Is This Smell Normal?
June 11, 2012 8:51 AM   Subscribe

New sewing machine smells weird during use. Common? Should I be nervous?

I just bought this sewing machine (a Brother XL2600I Sew Advance) and set it up yesterday. It took a while to figure how to work the ins and outs but I think I have everything set up properly.

However, I noticed while doing test runs on sample fabric that there is a strong, weird smell coming from the machine when I use it. It's like an electric smell rather than a burning smell, like the motor is working too hard or something. Is this common? Do most sewing machines smell like this?

The odor, as best I can describe it, is like when you leave the parking brake on in the car - that frictiony odd scent. It does not smell like anything is on fire.

What is the best way to troubleshoot the problem? Is there a problem? I am very new to sewing and don't know when something looks or feels "off".

posted by amicamentis to Home & Garden (7 answers total)
If it has a mechanical yet oily smell (hard to describe, isn't it)? I think everything is just fine, especially if you bought a used machine.

Repair shops run through a checklist of common issues when they refurbish used machines to ready them for resale, including oiling a machine up so the wheel turns smoothly.
posted by misha at 8:57 AM on June 11, 2012

A mild odor would be normal. A strong odor is not, especially not in a new machine. My current machine is also a Brother, very similar to yours, and I haven't noticed any strong odors, ever, not even when quilting a twin-sized quilt or when sewing through tons of layers of heavy fabric to make curtains.

The last time I had a sewing machine start giving off a strong odor like this, it started smoking and tried to catch on fire. That was a very old machine, so hopefully that isn't likely to happen on yours. But yes, it could be serious, and if I were in your position I'd return or exchange the machine now rather than futzing around trying to get it repaired. A repair appointment would likely cost more than the machine is worth.

(Where did you buy it from? I have had big-box stores sell me "new" electronics that were actually a used unit that had been returned for issues (e.g. a GPS with several months of other people's destinations saved in and a screen issue).)
posted by pie ninja at 9:15 AM on June 11, 2012

I bought it from Amazon, and it showed no signs of previous use whatsoever. I only smell it when I am running the machine (not when I just have it turned on). It is more of a mechanical smell as misha mentions.
posted by amicamentis at 9:20 AM on June 11, 2012

Maybe ozone from the electric motor? Some motors use brushes that make small sparks as the motor rotates. The sparking causes ozone to form, which has a distinctive odor.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:23 AM on June 11, 2012

Maybe you have something not set quite right, or the tension is off in a way that is making the motor strained when using it. The scent I think you are describing is like when you get something caught in the vacuum cleaner and there is that rubbery-electric burny scent?

I've done a fair bit of sewing and never noticed a scent like that. Maybe the machine needs to be cleaned or re-timed.
posted by catatethebird at 11:27 AM on June 11, 2012

This is just thinking off the top of my head based on using sewing machines years ago . . but maybe there is not enough oil in your machine or the oil you have has not worked its way through all the mechanisms and hence, is not lubing properly.
Maybe you should call customer support (877-276-8437) and ask them.
posted by jaimystery at 12:46 PM on June 11, 2012

I would second Misha -- new motors of any sort tend to have an extra layer of oil put on them, and the first couple uses will 'burn' that off. You'll also encounter the smell if you happen to be the first person to test the brakes while test driving a new car. I would expect the smell to go away (or stop occurring) within a day, depending on how much you use the machine.
posted by MeiraV at 2:50 PM on June 11, 2012

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