I got a Brother XL-5060 from a freecycle post recently. After unjamming the bobbin and finding a replacement presser foot, I've got the machine to sew quite well.

One issue though is that it doesn't seem to be able to sew slowly, at least not at first. Pressing the foot pedal down softly, nothing happens, there's a hum from the machine as if it wants to go but then doesn't, then eventually it starts rolling, but at this point it's running too fast. If I ease off the pedal it now slows down to acceptably slow speed.

Because of the generated hum before the machine starts and the fact that it slows down after it starts if I ease off the pedal makes me think there is some kind of resistance in the mechanism which the motor is trying to overcome. The foot pedal itself is a generic one with no sensitivity adjustment on the bottom of it.

I bought some sewing machine oil and oiled the machine according to the instructions, but that didn't make any difference. It still only has a "burst" start mode, which is no good for precision sewing, or for a relative beginner like me.

Since I got it for free, I can't really justify spending the £80 the local shop want to service it - if I could guarantee that they would be able to fix the issue, then maybe I would think about paying it, but I have a no such guarantee. Therefore, I'm looking for some basic troubleshooting advice on how to solve this issue, if at all possible. It would be really nice to use this machine as it was a free item and I don't want to buy a new machine if I can get this one to work smoothly.

Thank you

  • One thought - what are you testing it on? My Bernina is good, and can start at minimum speed, except in certain heavy coated waterproof fabrics, or many layers where seams meet in something like denim, where the needle is subject to much more friction. If it's stalling on just a couple of layers of fairly light fabric, it's probably inside.
    – Chris H
    Commented Feb 10 at 7:27

4 Answers 4


You don't mention in your starting process the practice of using the hand wheel to begin the motion. Your reference to relative beginner reinforces this omission.

Every sewing machine I've used, which is only a half dozen different models, have had hand wheels. One begins to press the foot pedal, then applies rotation to the wheel to address the problem you are experiencing.

I've not used a computer controlled programmable machine (complex embroidery) but your description allowed me to find images of that specific model and it appears to be a slightly-above basic design, with the aforementioned hand wheel.

Consider to apply sufficient pressure to get the hum, then rotate the wheel by hand while increasing the pedal pressure. You'll note that the wheel does not have any protrusions to unsafely grab a finger.

Your comment has caused me to run the process through my alleged mind. It's possible that I've overlooked one aspect of use that had become ingrained in my foot. I don't have a machine handy to test it at the moment, but I have the feeling that my method of starting slow was to press to get the hum, turn the hand wheel, then pulse the pedal deeper and back to shallow to get the desired slower speed. It's not a particularly scientific description of this currently-uncertain method.

Another approach is to get the hum, spin the hand wheel and immediately back off a bit on the pedal. That feels better in my mind at this point, and may be the more appropriate method I've used. Barely once a month stitching projects keeps this stuff buried in the dust between my ears.

  • Thank you @fred_dot_u. You are correct I haven't tried turning the wheel and that certainly helps (I just tried it). However the initial speed for me is too fast. If you look at this video for example at around the 1m35s mark: youtube.com/watch?v=ODoLrCTxp5o then my machine stitches at about twice that rate on it's slowest setting. Maybe it's just a basic machine and can't do slow stitching?
    – woodspiral
    Commented Feb 10 at 0:09
  • The wheel is present and useful on mine, that does embroider (a feature I've tested once). It's just that when I need it, it's on waterproof fabrics that I don't want to pin (I have to seal the seams, but seam sealant will come through pinholes to the outside) so I need both hands on the workpiece.
    – Chris H
    Commented Feb 10 at 7:32

I have encountered the same problem to a different degree in several sewing machines.

Sewing machines with a weaker motor struggle most with this. All low - mid priced modern machines I encountered (not a lot to be honest) had a relatively weak motor compared to vintage machines. I have a machine that is 40 - 50 years old and starts much smoother, though not completely smooth. I've seen digital machines that can execute a single stitch perfectly and stop again.

When the needle goes down, the thread is held under quite a lot of tension by the tension discs. This is probably one source of resistance you experience and it's how the machine is supposed to work, so not a defect you can eliminate. You can test this theory by sewing on scrap fabric with the presser foot raised (which also disengages the tension discs). If the problem disappears, it's a "feature" of your machine. You'll have to give the machine a push via the hand wheel (called "balance wheel" in the manual) to start it very slowly.

A "hack" around this is to reduce the tension on the bobbin case, but this is fiddly and you can cause other problems if you don't get it right. There's a tiny screw on the side of the bobbin case that presses a small metal plate (the tension spring) against it. When you insert the bobbin (page 17 of the manual), you pull the thread through an opening in the side and pull it under this tension spring. You can loosen it very slightly and also loosen the upper tension control (see manual) to reduce the overall tension the machine has to overcome.

Another hack is to stop the machine when the needle is still going up instead of when the needle reaches the highest point. That has to do with how the machine sews. At the lowest needle position the thread is pulled into a loop and around the bobbin casing. When going up the thread is pulled up to close the loop again. At the highest needle position the loop is closed. When the needle descends, it pulls on the thread to go into the fabric and form a new loop. So if you start the machine whith the needle still moving up, the thread tension is lowest and the machine needs the least amount of energy to start. But most of the time you'll still need to adjust the needle position with the hand wheel, so this hack doesn't have any advantage against giving the machine a push while starting.

If the problem ist still very noticeable even with the presser foot fully raised, there's some resistance in your machine. Others have already proposed to clean all lint and dust out of the machine. You won't believe what a difference this can make!

  • That's very interesting - I will bear the thread tension in mind. I've actually scraped some cash together an bought myself a new heavy duty Singer, computer controlled, which can with appropriate foot pressure almost sew one stitch at a time - anyway it's lots slower than the Brother.
    – woodspiral
    Commented Mar 15 at 20:22

As you got it for free, if a service was guaranteed to fix it, you could consider whether the cost of the service is what you would pay to buy a fully-working machine second hand. You could also try to interpret what the shop says, to guide DIY efforts.

But like you, I'd be inclined to try and fix it myself.

I suspect that a machine that needs oiling also needs a good clean, and oil + lint will make for a sticky mess that causes the motor to stall at low powers. So I'd be looking for materials to show me how to strip it down thoroughly and clean everything possible, not just the regular cleaning instructions in the manual. Apart from removing covers, I'd be wary of dismantling blindly - some parts will relocate precisely with no tricks, but I wouldn't bank on all of them going together so easily.


I looked up the manual for your machine, which is here: https://support.brother.com/g/b/manualtop.aspx?c=eu_ot&lang=en&prod=hf_xl505050605070euk It says,

Foot Controller When you press the foot controller down lightly, the machine will run at a low speed. When you press harder, the machine’s speed will increase. When you take your foot off the foot controller, the machine will stop. You should make sure that nothing is placed on the foot controller when the machine is not in use.

Maybe you need to practice pressing the controller down lightly and see if you can finesse it, or maybe that slower speed part is in need of repair.

  • OP makes clear they have tried this.
    – rebusB
    Commented Feb 13 at 17:17

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