Singer Sewing Machine Model 217 Motor Replacement

Singer model 217, ~1960s: Simple and reliable, and always ready for me.

Singer model 217, ~1960s: Simple and reliable, and always ready for me.

Old Singer sewing machines are well made and built to last. My Singer model 217 was handed down to me and sews very well. I was dismayed that the machine would not turn over as it did before and discovered that the motor needed replacement. These motors are no longer made so getting a replacement was not straight forward. After the motor replacement my Singer hums along like new. Maybe I will sew up some Canadian flags!

The Singer 217 is not a screaming beauty. Mostly metal, the outside top and left covers as well as the two cover plates are ABS plastic. Sturdy enough but I would have appreciated all metal. Still it makes the machine a little lighter. The grey on grey colour scheme is very subdued, with a flare of commercial. This is not a commercial machine and will bog down if sewing heavy leather. For regular laid back sewing where you do not need the heft, torque, noise, speed nor the trigger switch of a commercial machine, the 217 is a good solution. The model number is on the front stitch length plate, above the Singer brand name. The 217 has both straight and zigzag stitches. The straight stitch model is the Singer model 219.

The back of this Singer 237 has a similar motor to the 217. The light is identical to the 217.

The back of this Singer 237 has a similar motor to the 217. The light is identical to the 217.

I found the serial number of my machine on the front left of the underside of the machine. On the Singerco site you can look up your serial number and find out where your machine was manufactured. My Model 217 serial number starts with “MF” and was made in Monza, Italy, some time after 1934. Interestingly the motor of my 217 is stamped “Made in Canada”.

I knew the motor was going. There were several occasions where a little smoke came out of the motor. I shut it down but believe the damage was already done. Opening up the motor I found the armature cracked. Replacement was required. I got on Singerco.com and found the parts list for the 217/219 was not listed in the “Model Nos. 2-2999” section. Surely something was amiss.

The pedal and motor of this Singer 237 is identical to the Singer 217. The motor is made in Canada. The light is different.

The pedal and motor of this Singer 237 is identical to the Singer 217. The motor is made in Canada. The light is different.

After repeatedly searching the Singerco website I decided to call them at 1-800-474-6437 and reached their US Call Centre. The lady on the other end was knowledgeable, helpful, useful and spoke great English. She also could not find the parts list for my 217. After confirming that the 217 did exist she searched the archives and found out that the 217/219 was near identical to the Singer Fashion Mate Model 237. She said she would recommend adding the 217 to their web site. Once I found the part I needed, which was a replacement motor, how could I purchase a new one? As a Canadian I was to call 1-800-363-1958, their Canadian Call Centre.

Singer Model 306k, circa 1954, has a similar motor to the 217. All metal and heavy.

Singer Model 306k, circa 1954, has a similar motor to the 217. All metal and heavy.

The parts chart of the Singer Model 237 showed everything but the motor. I was confused. Calling up the Canadian Call Centre and was told that the sewing machine and the motor are separate and parts for the motor are not sold separately. Being an old machine the motor is no longer sold, but there are generic motors available. He warned me that not only is a new motor required but the foot pedal would also need to be replaced. As well, my light would not be accommodated and would have to be wired some other way. I asked for and received the phone number of an authorized Singer distributor near my house. A generic motor and pedal would cost $68CAD and does not include a light.

Singer model 306k motor looks similar to the 217. The pedal, light and power cord are different.

Singer model 306k motor looks similar to the 217. The pedal, light and power cord are different.

Looking on eBay I found a couple of Singer Model 237s with identical motors, but shipping would be more than $50US from the US. Sewing machines are heavy. There seemed to me a lot of Model 237s in circulation but they are heavy to ship and therefore cost prohibitive for just a motor replacement. I would need to find one for local pickup. No motors were for sale on eBay.

Singer Model 217 with a motor from a Singer Model 306k. The pedal and power cord were changed.

Singer Model 217 with a motor from a Singer Model 306k. The pedal and power cord were changed.

On a whim I decided to visit a local Goodwill, where I found a Singer Model 306k, circa 1954, with lots of parts missing and parts broken. The motor looked very similar to my 217. I plugged it in and the machine came alive. This is one strong and heavy all metal machine, built to last forever. The pedal and light are different and the power cable unplugs from the machine.

Singer 306k motor on a Singer 217 sewing machine. Everything fit perfectly.

