If you have a vintage Kenmore 158.somthing sewing machine, this tutorial applies to your machine.
There is lots of information about maintenance oiling and cleaning your machine. This regular maintenance should not be ignored, and if done regularly will extend the lifespan of your Kenmore to near infinity… well, a long time. But what about un-scheduled maintenance?
One part in the machine that does not get any attention, and is not included in the machine maintenance section in the user’s manual, is the gear case. The gear case is the part of your sewing machine that houses the oscillating gears that drive the oscillating bobbin. It is greased at the factory, and I guess the manufacturer didn’t think the grease would ever need changing. Then again, they probably didn’t foresee these machines sewing great 45 or more years after they were manufactured.
The fact is, the grease in your vintage Kenmore HAS broken down and is no longer lubricating the gears. I am 100% certain of it. After many Kenmore restorations, I have never seen one that didn’t need new grease and it is a regular step in a restoration.
Now, it is not likely that this failure of the grease will stop your Kenmore from sewing. Despite the work they do in the machine, compared to the durability of the steel gears it is not likely to cause failure… however, it will result in more noise and adversely affect the smoothness your Kenmore is capable of.
Re-lubricating the gears is simple to do, and this tutorial will show you how to replace the gear grease in your Kenmore.
All you need is a screwdriver, maybe some cotton swabs or a small brush, and some paper towels. Any automotive bearing grease will work and is available at a reasonable price. Get the smallest quantity you can find.
The gearcase is under the bed and is easy to identify by the three screws and cover plate shown in the picture.
Place some paper towels under the gear case and remove the three screws and the cover plate make sure the thin cover gasket is not damaged .
The old grease has turned to the consistency of bees wax. You can even see the outline of the gear teeth in the grease, but no grease on the gears.
Using a small screwdriver, tooth picks, cotton swabs, or any small tool that you have, remove the old grease from the gears and gearcase. It is stiff and will come out easily… it will also stick to anything it touches, so use the paper towel to wipe the grease from the implement you are using. Rotate the balance wheel to turn the gears and give better access to remove as much of the old grease as possible.
You do not need to worry about leaving a little old grease behind, but I follow up with a small chip brush to remove as much as I can get. Next, the new grease is packed into the case.
Do not completely fill the case with grease. it needs room to move with the gears. Do make sure you get grease behind the gears so the gears are in full contact with the grease.
Replace the plate and gasket with the 3 screws and tighten snugly… don’t overtighten.
That’s it! Your Kenmore will be quieter and run smoother, and you will probably never need to worry about re-lubricating gears for another 45 or 50 years!
I hope you found this information useful!
Please feel free to visit our Etsy store “Pungoliving” to see our fine quality restored vintage sewing machines and the work we do to restore them. They all have links to their respective restoration blog, or follow the link below:
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