How Do I Fix The Tension On My Brother Sewing Machine?

If you own a Brother sewing machine and are currently facing tension problems, it can be quite a difficult situation to be in. You’re most likely caught between trying to fix it yourself or hiring a professional.

It’s one thing to decide you want to fix your Brother sewing machine tension problems and it’s a completely different thing to fixing the problem correctly.

I have compiled a list of common tension problems you’re likely to face on your Brother sewing machine and how to solve them.

7 Common Brother Sewing Machine Tension Problems

There are several tension problems that could arise in your Brother sewing machine.

It could be that the top stitch is too tight, upper stitch breaks often, problem setting the tension or top tension is too tight. If the top stitch is the problem, you can tighten the bobbin tension while you can turn the knob to lower the top tension if it’s too tight.

Other problems can simply be solved by cleaning out dirt and gunk from the sewing machine, rethreading the machine completely, or replacing damaged parts.

The first thing to do while facing a tension problem on your Brother sewing machine is to determine the exact cause of the problem. Once you’re sure why your machine is not working well, you can proceed to apply the appropriate solution.

1. Top Stitches Too Tight

One common tension problem people face on their sewing machine is when the top stitches don’t come out well. They usually appear like straight threads with small loops emerging from the underside.

This makes the stitches unusually loose and causes the cloth to pucker. Usually, the bottom stitches come out just fine leading most people to believe it’s a top tension problem.


This problem might be affecting the top stitch, but it’s got nothing to do with the top tension. Instead, it’s all about your bobbin tension. All you need do is tighten your bobbin tension and your machine should be back to normal again.

Step 1. When your top stitches are too tight, you will observe that there are some loops on the surface of your fabric or garment that you are stitching. This makes your work untidy and not properly sewn as the stitches don’t hold onto the fabric tightly. This problem is solved by threading your bobbin properly.

Step 2. Pop open the bobbin cover on your sewing machine. This allows you access to the bobbin so that you can rethread it and solve the top stitches too tight problem you are facing. Make sure that you are using the recommended bobbins for your Brother sewing machine.

Step 3. Remove all the thread from the bobbin to thread it correctly. You can cut it out or just unroll it off the bobbin. Unrolling it from the bobbin ensures that you can reuse the thread. You can roll it around another spool to use in another project.

Step 4. Place your empty bobbin onto the bobbin winder on your sewing machine. Push your bobbin winder to the right. Turn the bobbin clockwise until you hear it click into place on the bobbin winder.

Before you thread your bobbin make sure it has no cracks or rust. Cracked and rusted bobbins can easily damage your sewing machine and the fabrics you are working on.

Step 5. Place a spool of thread on the spool pin. Make sure to secure it with the pen cap. 

Always use a new or cleanly wound thread. If you don’t you are likely to end up with bobbin tension problems. 

Step 6. Looking at the diagram on top of your sewing machine, or following your manual, pull a thread from the spool and pass it through the guides and tension pin. Make sure to follow threading instructions properly for a flawless sewing experience. For example, make sure that your thread is tightly wound around the tension pin.

Step 7. Wrap your thread around the bobbin a few times by hand. Then, press your start button or the foot controller depending on your type of sewing machine. Also, set the speed for which the thread will wind around the bobbin.

Step 8. Let the thread wind until you have enough thread on your bobbin. Make sure that the thread on the bobbin is as much as is required for your bobbin size.

Step 9. As the bobbin fills up, it will start rotating slowly. Cut off the thread, push the bobbin winder back to the left and remove your bobbin.

Step 10. Raise your needle to its highest position. Open the bobbin cover and put your threaded bobbin into the bobbin case. Leave some thread outside and make sure it unwinds to the left.

Step 11. Push the bobbin down with your finger. Then pass the excess thread around the space provided and cut off the excess and return the bobbin cover.

Step 12. Set your sewing machine tension correctly by turning it up or down to ensure that your threads have the right tension to make sure the top thread is not too tight while sewing.

2. Upper Thread Keeps Breaking

When the upper thread keeps breaking, there are several reasons for this problem.

It could be that your thread is old or is of low quality. It could also be that the machine is not threaded properly or the needle is not right for the kind of fabric.

Yet, from experience, I have come to understand that this usually occurs when the tension device has some gunk in it.


When you have confirmed that your thread and needle is fine, your best solution is to clean out the gunk in the tension device.

