grease. (I use Singer brand oil and grease products) Don't let go of the machine - it might just need some TLC.
    Last edited by pheasantduster; 10-21-2012 at 09:09 AM.
    Live well, Laugh often, Love much

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    I agree that the cost is steep just to clean and adjust the tension. I turned my 401A over onto the floor and jammed the gears (this machine had never been in hospital). I dreaded the cost, but off she went to my local sewing center. $25.00 later, she is as good as new. It sews anything! I'd try to get her fixed AND get a new machine if you can affort it. The 401A has all metal parts and will outlast anything made of plastic.

  23. #23
    Super Member k9dancer's Avatar
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    1. Most will be able to learn to oil and grease vintage machines.
    2. Not everyone is comfortable working on machines.
    3. We who work on machines have not seen this one. Is it possible there is an issue you have missed?
    4. Overhead varies a lot depending on location.
    5. Level of overhaul varies among techs. It is not out of line to a) shop around for price and b) ask what will be done and c) is there a warranty on the work?
    6. It is likely that tune-up on a 'modern' machine will cost that much, and also likely to need service again long before the vintage machine will.
    I'm just saying, prices vary depending on a lot of factors. For an oil and lube, I think the price is high. For a machine that is glued together with bad oil, and requires a teardown, maybe not.
    Stephanie in Mena

  24. #24
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    Thank you everyone for your replies. My daughter came over this weekend with an old "Crock Watcher" (precursor to the Crock Pot I guess) she inherited from her aunt. It is from the 70's and still cooks like a champ...not too hot like a lot of the newer, light-bottomed pots of today. Looking at the way her unit is built tipped the scales in favor of keeping my Singer 401a...The old adage..."They don't build them like they used to" is so true...I think the Singer has many years of great service left and if there is something it can't do...well, I guess I can go try my daughter's new machine.

  25. #25
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    good choice - I think you will have many years of service.
    NEVER let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.

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