Machine Problems

In servicing machines for 25 years I saw a LOT of problems. Some were machine faults, some were caused by users, and some were just plain weird. I also get a lot of email from machine owners who are frustrated with problems that have been presented to their dealer multiple times, but never get fixed. This post is aimed to help prevent that.

Nothing makes anyone more angry than to take something, anything, to a repair center, leave it, wait for it, pick it up, and take it home, and then find out that the original problem is still there. This happens to all of us sooner or later, but why? To understand that we need to step to the other side of the counter to the technician’s bench. Let’s look at the process.

The machine is presented to someone other than the technician. She’s busy repairing machines. So someone, probably a salesperson, takes the machine, notes your name and phone number, and hopefully a brief description. Hours or days later the tech picks up the machine and looks at whatever was written down. She’s already seen 7 machines before getting to yours. Three of them appeared to be working fine. Two were just in for cleaning. One needed parts and had to be set aside to wait for them, and one has been badly abused and is waiting for the owner to authorize what will be an expensive repair.

You’ve brought your machine in for a message that pops up from time to time, stopping the machine dead in its tracks. Sometimes the message goes away and sometimes it comes up every few minutes. It’s nearly impossible to get anything meaningful done. So you brought it in. Now it’s on the bench and the tech is running a bit of stitching through. It’s working fine, with no messages. Ten minutes later, still good. Now the tech has 23 other machines to get through before the weekend. She can’t sit here for an hour sewing without the boss getting mad. The only option is to note NPF (No Problem Found) on the ticket and send it home. She’s annoyed, you are now branded as a possible crank, and you’re going to be really mad when you have the problem again.

Understand that intermittent problems are the absolute hardest ones to resolve. If a technician cannot see or hear the problem, it’s almost certain that it cannot be fixed. How do you deal with that? In cases of messages on screen, take a picture of the message. Print it out and on that page note the stitch or design you were using. If it’s a design, make sure it’s stored in the machine. Include fabric that’s close to what you were using when it happened. Write in a few words exactly what you did and what happened, step by step. Make sure that your picture and notes are included with the machine when you submit it for repair. This will improve the chances of the problem being found. Leave the machine threaded with the same thread you were using and the same bobbin in the bobbin case. If possible, try to list the steps needed to recreate the problem. If you can’t recreate it, the technician won’t be able to either.

Sometimes a problem only shows up after a period of time. Electronic components that work cold, when the machine is first turned on, may fail after use has made them warm to hot. Let the technician know that. There were some problems that I had to deal with in our store that were like that. I put a brick on the foot control and let the unthreaded machine run while I did other work. This would get me to the fail point without wasting any time.

It’s important to know what to bring in with your machine. Don’t bring the book! If the repair technician needs the book you need a different technician. We were Janome-only dealers, so I insisted on the minimum amount of stuff with each machine. Before instituting that policy I had a customer claiming we had lost her accessory box and all the feet in it. We had no way of knowing, so we had to make an expensive replacement. Multi line dealers will likely want the cord and foot control. The foot control could be important if the problem involves it in any way. If in doubt, ask them first. Please put your name on everything, even the machine. Write it on painter’s tape, which is easy to remove. Make a note of the serial number on your machine. Getting the wrong machine back is extremely rare, and may not even be noticed, so having the serial number gives you a way to detect it.

Software problems are an entirely different animal. Understand that your dealer is not any more of a computer expert than you are, in most cases. They will have to call Janome, and ultimately Janome may have to call you. Because of the limited tech support at Janome, this process can take a lot of time. Before presenting the problem to your dealer, try Google. Search for the error message you got, if appropriate, or the condition you are experiencing. Note that if you get an “exception” message in Windows, with a long string of numbers, it is of no use to carefully note those numbers or even take a screenshot. Just substitute the word “crash” for all that. If Google fails to turn up anything useful, post your problem to our email list. Be specific and detailed! Things like “I got an error message” (What was it?) or “Program X won’t open” (What happens?) are so vague that nobody can help. Be detailed as to what you were trying to do and what happened. Again remember that if your problem cannot be duplicated, it probably can’t be solved.

Janome sewing machines are some of the most reliable on the market. This is great, but when a problem does occur it is somewhat jarring. Some dealers will take an adversarial approach: “What did you do to it?” This puts you on the defensive, and I’ve noticed that many of the problem posts I’ve seen show that the poster assumes that she has done something to cause the problem. That’s especially true on computer problems. Most of the time she did nothing wrong. The problem is due to something outside of her control, like a component failure, a mechanical problem, or, in the case of software, a program bug.

I hope you never have a problem with your machine or computer, but if (OK, when) you do please refer to this post for your best course of action!