To do this, take off the top thread and loosen the tension disk completely. Raise your presser foot and try to clean out the gunk with Perl cotton dipped in rubbing alcohol. Clean the tension mechanism thoroughly and set tension back to the midpoint. Rethread your sewing machine.

Your machine should be working perfectly again. If it doesn’t, you should think about taking it to a professional for servicing.

3. Failed to Set Tension

Some times, you could have issues setting tension. If you try again and again and still fail at it, it’s probably due to a number of reasons.

Firstly, it could be that the upper thread is tangled. It could also be that your presser foot was not raised while the machine was being threaded.

This problem can also be caused by the use of incorrect bobbin or needle type.


As always, the first thing to do is to determine the exact cause of the problem. If the thread is tangled, remove it completely and rethread your sewing machine. If your presser foot wasn’t raised while threading the sewing machine, rethread and be sure to raise your presser foot so the thread can go into your machine’s tension disk.

Also, be sure to set your tension dial between 4-5. If the problem is connected to the shuttle race, clean out any lint accumulation and rethread the bobbin in the shuttle race.

Follow these steps to adjust thread tension on your sewing machine:

Step1. Confirm that your sewing machine is properly threaded. You can do this first, visually. Look at how your top thread is threaded. Confirm that it is properly threaded following all the threading guides and that it is tightly threaded.

Second, you can confirm proper threading by sewing a piece of fabric on your sewing machine. After sewing check the placement of your top and bobbin thread on the fabric. When it is correctly threaded, only the upper thread is visible on the right side and only the bobbin thread is visible on the other side.

If the top thread is visible on the back side of the fabric, and vise versa, you need to adjust your sewing machine tension. If the bobbin thread is visible on the right side of the fabric, the bobbin is not properly threaded, hence affecting tension.

And, if the upper thread is visible on the lower side, the top thread is poorly threaded hence loss of tension.

Step 2. Thread your sewing machine correctly. Follow all the guides to thread the top thread as it should. Second, thread your bobbin properly. Further, make sure that you are using the right size of bobbin for your sewing machine.

Also, check that your bobbin is not broken. This could lead to loosening the tension of your bobbin thread as the crack may prevent proper movement of the bobbin during sewing.

Step 3. When adjusting your sewing machine tension, you need to confirm that you have the right needle and the right thread for the fabric you are sewing. If you are working on a strong, woven fabric, you will need a different thread and needle when you are working on a silky fabric.

Using the wrong needle and thread may affect your sewing. This may cause you to have tension problems that make your thread and fabric bunched up.

Step 4. Adjust the tension of each of the sewing threads for a flawless sewing experience. When you have properly threaded your sewing machine, test on a scrap of fabric before you start sewing.

If the top thread is visible on the underside of your fabric, you have low tension. You need to increase the tension by turning the tension knob to a higher number. Test each time you move the tension knob until you have the right tension for your top thread.

If yourbobbin thread is visible on the top side of the fabric, you have a high tension on the bobbin thread which needs to be reduced. Thus, turn the tension dial or knob to set a lower tension for your sewing thread,

Test your new tension settings on a scrap fabric. When you have an evenly produced thread, then you have found the right tension for your sewing.

4. Top Tension is too Tight

As a result of the bobbin threads being visible on the top all you have left to do now is to reduce the tension on your sewing machine.

When the top tension is too tight, you are likely to see loops appear on your fabric. This means that you will have an untidy stitch on your fabric.

Correct thread tension makes it easy for you to sew anything. As long as you have the correct needle and thread for the fabric that you are sewing. However, when you don’t have the correct tension, you won’t enjoy sewing.

When you have your top thread too tight, it means that you don’t have enough top thread going through the fabric. This means that you will have a weak stitch that could easily unravel. Thus, your sewing produces low quality products.

How Does Top Tension Work?

When you look through your sewing machine, you will see two metal discs at the top. The correct top tension is provided by these two metal discs. On one side of these two discs is a spring. The spring is important as it provides and regulates the pressure that goes onto the thread.

Step 1. To get pressure onto the thread, the spring is controlled via a dial. This is the tension control dial. The pressure exerted onto the spring by the dial is characterized by the numbers shown on the dial. The higher the number set, the higher the pressure and thread tension.

Step 2. When you press the presser foot or switch on your machine, the discs open up and let your thread through to the needle and fabric you are stitching.