Singer 306k motor on a Singer 217 sewing machine. Everything fit perfectly.

Label on Singer 306k motor. Made in Canada.

Label on Singer 306k motor. Made in Canada.

Thanks to great foresight on Singer’s part all bolts were standardized between these two machines. The bolt that held on the motor to the sewing machine body was the same on both machines. The bolt and metal tab that held on the light was the same on both machines. I disconnected the light for the 306k and attached the light from the 217. The belt from my 217 could have been a little longer but worked. I replaced the 306k motor’s pulley for the metal one off the 217. The screw that held the pulley wheel to the armature was the same on both machines, though the one for the 306k was longer and went straight through the armature axle. The guide that keeps the motor vertical and the groove in the motor arm was the same on both machines. Overall swapping motors took less than 15 minutes and was easily done. All motor mount parts were interchangeable between the machines.

While we live in a disposable society, I am not happy when a machine breaks. Old Singer sewing machines were made of metal and engineered and built to last. Today’s sewing machines are predominantly plastic. With planned obsolescence they break and wear out, and may not be serviceable. While there are advances in technology such as computer based power controllers in pedals, the very fact remains that new technology may improve the ability to sew very little. Sewing machines have been around since 1850. By the early 1900s this technology was reliable. It is with little wonder that I see many old Singer sewing machines still working and providing their owners with reliable service.

Note:
-Singer 306k23 user manual, parts list, 306w25 service manual; bobbin case 173058; bobbin 55623; cam disk knob 113122 and washer 105234, cam 276301; also check 306w and 319k/319w
-Singer 237 parts list, 237M23 parts list
-Reference Links: Monty’s Singer Pages
Other Singer models that might have the same motor include:
-319 (exact motor and pedal), 223 (similar motor, verified with photos), 247 (similar motor and light), Fashion Mate 252/257 (250 series, similar motor only),
-227, 258/259, 293 (unverified)

30 thoughts on “Singer Sewing Machine Model 217 Motor Replacement

  1. Carol

    I purchased a singer 306k machine at a thrift store. It needs a bobbin. In trying to find a bobbin, I am finding out there are no machines like mine on the internet…have only found a picture of one. I did buy a bobbin for it, but it does not fit the bobbin is for a 306k. The manual that came with it says 306k 23. The 23 may be the clue. The other 306k machines on the internet have cams, mine does not, it is only a zigzag. Do you know anything about this machine? Was it the first singer zigzag? Did they only make a few? The singer website has no information about it. Will I ever find a bobbin for it? I hope so, because the motor and other parts run like new. I can send you a picture if you are intrested in seeing it.

    Thanks for your help, hope to hear from you,

    Carol

  2. dontai Post author

    I too have a 306k, with 30 cams. They are very strong sewers, extremely heavy, but are awesome machines. There is a lot of resources available on the internet for the 306K. There were two versions of the machine: 306K (made in Clydebank, Scotland), and the 306W (made in the Wheeler-Wilson plant, Bridgeport CT, USA). While the bobbin cases are different, the bobbins are identical. Note the special needles required (206×13) or you may break the bobbin case. Bobbin cases and needles are available on the internet but not usually carried at local sewing stores. You can also find out the date of manufacture from Singer for your Clydebank machine.

    Vintage Singers is the best source of 306K information. Though they have a very strict signup procedure, persevere as they are a great group and an excellent resource.

    Re: [Vintage Singers] 306k bobbins?

    “How about bobbins are they interchangeable with any other models?”

    The bobbins (common part #55623NS) that are used in the Singer
    206/306/319 were also used in the earlier model 115, The
    Japanese/Taiwanese Riccar Rotaries, and the German Meister. The
    Meisters were also sold for a few years as low end Vikings.

    Bill Holman

    Re: [Vintage Singers] 306k bobbins?

    >
    > How about bobbins are they interchangeable with any other models?
    >
    Juki TL-98; Brother 1500; Necchi 526, 535, 543, 802; Babylock
    BL3000, BL4000, BL5000, BL7000; Singer 20U; 188U; 188K, 191D, 203
    206K, 319W, 491D, 591D, 691D, 2491D; and a bunch of others – mostly
    industrial machines. Do a search on ebay for “20U bobbin” and you will
    find a dealer who lists about 100 machines that use the same bobbin.
    Any ‘L’ size bobbin will fit in the bobbin case and work but it needs
    the little slot near the hub to fit on the 306 bobbin winder.

