Bernina 440QE: Cleaning and Oiling Your Machine

Oil and Brush - Perfect Partners in Crime

Each year around the holidays – or more specifically, while I’m in the middle of the holiday sewing craziness – I lament about how infrequently I manage to perform the maintenance that I know my machine so desperately needs at this time of year:  cleaning and oiling!

First, the procrastinator makes an appearance:  “Just one more bobbin.” or “When I’m done with this quilt!”

Next, denial sets in:  “Wow, where are all these fuzzies coming from?  Must be this batting.”  or “Really, I’m sure that ca-chunk-ca-chunk-ca-chunking is just the dishwasher.”

But the dirty dishes are still piled up, and your projects continue to flow through the machine, one after the other.  And you don’t do it.  Or at least, I don’t.  Not nearly enough.

But there’s no excuse!  It’s so easy and takes about 3 minutes.  Below are the steps for you to do it yourself.  At least someone will be cleaning their machine, even if I’m not.


Cleaning and Oiling Your Machine

Getting started:  Unthread your machine and put it in the “needle up” position.  Turn it off. Find your brush and oil.  The ones pictured above came with my machine.

Step 1 – Approach:  Quietly, gently approach the machine in its native habitat.  Speak in soothing tones, so it doesn’t suspect anything.

Your machine, in its native habitat.

Hunting for fuzzies.


Step 2 – Open the top:  Press open the stitch plate beneath the presser foot and remove it.

Woah, this could get ugly. See the fuzzies already trying to escape?


Run! Here they come!


Step 3 – Defuzzify:  Brush out all the fuzzies and gunk, bits of broken needles, toast crumbs, dog hair, extra threads, whatever else is stuck in there:


Cleaning out the top of the machine.

This can get a little messy, and it's hard to get into all of the nooks and crannies.


Step 4 – Appreciate:  Admire your clean machine top, and replace the stitch plate:

Admire your clean machine top

Clean and fuzzy-free.


Clean top with stitch plate.

Clean top with stitch plate.



Step 5 – Bobbin area: Open up the bobbin door, and remove the bobbin.  Clean out the fuzzies you can see.

Bobbin area

Clean out what you can see. More detailed cleaning will follow shortly!


Step 6 – Release the bobbin hook: Now, release the housing that holds the bobbin hook in place. There’s a handy little lever on the top left of your machine to release it. Push this lever to the left to release the housing.    The housing will flop down:

Press the lever on the top left of your bobbin area to release the metal/black plastic housing

Press the lever on the top left of your bobbin area to release the metal/black plastic housing. Not so conveniently for this tutorial, my thumb is covering it up.



Step 7 – Remove the Bobbin Hook:  Open the bobbin housing and remove the spiky part that sits on the right-half of the bobbin area.  This is called the bobbin hook.  It’s the part that rotates around the bobbin and makes stitches.

Remove the bobbin hook.

Remove the bobbin hook. Boy, I need hand moisturizer!

This is what it looks like up close:

Bobbin hook up close

Bobbin hook up close. I hear this item costs about $70. Treat it nicely!


Step 8 – Clean like the wind!:  Now clean out the hook and the rest of the bobbin area with your handy little brush so it looks like this:


Cleaned out bobbin area



Diversion! – Understanding the inside:  Small side trip! The bobbin hook sits inside the housing and “races” around in a circle while you’re sewing to make stitches.  The little track that it goes around on is called the race. Ultimately, this is the part that needs the oil on it.

Race - the part that needs oil

The race - this is the part that ultimately needs to have oil on it.


Bernina Hook

This is the part of the hook that sits in the race.


There are two different ways to get oil onto the race.  Are you ready?  3, 2, 1…


Step 9 – Option 1 – Oil the Hook: 

Bernina Hook with Oil

The hook, getting a one-drop oil bath.


Step 9 – Option 2 – Oil the Race:

Oiling the race

Oiling the race - One drop is all you need!

Place one drop of oil at the bottom of the race hook.