When the pressure foot is lowered, the discs come back together and provide the set tension to the thread before the next cycle of sewing starts. For this reason, never thread your sewing machine with the presser foot down. You will encounter lots of tension problems.


Once you’re sure your top tension is too tight, the only solution is to loosen it.

To do this, turn the knob in a way that has the number decreasing. You can try going half or a number lower than the current top tension.

Test this new tension with a small piece of fabric using a different thread color. Keep going low until you’re able to sew evenly on both sides and until the bottom thread no longer shows at the top.

5. Top Tension is too Loose

Another frustrating tension problem you can face on your Brother sewing machine is when the top tension is too loose.

This problem is similar to top tension being tight. The major difference is that the top thread is visible at the bottom.


When the top tension of your sewing machine is too loose, the stitches on your fabric will look out of place. When you are a sewing beginner, you need to learn how to properly thread your sewing machine. Proper threading goes a long way in making sure that you have the right tension on your sewing machine.

Here is how you can get your sewing machine back to normal if its top tension is too loose.

Step 1. Proper threading also includes the bobbin threading. Confirm that your bobbin is properly threaded and installed into the sewing machine before you touch the tension dial. Change or also re-thread your bobbin if necessary.

Most times, proper threading of your sewing machine is what you require to solve this tension problem. Also, knowing what needle and thread to use for the fabric you are sewing will help reduce the instances of your top tension getting too loose. 

Step 2. Also, depending on your sewing machine, you could activate auto tension. Mechanical sewing machines don’t have this feature. However, most modern sewing machines will do.

Auto tension means that your sewing machine can automatically detect the type of fabric you are sewing, your needle and type and size of thread. As a result, it will set itself to the required tension to make sure that you don’t face any tension problems.

Step 3. As you increase the tension of your sewing machine to solve this problem, make sure not to overdo it. With every turn of the dial to increase tension, make sure to test out the result on a different piece of fabric. Make sure your test fabric is similar to the one you are working on.

6. Bobbin Tension Too Loose

When working with a Brother sewing machine, one common issue that might arise is the bobbin tension being too loose. This problem is typically identified by the appearance of loops on the underside of the fabric, which can compromise the integrity of your stitches and overall project quality.


  • Loops on Underside: The most telltale sign of loose bobbin tension is visible loops or excess thread on the underside of the fabric.
  • Unreliable Stitching: The stitches may seem loose and unreliable, leading to potential unraveling of the seams.


  • Improperly Threaded Bobbin: If the bobbin isn’t threaded correctly, it can result in insufficient tension.
  • Incorrect Bobbin Type: Using a bobbin that isn’t compatible with your Brother machine can lead to tension issues.
  • Wear and Tear: Over time, the bobbin case can wear out, affecting tension.


  1. Check Bobbin Threading: Ensure that the bobbin is threaded correctly according to your Brother sewing machine’s manual. A properly threaded bobbin is crucial for maintaining consistent tension.
  2. Inspect and Clean the Bobbin Case: Remove the bobbin case and inspect it for lint, dust, or damage. Clean it thoroughly using a soft brush or cloth.
  3. Adjust Bobbin Tension Screw: Locate the small screw on the bobbin case. This screw adjusts the bobbin tension. If the tension is too loose, gently turn the screw clockwise in small increments. Be cautious; over-tightening can cause other issues.
  4. Test and Re-adjust: After making adjustments, test the tension by sewing a few stitches on a scrap piece of fabric. Observe the stitch quality and adjust further if necessary.
  5. Use Compatible Bobbins: Always use bobbins recommended by Brother for your specific model to avoid tension issues.
  6. Regular Maintenance: Regular cleaning and periodic maintenance of your machine can prevent tension problems from arising.

By following these steps, you should be able to rectify issues related to bobbin tension being too loose, thereby ensuring the durability and quality of your sewing projects.

7. Incorrect Thread Tension

Incorrect thread tension is a common challenge faced by users of Brother sewing machines. It can significantly affect the quality and appearance of your stitches, making it crucial to identify and resolve this issue promptly.


  • Thread Breakage: Frequent breaking or snapping of the thread can indicate tension that is too tight.
  • Loose Stitches: If the stitches are uneven or appear loose and sloppy, it could be a sign of too little tension.
  • Thread Bunching: Bunching or gathering of thread on the underside of the fabric is often a symptom of tension imbalance.