    Ed

  3. Erin

    I learned to sew on my mother’s old Singer machine (and this is going back quite awhile…). She swore by it for years until it finally gave out. I never did know the model information but now feeling the urge to ask her so I can compare notes. I admire your persistence in getting the motor replaced on yours and glad it worked out. :) I couldn’t help but smile at the size of the work lamp attached to the Singer 237. Compare that to the tiny little LED lights on today’s machines and it’s rather eye-opening how much things have changed! (Although, that 217 foot pedal looked awfully familiar and brought back some memories.)

    Thanks for sharing!

    Erin

  4. Zeenath A. Rahim

    Hi,
    I’m from Bangladesh. Im looking for needles, bobbin case and Zigzag & Peeko accessories for my mother in laws 1954 model singer machine that is run on a pedal foot. It is not an electric machine.
    would really appreciate a source in UK from where I can purchase it. the machine is still running and my mother in law still sews enthusiastically at the age of 76 !!!!

    Would appreciate any hwlp

    Zeenath

  5. dontai Post author

    Hi Zeenath,
    I hope I will be sewing enthusiastically at 76 years old, so give your mother-in-law a hug. She must be living well. Please tell me your sewing machine make (Singer?) and model, and I’ll try to find you a source. i have not seen a zigzag accessory for a treadle model. What is a Peeko accessory?

  6. Lydia Gatlor

    I am taking this opportunity to to gain info from the members. I have recently acquired a singer 61 w 34. It runs fine without thread but when threaded all the upper thread winds up around the bobbin and it will not produce a stitch. I have not been able to find a sewing or service manual. Can anyone out there steer me in the right direction to find manuals or directions on what to check to solve the problem. Thanks in advance for any help.

  7. melvadean nelson

    I was just given a Singer Golden Touch & Sew, deluxe zig zag sewing machine, model 750
    I am used to the older models, and I am having problems with the bobbin, I am not sure what is wrong but I cannot get the needle thread to pick up the Bobbin thread.
    I did a couple of times but then it sewed for a few seconds and got all tangled up and stopped.
    Does anyone have any knowledge on how to correct this bobbin problem.
    thanks you, melvadean at StandnOnPromises @ aol.com

  8. Micki @addhousewife

    I am glad I found your blog! My 217’s motor is dying and I am actually borrowing a 237 right now! I was going to call around to see if I could get it fixed but thanks to you, looks like I will be taking my search in a different direction :)

  9. Heather

    Thank you for all this great information! I have recently inherited a Singer 237 and the motor seems to be dead(ish). I am looking for a replacement but not sure where to find one or if it is worth repalciing cost wise. any help would be appreciated.

  10. dontai Post author

    The cheapest and best fix would be to find another Singer with a similar motor and do a heart transplant. The operation is only 2-3 bolts, so not complex. The Singer motors seem to have been standardized, so most motors will be interchangeable. You may not be able to match the colour paint, but if your machine hums again, it is worthwhile.

  11. Judy

    Hi dontai,
    Great blog and the most informative I have found so far. Here in Melbourne Australia, I have my sister’s 306k, in great condition. It is black,made in Great Britain, and as you say very heavy! It is in a cabinet (which needs a bit of TLC) but my problem is I cannot find its serial number. The Motor has K7952370, and under the machine I can find 105010, but no letter prefix! I suppose it was made in Clydebank, but am mystified by the lack of a serial number with letter prefix. Do you have a suggestion?
    Judy

  12. dontai Post author

    G’day from Toronto, Canada! I hope you have found my blog post useful. I have 2 306k machines, but unfortunately one is a parts machine and non-functional.

    If the front of the machine is facing you, tilt the machine back far enough until it is upside down, needle side still on the left. Get help because these machines are heavy. The serial number of both of my machines are on the bottom of the machine in the extreme upper left hand corner. They are engraved and should be facing you. If you still cannot find the serial number I can post a photo.

    Your number “105010” found in the middle of the machine on the bottom may be the part number for the base. My base part number is “105184”.

  13. Judy

    Hi again, Don,
    Found it thanks to your clear directions! It is as I suspected, made in Clydebank, serial number EJ 959172!! Thanks again for your prompt reply, and assistance.
    Best wishes for the season,
    Judy

  14. Debbie Morin

    I recently purchased Singer 301. Does anyone know what these machines sold for in 1954?