Please note: You only need to do ONE of the above methods.  You DO NOT need to do both.  When you’re done with your chosen method, the rest of the steps are the same:


Step 10 – Put Humpty Back Together Again:  Reinsert the hook into the race and close the housing again:

Clean and put back together

Clean and put back together.


Step 11 – Run the machine and listen to it purr:  As the hook turns in the machine, oil will be distributed along the race.  Run the machine without any fabric in it until the oil is distributed.  This saves you from the disappointment of getting a bit of oil on your project as the machine settles in to its new-found lubricated state.  Machine sounds better, doesn’t it?

Take the machine for a spin

Take your new tidy machine for a spin.


When should you oil your machine?

I’ve heard a lot of different things:  Every bobbin, every 3-5 bobbins, at each needle change, every day, never…  But my rule of thumb is usually the following:

1) After using up 3-5 bobbins.

2) When it start ca-chunking – sometimes the machine just sounds like it needs oil.  When this happens, I oil it.  It’s possible that it hits this mark after the 3-5 bobbin stage, and comes from my minor neglect, but I will deny this if anyone asks. 😉

3) When Bernina tells you you should – Bernina will display a cute little oil can icon on the front of the machine after about 180,000 stitches, indicating that it’s time to oil.  Almost all the sewers I know oil more frequently than this, but it’s a good reminder to get once in a while, and it’s a cute icon, to boot!


What you shouldn’t do when oiling: Compressed Air

People say that compressed air is ok for the older mechanical machines that are not computerized.  However, most sewing pros I know don’t use compressed air on their computerized machines, for fear of blowing the dust into the internals of the machine and messing something up.  I’m not sure I buy it completely, but better safe than sorry!  I steer clear of it just to be sure!


Hope this little tutorial was helpful.  Happy cleaning!

Posted by robyn on December 31st, 2011 under bernina 440 qe, crafts, sewing, sewing machines, tutorials

81 Responses to “Bernina 440QE: Cleaning and Oiling Your Machine”

  1. Melissa D Says:

    Thanks so much for thsi how-to! I was hearing some ca-Chung while sewing today, so this is my next task before getting back to sewing tomorrow. Happy New Year!

  2. Caro Says:

    Thanks for the reminder. I have the same machine. My oil was the same color as yours and a Bernina repairman told me that my oil had gone bad. It should be clear in color.

  3. Sewing Princess Says:

    Thanks for the reminder. I normally oil it when the sign comes up but it won’t hurt if I do it again tonight
    Sewing Princess´s last blog post ..Comfy yet fashionable

  4. Judy Danz Says:

    Fantastic tutorial. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Linda Says:, thanks for this simple tutorial, I had no idea I should be oiling my bobbin ‘race’. Gonna do that today before I start sewing. I have a different model but the bobbin area is the same. Thanks again!!

  6. Terry O Says:

    THANK YOU!!!! I did NOT know about some of this!

  7. CJ Dretzke Says:

    I like to clean my machine after each project.

  8. Joan Says:

    HOLY SMOKE, I am a BAD Bernina owner! I had no idea I was supposed to do this as often as now instructed; I do a perfunctory brush out of stuff but I’ve never oiled the machine (I was afraid to) and let the annual cleaning (which isn’t so annual, frankly) by the professionals do that part. I am SO thankful for this post and plan to spread the word. THANK YOU!!!!
    Joan´s last blog post ..UFO to CG

  9. Judy Says:

    Thanks for the pictures. I have been oiling but not taking the top plate off. When my little warning light came on I thought maybe I hadn’t been doing it right but I have except for the top plate. Thanks again for the pictures

  10. Sharon Says:

    Thank you for your tutorial. The pictures help knowing exactly where the oil is needed.

  11. Shirlee Says:

    Great tutorial. I’ve been oiling the wrong place!!! Thank you for this simple to understand post.

  12. Lynne Says:

    Thank you for the great pictures! I’m never really certain where the oil should go!
    Lynne´s last blog post ..Bernina 440QE: Cleaning and Oiling Your Machine

  13. Kristin Says:

    Just like I would do it myself.

  14. Gail Jean Says:

    What a CLEAR tutorial!! My Bernina says, “a million thanks!”