  • Improper Threading: Incorrectly threading the machine can lead to uneven tension in the upper and lower threads.
  • Incompatible Needle and Thread: Using a needle or thread that isn’t suitable for the fabric or the machine can disrupt the tension balance.
  • Tension Settings Misadjustment: Incorrectly set tension dials can result in tension that is either too high or too low.


  1. Re-thread the Machine: Start by re-threading your machine, ensuring that both the top and bobbin threads are correctly placed according to the machine’s guidelines.
  2. Check and Adjust Tension Dials: The tension dials on your Brother sewing machine control the thread tension. Experiment by adjusting these dials, typically by increasing the number for tighter tension or decreasing it for looser tension.
  3. Match Needle, Thread, and Fabric: Ensure that you’re using the appropriate needle and thread for your fabric type. A mismatch can cause tension issues.
  4. Test Stitch on Scrap Fabric: After making adjustments, perform a test stitch on a scrap piece of fabric. Check both sides of the fabric to assess stitch quality and make further adjustments as needed.
  5. Consult the Manual: Refer to your Brother sewing machine manual for specific guidance on setting the correct tension for different types of projects.
  6. Regular Maintenance: Keeping your machine clean and well-maintained can prevent many tension issues.

By carefully addressing these aspects of thread tension, you can achieve smooth, even stitches and enhance the overall quality of your sewing projects.

What Causes Tension Issues on Brother Sewing Machine?

The following are the most common reasons why your Brother sewing machine has tension issues.

1. Incorrectly Threaded Machine

Many tension issues arise from machines that are incorrectly threaded. This mistake usually happens when sewers thread with the presser foot down stopping the thread from slipping all the way between tension disc.

The best solution is to rethread the sewing machine completely and with the presser foot raised upwards.

2. Dirty Machine

A sewing machine that hasn’t been cleaned for a long while will certainly pose several problems.

For sewers who sew regularly, it is always best to clean your sewing machine at least once every week. This takes away the lint and gunk that would otherwise be hidden between the tension discs.

Always see to it that your Brother sewing machine is lint-free to ensure you don’t have tension issues.

3. Damaged Parts

So what’s the state of your machine? Is your needle broken? is it the thread guide, tension disc, or take up lever?Always be careful not to leave any broken parts without fixing it as this could seriously affect your Brother sewing machine’s tension.

Once you notice your machine has been damaged in any way, be sure to get professional help.

4. Thread, Needle, and Fabric

If your needle is not the right size for the project, it could easily affect your machine’s tension. Also, the wrong thread size can get your tension settings messed up.

The solution is to always get the right needle, thread, and fabric for the project at hand.

Brother sewing machine is one of the finest brands of sewing machines on the market. If you ever face a tension problem, always be sure to consult your manual guide to see if there are directions for tackling such problems.

If you do try the above solutions to their corresponding problems and they fail to work, simply hire a professional to service your machine and get it working properly again.

Brother Sewing Machine Tension Chart

Most seamstresses or dressmakers avoid adjusting the tension dial because they are afraid of messing up the stitch quality of their sewing machines. However, thread tension setting is crucial in achieving the perfect seam quality. 

It is common knowledge that lower numbers mean loose tension and higher numbers mean tighter tension. Get to know the purpose of different numbers on your tension dial and identify which one works best for specific threads and fabrics. 

Tension NumberUses
0-3Lower machine tension is for lightweight fabrics like satins and silks. Depending on how thin the fabric is, you can even go down to 2 for your tension. Test it out by stitching a few lines on your scrap fabric and checking if the upper and lower threads are balanced. 
4-54.0 is the most common tension for almost all fabrics. Medium-heavy fabrics like cotton and linen are best sewn in this setting. This is also the standard tension for home sewing machines. 
6-9Higher tensions are mostly used for heavyweight fabrics such as upholstery. This is to help lower threads easily slide through your fabric’s middle layer. 

If you want to experiment and find the best tension for your choice of fabric, you can start with number 4 and work your way up or down the tension dial until you find the perfect setting. It’ll also be beneficial to list down the different tension numbers and their purpose for future reference. 

How To Adjust Tension On Brother Sewing Machine?