  15. frances

    I have some Singer bobbins from machines of that era. You need the kind that’s slightly rounded, one side “plain” and the other with holes.

    E-mail me privately and I might be able to mail you one or two.

  16. Fetneh

    Hi Don
    This is probably a really odd message but in your contact with Singer motors have you come across a dating method? I have an old Singer motor that purrs like a kitten from between 1924-1941. I am trying to hone in on a specific year.

    Thank you in advance

    Fetneh Vagn Jensen

  17. dontai Post author

    Hi Fetneh. I have never come across any dating system for Singer sewing machine motors, and I did look. Singer sewing machines were manufactured in specific countries with Singer factories with serial numbers to match, but without motors. Due to differences in electrical regulations of various countries, motors were manufactured locally and added to the sewing machines just prior to selling to the public. If you do find any method of dating Singer sewing machine motors, please let me know.

  18. bannie

    Hi I would like to know more about the 217. The parts inside are they metal or is there plastic part. I want one to use for treadling if possible. Thanks bannie

  19. dontai Post author

    Hi Bannie,
    While I have not opened up the 217’s motor, given the era of the machine, i.e. 1960s, as well as a thorough inspection of the rest of the machine, I’d say there will be no plastic parts in the motor. Singer machines of this era are very well made, though heavy. This means more metal and no plastic. There are phenolic parts around the foot switch that act as insulators, but they are not load bearing.

    Alas the 217’s motor is small and will probably be too small for a treadle. Find a bigger motor.

  20. Val

    My grandmother used to have a very very old Singer machine. She was sitting in front ot it all day long, I remember as a child. The quality of the stiches were alwas great and they lasted for a long time. Seeing all these pics of these great vintage machines certainly brings in some good memories even though sewing is not my hobby but I can certainly relate to it.

  21. Rob

    Can you tell me if the 217 is an oscillating hook or rotary hook machine? Rob

  22. dontai Post author

    The Singer sewing machine model 217 has an oscillating hook bobbin mechanism. I have never really noticed until you asked, because it has worked flawlessly and requires no attention.

  23. Rob

    Thank you – I was hoping is was, I’m after one to modify for heavy thread use (sail cloth) cheers, Rob

  24. dontai Post author

    Rob, Good luck with finding a Model 217. I am just unsure that this sewing machine is suited to heavy duty sewing. You might look towards a commercial Brother model or other commercial machine. Their motors are more robust and will last much longer. Also consider the thickness of material you can put under the presser foot. This is very limited in the Model 217 but would be more roomy on a commercial machine.

  25. meg

    I have an old Singer 217, can’t work out if there is a reverse tho? Anyone know?

    [Don: Hi Meg. Move the stitch length lever to the top position and the 217 machine will reverse stitch. The stitch length in reverse is standard and cannot be changed. Move the stitch length lever to the down position to continue forward stitching and to adjust the stitch length.]

  26. Jan Anderson

    I have owned a Singer 217, since I purchased it new in 1970 as a present to myself for Graduation. My mother’s treadle Singer, which is still in the family could no longer handle all the sewing I wanted to do. I did make my prom dress on a neighbour’s treadle machine. It has survived being moved around as a “portable” machine, including a flight of stairs. I now have an electronic Janome 2012 with all the bells and whistles, but when I want to sew on denim, I use the Singer 217. It still has the original motor and works wonderfully. It does need a new light but I use overhead and magnifying lamps for lighting when I sew.

    [Don: Hey Jan, my Singer 217 is my main machine and has been working well for so many years. you can take a light from another machine, or try to fix the light, which is very simple. Happy sewing, Don]

  27. Vickie

    May I just give you a tip? The first picture on top… the one with the coffee cup on the sewing machine… is an example for people who give advice about sewing machines, but in real life have no idea about how to thread their machine. This made me literally cringe and smile at the same time. Just got a couple of days ago a SINGER 217, in addition to my mint green SINGER Fashion Mate 257, which I own since 2004, and use it a lot. The new addition needed quite a bit of TLC, and since this morning it’s purring again, everything is adjusted, and ready to roll. Anyhow, your article is beautifully written, and I do hope that you in the meantime – after all these years – figured out how to thread your 217. Nice blog.

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