  15. Rebecca Grace Says:

    Thank you for this WONDERFUL tutorial — the manual is so unclear about home maintenance. Your pictures are worth a thousand translated-from-Swiss-German words! 😉

    I have a 200E and I don’t think I’ve ever seen an oil can icon pop up on the screen, but other than that the machines look pretty similar. And I had no idea I was supposed to take out the hook and bobbin guts to oil! I just always put a drop of oil at the bottom of the bobbin case area. Not sure if that helped or not…

    I also didn’t think I needed to oil that frequently. I definitely have gone through more than 3 or 4 bobbins on the quilt top I’m piecing. Maybe it’s time to give my sewbaby a Spa Day with some oil and a lint brush massage!
    Rebecca Grace´s last blog post ..Happy New Year 2012! Cheers, Hugs, Movies and Champagne Bubbles Headed Your Way

  16. Rebecca Grace Says:

    …By the way, I know canned air is a no-no because it blows dust and lint inside the machine, but I have a little attachment kit that I can hook onto a Dirt Devil handheld vacuum to suck lint and dust OUT of the machine if I’ve made a glorious mess with something like Minkee plush. The tiniest vacuum nozzle in the kit is smaller than a toothbrush head, so it gets into all the nooks and crannies.
    Rebecca Grace´s last blog post ..Happy New Year 2012! Cheers, Hugs, Movies and Champagne Bubbles Headed Your Way

  17. pat kapsak Says:

    Thank you so very much ! Very clear Tut !! Happy New Year Sewing ahead !

  18. Janien Says:

    Thank you for sharing! Now I know what to do exactly.

  19. Amy C Says:

    A great tutorial with illustrations. Many thanks to you for putting this together!
    Amy C´s last blog post ..Design Wall, Jan 3, 2012

  20. Nan F Says:

    What a SUPER tutorial! I clean out the fuzzies with every bobbin change but don’t oil often enough, mostly because I don’t know where to put the oil! I LOVE your pictures and description. Now, where do you oil a 730E? The Bernina manual just isn’t clear enough…

  21. Wendy Roberts Says:

    Fabulous article. I have always been fussy about cleaning and oiling my machine, but as I did not have any illustrations to be sure that I was doing it right! Best article on maintenance ever!

  22. Helen Hardwick Says:

    Thanks for the great info. Bernie’s are a thirsty bunch. I wouldn’t trade them for anything but they do need oil frequently. Yellow oil is starting to thicken – get some new oil, inexpensive insurance for good sewing.

  23. Carolyn Says:

    Absolutely wonderful information in all your tutorials. Bernina website would do well to pay you for these! You had better copyright them before Bernina steals them! I was very frustrated by the lack of info on the Bernina site when I was looking into which machine to buy and then afterwards when I needed info on how to use it. Thankyou so much. I am really getting itchy feet wanting to get back to my machine but here in Oz, January is a busy holiday month and we have a house full of visitors which is also good fun.

  24. Gemma Says:

    Thank you so much for this tutorial! I got a Bernina 440QE for Christmas and I love her :) But I live on a Pacific Island and can’t have her serviced professionally here so this information is perfect for me! I’ve started blogging about my adventures with my 440 as I didn’t find much information when I was researching before I purchased it. Although I must say, your blog helped me make my decision. Thanks again!

  25. Wendy Says:

    A million thanks! The pics in the manual are terrible and I was never quite sure if I was putting the oil in the correct place! Good advice about the 3-5 bobbins, i was just waiting for the oil can to show up! I clean under my stitch plate quite often, but am always surprised how much accumulates under there. Last time I swear a Muppet tried to

  26. Wendy Says:

    Climb out from under there! Thanks again!

  27. Jill Says:

    I’d like to add my thanks too, having found your tutorial today (thank you Google!) … Great pictures an description, much better than the Bernina manual. I couldn’t get the bobbin hook back in right until I came here. Ditto for your walking foot post. So many thanks, I’m sure I’ll be back.

