Replacing the Wires on a Singer Button Foot (motor) Control

NOTE: The following procedure is only to be done at YOUR OWN RISK. Do not work on any electrical item unless it is UNPLUGGED.

I have been asked many times to provide directions for re-wiring stuff, and I have been very hesitant to do so.  This particular procedure doesn't require any soldering, crimping of connectors, etc..., so it's a little bit more difficult to screw up.  However, if you do screw it up, that's on you. When it comes to any electrical repairs, if you don't know what you are doing, well then, don't do it.

Alright- so your Singer button controller news new cords? The slide shows below illustrate how to replace the wires and prep the new plug to fit correctly on your machine.  Please be aware that the rubber plugs that attach to the machine on the new sets tend to be tight.  To make using them easier and to prevent accidentally cracking the terminal on the back of your machine, it's best to prep the plug and NEVER twist or tilt the plug when removing it from the machine.  Always pull it STRAIGHT back.

Tweaking the female terminal block on the end of the new cord set so that it fits more easily, simply involves "stretching" out the brass contact tubes inside the block.  Not only tapping something into the holes (as shown below) but also applying some lateral pressure (whacking the tapped in item to the side) will help open these up a bit and insure a proper fit.   Sometimes these new cord sets fit perfectly on a given machine without any adjustments, but due the variance in the OD of the prongs on different machines, it's also common for "tweaking" to be required.

(Move your cursor over the photo to reveal the controls for the slide show- you can stop, advance and reverse the photos.)

You can buy the cord sets and new rubber feet for your controller from the Sew-Classic Parts Store.

You can buy the cord sets and new rubber feet for your controller from the Sew-Classic Parts Store.

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  • Wednesday, December 02. 2009 Greg Stanton wrote:
    Thanks, Jenny, very informative.

    I've rewired several controllers, but I've never re-used the cloth shield that you show. I just leave the wires "plain". I can see why these could be important -- the coils can get hot. Is there something else that you can purchase from a hardware store that would do the same job?
    1. Wednesday, December 02. 2009 Sew-Classic wrote:
      Yep, the button controller is a carbon pile, resistor type and it does produce some heat when in use.  It takes any energy that is not being sent to the motor and converts it to heat.  It shouldn't get hot (just warm), and it's important to fully release the button when your not sewing.  I always check them for proper functioning and adjust them when necessary.  For folks that just can't warm up to the button controller or do lots of extended, slow speed sewing, and electronic controller is the way to go.

      Anyhow, since I re-use the heat shield in the controller, I never looked for anything to replace them. 

      BTW, do not leave the machine plugged into an electrical source when not in use.  If the controller were to malfunction, it could pose a fire hazard.
  • Friday, January 01. 2010 Julie McCaul wrote:
    Hi Jen,
    You have a nice site here! Congrats on your new job, too!
    Hope you had a nice Christmas and a happy New Years. =)
    1. Friday, January 01. 2010 Sew-Classic wrote:
      Hi Julie,

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Everyone here is wishing you, Tim and your dad a very Happy New Year too!

      New job???  I could use one of those, but I haven't landed anything yet.
  • Sunday, January 10. 2010 Colleen Hartshorn wrote:
    Thanks for the great step by step photos on rewiring the foot controller!I would have never known about how tight the plugs hole normally are and would have been incredibly frustrated.

    I just got done and plugged in my 301, and voila!, I have power once again, and can give the substitute foot controller back to the 15-91. Now, to do my first rewiring on it to get it up and running.

    As always, Jenny you are a true peach!
  • Saturday, February 20. 2010 Dick Poirier wrote:
    Thanks for the informative site. I can already see I'll be coming back on a regular basis! My wife just got a Singer 221 and the double lead power cord needs replacing. It appears that 16 guage 2 wire cord is being used. Connections to the foot control are no problem but the three 3 prong connection to the machine has me stumped. Any diagrams available? I'm reluctant to do too much with the connections for fear the wires will break before I figure the configuration and then I am up a creek! THANKS!
    1. Saturday, February 20. 2010 Sew-Classic wrote:
      The original wire was 18GA, but you can use 16GA, BUT you are going to have a really tough time getting it to fit inside of the female Bakelite terminal block on the cord set.  Chances are that if you try to shove 16GA cord int there, you will crack the female terminal block.   I use either 18GA SPT-1 or 18GA SPT-2 (thicker insulation, but otherwise the same as the SPT-1).

      Here's a wiring diagram:

  • Friday, June 11. 2010 steve wrote:
    Hi, I have a refurbished 1951 15-91 with new wiring. The Bakelite foot pedal was wired directly into the machine so it cannot be separated from the machine. I found this odd so I am seeking your knowledge. My plug-in cord has a three pin socket plug connector which mates to the 3 pin connector on the machine and all 3 pins are present. My plug has two halves which are held together with 2 screws/nuts and can be separated to access the wiring. The center electrical socket is missing from this plug connector so obviously it can't carry the motor current from the controller to the machine per your drawing and forces my machine to be wired as it is. My plug connector is unlike the picture you show. Yours has wiring coming from either end of the plug on the narrow sides of the plug. My plug has the cord coming from one of the wider sides. No where else on the plug is there a entry hole to accommodate the controller cable.
    I would like to restore my machine to its original wiring design...But why would Singer not make the foot controller detachable from the machine?