In sewing, machinery problems are unavoidable. Some of the most common problems are incorrect thread tension, bobbin and needle not being inserted the right way, and improperly threading your machine. These can be annoying especially when you have a project due and you can’t seem to fix it. In this section, let’s discuss these problems and the steps to fix them.

On Brother sewing machines, the normal tension setting is 4.0, however, adjustments might still be possible depending on your choice of fabric. You have to take note that in the middle of your fabric’s surface, the needle and bobbin threads interlock. Only the needle thread should be Visible on the right side of your fabric, and the bobbin thread on the opposite side. When you notice loops on the right side of the fabric, your tension might be too tight. You have to decrease the upper tension by turning the tension dial to the left. Keep in mind that thread tension isn’t the only factor affecting weakened seams. 

Threading is a crucial step in setting up your Brother sewing machines or any other machines, in general. Even by twisting the upper tension-control dial, the thread tension cannot be accurately adjusted if both the upper and lower threading are incorrect. Before adjusting the thread tension, check the upper and lower threading. 

You might wonder why whenever you change into a different fabric, your seams are suddenly too loose or too tight. This could be because the needle you’re using isn’t fit for the fabric. Finer needles are advised to be used on lightweight fabrics. Larger needles are for medium to heavyweight fabrics, and universal needles are for polyester and cotton fabrics. So, the next time you encounter tension problems, check if your needle is appropriate for your fabric. 

Brother sewing machines come with manuals which contain basic troubleshooting for situations like tension problems. It will be beneficial for you to scan through it and take note of useful information. The right tension is crucial to getting good results when stitching your project. Make it a habit to follow the right steps in handling your sewing machine. 

How To Adjust Bottom Tension on  Brother Sewing Machine?

Loose bottom stitches can be caused by weakened upper or lower thread tension, among other factors. Upper and lower thread tension being too tight or too loose can cause the appearance of loops or small knots on the wrong side of your fabric. Incorrect threading could be another cause too. Tightening the tension dial or cleaning your machine might not be enough sometimes. 

Determine the precise reason for the tension issue on your Brother sewing machine before taking any other action. You can move forward with implementing the proper solution if you are certain of the cause of your machine’s poor performance. You can follow these steps to identify the root cause and troubleshoot accordingly.

Your upper thread could be threaded incorrectly. Carefully re-thread the top thread and check whether the upper tension is right. Depending on the fabric you’re using, you can set the tension high or low. Get your scrap fabric and test the stitches to see if you were able to fix it. Remember to always raise the presser foot when adjusting upper thread tension. 

Check the bobbin and check if it’s placed correctly. In almost all Brother sewing machines, there is a guide embedded on how to wound a bobbin. Your bobbin might differ depending on the model of your machine. Some have a separate bobbin case and some don’t. Make sure that you are using the appropriate bobbin as this may cause your thread to get caught up upon sewing. 

For drop-in bobbins, there’s no need to change the bottom tension. However, for front-loading bobbins, there are times when screws are moved. Make sure your bobbin tension is correct by inserting it in your bobbin case and holding it up by the thread. It should not  move or fall. Pull it slightly and if the bobbin slides down a little, its tension is perfect. If it falls, it’s too loose and if it doesn’t budge, it’s too tight.  

To check if your bobbin was inserted properly, just follow the guide on your machine or you can re-do the insertion. After that, check the direction of your bobbin when you pull the thread, make sure that it’s turning counter clockwise. Remove loose threads before you do another test. 

Beginners in sewing sometimes forget that there are different needle sizes for specific kinds of fabric. Wrong needle size may affect your stitch quality. Thinner needles are for lightweight fabrics while thicker needles are for heavyweight ones. You can also avoid ruining your fabric if the correct needle is being used. 

These basic troubleshooting methods should be able to help you fix tension problems on your Brother sewing machines. However, maintenance is also essential. Clean your machine of loose thread from time to time and keep it out of dust. Another tip would be to test your stitches on scrap fabrics every time you start a new project. This is to avoid possible fabric damage if your machine is not working well. 




I'm Jessica Flores, a professional fashion designer and an expert seamstress. Crafting has always been a deep-seated passion of mine, one that has flourished and evolved over the years. I've dedicated considerable time to both studying and practicing in the realm of fashion and sewing, amassing a wealth of experience and skills. It brings me great joy to share these insights and experiences with you all, hoping to inspire and foster a similar passion for the art of sewing.

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