  28. Lelie Says:

    Great! I just used your method. It is great! If I understand correctly I should only oil the down part of machine and nothing else?
    Lelie´s last blog post ..Flickr problemen :( Hulp gevraagd

  29. Claire Says:

    Thank you so much for this. I am a brand new 440 owner and was embarassed that I had no idea how to oil my machine.

  30. robyn Says:

    Thanks everyone, for the great feedback. I’m glad you found the tutorial helpful! Based on comments, looks like I need some new oil. Interestingly, the oil was yellow when I got the machine. Not sure if it’s gotten worse with time?

  31. robyn Says:

    Hi Lelie,

    You have two choices for oiling – one on just the race – the inside of the bobbin case, the part that’s attached to the machine – or on the side of the hook. Hopefully that makes sense!

  32. robyn Says:

    Thanks for the kind words, Jill, and glad you found both tutorials helpful!

  33. robyn Says:

    Wendy, the thought of a Muppet crawling out of my machine is kind of scary, but at the same time, joyful! How cute would that be! :-)

  34. robyn Says:

    Hi Nan – sorry about your late reply to your comment about oiling a Bernina 730E. I wish I could help you figure out how to oil the 730E, but I’ve never used another Bernina. Maybe this article would help?

  35. robyn Says:

    Hi Rebecca Grace,

    That attachment you have for your Dirt Devil sounds perfect! It’s got me thinking I need to try out an attachment on my vacuum and see if that would remove the fuzzies more efficiently than a little brush. Good idea! -Robyn

  36. robyn Says:

    Hi Joan,

    So glad the tutorial about oiling your machine was helpful! I’ve heard from lots of people who actually have never oiled their machine (or only do so when the oil can comes on) and they’ve been fine. However, I definitely find that it makes the machine run and feel smoother and nicer to use if I oil. Good luck with your new routine! :-)


  37. Lars Says:

    Just bought a new Bernina machine today. Glad I found your webpage and carefully read it. Great heads up and well presented so it was easy to understand and follow. My new machine will always be a well lubed loosy goosie. Thaks!

  38. annette Says:

    Another superb tutorial. Thanks so much for spoiling us!

  39. Gemma Says:

    Can I just say, I love you. Delilah (my 440) jammed today just as I was finishing off the final trial of a pattern that I was hoping to put on my blog this afternoon. I had 5 minutes before I had to run the kids to the Dr, so all I could do was remove the needle, foot and bobbin casing. I worried for the next 2 hours. I have just walked in the door, sat the kids down with an afternoon snack, logged onto the internet, come straight to this tutorial, and voila! You showed me how to remove the bobbin hook. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! My closest Bernina dealership is in Tahiti or Brisbane, both a flight away. Thank you so much! Hooray!
    Gemma´s last blog post ..Men’s shirt into Princess Dress!

  40. Sheana Says:

    Wow! Thanks for this. I got my sewing machine from my mother-in-law and although it’s not the same brand your cleaning guide helped a lot. The machine is purring right along with every stitch.

  41. JoAnn Says:

    Thank you so much for the info. My Bernina just recently started cha chunking. Now I get it. I was starting to worry a bit. I will clean and oil it first thing in the morning. Thank you again. Great Tut!

  42. Katha Says:

    thank you so much for the tutorial. whilst i do take the lint out all the time, I was never sure where to oil. she now purrs like no tomorrow 😀

    also a quick tip, use cotton buds to do the cleaning instead of a brush, it magically sticks to it rather than just fly out!

    thanks again
    Katha´s last blog post ..MA &ME

  43. Carmen Says:

    I just got the oil can, and dutifully oiled! How long does it keep flashing? BTW, I do oil more often than that, but I do alot of sewing, also. Thanks for all the great tutorials. I’ve bookmarked your site.

  44. Kay Says:

    THANK YOU for solving the mystery of exactly WHERE to put the oil in my 440! The photos made it all perfectly clear. Bernina should hire you. (SewCalGal steered me to your site for this tutorial, so I’ll be sure to thank her too.)