    I guess its possible that my machine could have been rewired by someone anytime prior to the person who did the last refurbishing.

    1. Taking into consideration the year of my machine, should it have the controller directly wired into the machine and therefore do I have the correct connector plug for the year of my machine?

    Thank you for your reply.
    1. Sunday, June 13. 2010 Sew-Classic wrote:

      First of all,  have you contacted the party that refurbished the machine and from whom you purchased it??  They really should be providing you with some post sales support if you request it..

      Your 15-91 is wired as most of them are- in the "cabinet" configuration. Since these are heavy machines, they were almost always sold new as a cabinet model and wired as such.   In this wiring configuration, the wires would go through the top of the cabinet between the controller (usually mounted in a bracket and operated with a controller) and  to the terminals on the back of the terminal body on the machine. 

      If you want to have the "portable" configuration where the wires don't go through the top of the cabinet, and the power cord and controller cord are all-in-one, just disconnect the controller wires from both the controller and the back of the terminal body and purchase a new double lead cord set.  Connect the cord set to your controller and - voila- you have this, less common, double lead set up.
      1. Monday, June 14. 2010 steve wrote:
        I am not sure if I can track down the person who restored my machine, contacting a knowledgeable person such as yourself was much easier and it beneficially allows others to view your comments

        Does the double lead plug you link to have screwed together halves as mine plug does or is it all molded together preventing internal access to the pin sockets?

        Thank you for your reply.
        1. Monday, June 14. 2010 Sew-Classic wrote:

          What a shame the person that sold/refurbished your machine didn't provide you with an email address or phone number in case you had any questions down the road.  Sounds like they were simply most interested in taking your money and running /hiding, huh...too bad.

          The screw together bakelite block ends are no longer manufactured.  For about the past 45/ 50 years or so, the cord sets have been the molded, one piece type. 


  • Thursday, August 12. 2010 David Vinograd wrote:

    I am trying to adjust the controller to provide more variable speed. Currently it is almost just an on / off switch. The only adjustment that I see is a screw / nutcombination that regulates the contact point versus the amount of steel shaft withdrawn from the massive block inside the controller. Am I missing something?
    1. Monday, August 16. 2010 Sew-Classic wrote:
      Yep, there is only one way to adjustthem as you have noticed,. If one or more of the carbon discs are broken, adjusting will do you no good at all.
      1. Monday, August 16. 2010 David Vinograd wrote:
        Please explain - what are the carbon discs that you refer to? Adjusting the screw seems to control when the brass arms make contact with the line and thus how far the screw is out of the large coil(?).
        1. Monday, August 16. 2010 Sew-Classic wrote:
          The vintage Singer controller is a mechanical , variable resistor type controller. A variable resistor consists of one or more stacks of carbon disks mounted between a fixed metal plate and a movable one that serve as the terminals of the resistor; the resistance value is reduced by applying pressure to the movable plate. If the screw is too loose, the speed will be too slow until the contacts come together.  If the screw is too tight, the control will not stop the electrical flow when the button is released.  This will cause both the controller and the sewing machine motor to overheat (this is bad).

          If you cannot get the adjustment correct, then you can always replace the controller.  New controllers are as a liitle as $10.

  • Monday, September 20. 2010 Kimberly wrote:
    I rewired the foot control and plug for my 221 and now the light goes off when the motor runs... which wire is in the wrong place?
    1. Monday, September 20. 2010 Sew-Classic wrote:
      This wiring diagram shows you the correct wiring config. 

  • Monday, September 20. 2010 steve wrote:
    You should have the light wires running to the two outer contacts pins of the plug, assuming of course that the motor and controller are using the center contact pin, which is how it should be wired. There is no polarity on the light wires, however iscommon practise nowadays to make the screw metal shell of the lamp socket the neutral (neutral,common, white). Polarity (hot and neutral) is a moot point if you don't have a polarized plug that goes into the wall receptacle anyway. And unless you have a digital meter and know how to use the ohmmeter function to trace the wiring. Without the meter this can be tricky to determine because you might not be able to see the connections at the lamp socket.

    Don't forget to unplug at the wall first!!!!
    1. Monday, September 20. 2010 Kimberly wrote:
      Hi Steve -

      Thanks - actually I'm good with an ohmmeter, I'm just lazy. The machine's wiring is fine - I only replaced the cords for the power and foot control- I tried the other foot control I rewired, and it works fine.
      I was just hoping that it was acommon enough inversion that someone could just tell me which ones I switched, instead of me being required to think.
      1. Monday, September 20. 2010 Sew-Classic wrote:
        Take a look at the wiring diagram.  No Ohmmeter required.  Just follow the diagram and you'll be fine.
  • Monday, September 20. 2010 steve wrote:
    There was some confusing grammer in my last post, here is the correction: You don't need an ohm meter unless you are concerned with polarity and unless you have a polarized wall plug maintaining polarity is a moot point. You have the controller wiring just slightly miswired to cause your problem. Its easier just to look at the diagram than to try to explain were its messed up.

  • Monday, October 04. 2010 Sandra wrote:
    What is the use of the rubber feet? My singer 15 clone pedal is missing all of them.
    1. Monday, October 04. 2010 gg wrote:
      Rubber feet are used to protect the floor from being scratched (in the case of hardwood flooring) and also to prevent the pedal from sliding around when you push down on it. Also they can protect the bakelite from getting chipped especially when on tiled floors.

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