  45. Hilary McDaniel Says:

    I just wanted you to know your oil needs to be tossed. If its not clear it is old. Yours looks to be yellow. It may be my IPad monitor. I learned that tip from my Bernina tech. I have the 730 and the 830 and I oil and clean after every bobbin. I was told to do that with my first machine (the original 830) and just formed the habit. I’ve had no problems with my machines. The only reason I’m writing you is because I was told the yellow oil would gunk up the internal gears.

  46. linda-kaye Says:

    Took SewCalGal’s suggestion to stop by and sure am glad I did! I clean and oil my machines all the time but I didn’t know to oil the race (not a Bernina owner) but it seems like such a great idea, that I’m going to start doing it. Thanks so much!

  47. Kay L Ford-Sollimo Says:

    I don’t have a 440, but I think this can apply to lots of other machines. You did a really great job with the demonstration and the explanation. Thank you.

  48. Astrid in Oslo, Norway Says:

    Thank you so much. As others mentioned above, I did’nt know exactly where to pur the oil. I have looked at your BSR-tutorial, sewing roo make over and sewing projects as well, and you have given me a lot of inspiration! Tanks again!

  49. MaryJean Bower Says:

    This was the best tutorial I have ever seen regarding machine maintainence. I was intimidated until I followed your great pictures!

  50. Lisa Says:

    Perfect tutorial, just what I was looking for!

  51. Anita Says:

    Dear Robyn,
    I followed your instructions,which are very clear, but unfortunately my machine doesn’t work anymore. It simply doesn’t move or anything. What can I have done wrong?

    Could you please drop me a line?

    Thank you so much,

  52. Van Says:

    What a great blog! I’m a bit intimidated at the thought of opening up my machine and oiling it myself, but my fears are diminished with the help of your tutorial. Will definitely keep this page open while I’m doing maintenance on my machine.

  53. Karon Says:

    My mom and grandma taught me all this way back when…I was like 8/10 yrs old. Also be sure to clean and oil the working parts where the needle is.

  54. Rita Says:

    Thank you for your website especially on the tutorials for the Bernina. I bought a used one and I am teaching myself how to use it with the manual and what I can find on the internet. Your tutorials are absolutely fantastic because of your directions, pictures and arrows. Bernina’s directions are very difficult to follow because they use very little punctuation and I have trouble figuring out what part goes which each sentence. I have been outlining the directions and then trying to do each set of directions to find out how to do things. You saved me with the tutorial on cleaning the machine. Thank you again for sharing.
    Rita´s last blog post ..Protoquilting

  55. Stephanie Tarver Says:

    I was at my quilting class Tuesday and the little oil can came up and blinked and the machine stopped working. I was like omg went one or two stitches and stopped. I then oiled her up and she ran like a champ again. I did not have my Bernina oil with me but luckily another lady was there with the exact machine and I borrowed a drop of her Bernina oil. I will bring the oil now every time I bring my machine anywhere. Lesson learned!

  56. Cheryllnludwig Says:

    I oiled my machine but now it doesn’t work what do I do now

  57. Cheryllludwig Says:

    My machine doesn’t work now

  58. Jackie Javier Says:

    Thanks. Is the best tutorials

  59. theresa Says:

    if your machine is still not working maybe you have not replaced all the bits correctly. try again. I have an Elna from 1973 which has only had one professional service in its life – and the technician said it did not even need a service, maybe because i clean and oil often! I sew for craft markets so it is in daily use!

  60. How to Clean and Oil your Sewing Machine « Live More Daily | Live More Daily Says:

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  61. Kate Says:

    Thank you for this excellent Tutorial – I clean the fuzzies regularly but had not oiled – the machine has been noisy for awhile – the oil can came on this morning in the middle of a project and I have misplaced my Manuel (it is buried) – so, I grabbed my iPad and Bing helped me find you. My machine is oiled and happy again – many thanks!

  62. Marleen Says:

    Thank you! My Toyota looks the same on the inside, and I had no clue where to put the oil. That picture of step 9 option one is exactly what I was looking for. Now I can go back to sewing to my crafty heart’s delight! Thank you sew much!

  63. Gwyn Bartlett Says:

    My 440 often makes a noise when I’m making the first stitch after turning it on, almost like it’s having a hard time pushing the needle down. Have you ever had that happen?

  64. Rosemary Says:

    How do i turn the icon off.

  65. Lucy Says:

    Hum, this explains a lot I think. Thanks so much for posting. I just cleaned out the feed dogs but oiling never occurred to me.

  66. Dori Hawks Says:

    Check the color of your oil. Newer and better oil is clear. Check with Bernina to make sure your oil is not too yellow and old looking. Also, Bernina oil is a lighter weight oil than those you buy at a big chain store. Only use the oil that your machine dealer recommends!

  67. Diane Says:

    No sooner than printing these instructions out and my “oil light” came on…I was able to clean and oil my machine thanks to your step by step instructions!

    Thank you!

  68. Stephanie Says:

    The ladies have said it all. This is best cleaning tutorial for my Bernina. Thank you so much for sharing.

  69. Margaret Says:

    I hang my head in shame, having owned my bernina for 22 years I oiled it for the first time a few months ago!!! On wednesday it is going in for its first ever service, when I told the man it had not been dine before he asked what I had I told him a bernina 1230 and he said that would be no problem a wonderful machine so fingers crossed it comes back purring, I know it is noisy at the moment but still stitches wonderfully

  70. Frangelika Says:

    I have a bernina 165 and my bobbin case won’t lock in place. I cleaned out the area per the instructions and the bobbin case locked to the bobbin hook before I put it back in the race. Is there a specific way to install the bobbin hook into the race? Oh, and I had my needle in the upper most position. Thanks!

  71. Penny Says:

    I am delighted to find your blog. I have just been lucky enough to buy a bernina 440 QE, and your blog has helped me get to grips with this little marvel. Thanks.

  72. My Favorite Tutorials: Cleaning Your Sewing Machine at Quilt Shop Gal Says:

    […] tutorial has great tips and visuals.   I hope you’ll click on over to check this tutorial out, as well as take time to check out Robin’s delightful blog […]

  73. Magriet Says:

    Thanks for the step by step instructions. For the first time I know how!

  74. Fay Hagreen Says:

    The owner of the store where I bought my aurora 440 QE also removes the cover where the take up thread mechanism is and oils 3 locations there

  75. Taffy Says:

    The step and a picture to show each part and step was a wonderful to learn how to do this. I have always taken the machine to a dealer and had it done, but that is hours away. I thank you for giving me the confidence for doing it myself. Lint really does accumulate!

  76. Anita Says:

    that was the BEST photo ever of exactly what needs oiling. I looked all over the Internet for that. You rock!!!

  77. Rita Says:

    I also have a 440QE along with numerous older Bernina mechanicals (which require a lot more oiling!). Wonderful instructions!! Thank you!

    I was told to use Bernina oil for “computerized” machines for the 440QE. It is a lighter weight oil than the oil for mechanicals. If the oil has turned dark gold or brown, throw it out! Was also told that Bernina oil will not permanently stain your fabrics (in case some runs down the needlebar while you are sewing).

    I try to oil every time I change out a bobbin, after eight hours of constant sewing, or every six months if the machine is not in use.

  78. Lynda laroche Says:

    My 440 is I for service as the icon popped up. I got a call that the front and bottom cover is loose and needs to be replaced very expensive, 100.00,plus my needle threaders, 50.00.does this happen often.

  79. Debbie Says:

    I keep my oil container in a small ziplock baggie. ALL the oil containers I’ve ever purchased have leaked creating a mess wherever it was stored. Now any leaks are inside the bag. Easy to take to quilting retreats.

    I ALWAYS clean/oil at the beginning and end of a quilt retreat too.

  80. toni Says:

    I`ve followed these directions…. they`re great. Thank you! I have a little problem though…I`ve put the hook back in, and snapped the black hook race cover in place, and now when I try to sew, it beeps, and its a no-go. I`ve placed and replaced many times to no avail. Still beeps! Any suggestions?

  81. toni Says:

    funny thing…if you put the presser foot down, machine works like a charm!

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I'm Robyn. Thanks for stopping by! This is my craft blog.

Contact me at robyn [at] dognamedbanjo [dot] com.

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