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While this episode might seem “off topic” I have a pretty good hunch that the cross-over between people who sew and people who have Kitchenaid mixers is pretty high. Plus, I was initially inspired by community member Sandi and her husband Trevor to service my own mixer in the first place! Thanks for the confidence, Sandi and Trev!
As I went through the process of taking apart, degreasing/re-greasing, and replacing parts in my mixer, I just couldn’t ignore the similarities to the sewing machine world, and we just had to podcast about it!
How to Service Your KitchenAid Mixer
This is a super brief overview of what I did with my mixer, and I’m linking to a few videos too. Do some research using your specific model number, document the process of taking the mixer apart, and you won’t be sorry!
- Order grease: Even if all your parts look awesome, you’ll re-grease your mixer, so have it on hand! You could also order a suite of replacement gears, depending on your budget.
- Prep space: You’ll be dealing with A LOT of grease. I laid out some cardboard and used paper towels and various tools to scrape out the grease.
- Open up mixer: this process will involved minimal tools (a screwdriver). Take notes, take videos!
- Scrape away grease and inspect parts. Some parts come out more easily than others. These c-clip pliers would have made my life a lot easier.
- Inspect parts: If your grease looks “sparkly” then there are metal shavings in it from worn out gears. Inspect the gears. Look for the parts of your mixer on amazon or at the manufacturer’s website. One of my gears was worn down somewhat uniformly and I wouldn’t have know to replace it if it hadn’t had a bigger “chunk” out of it.
- Order Parts and store your mixer. I stored my parts in a box top and set the mixer back on my counter. A magnetized pin cushion or screw holder is your friend here!
- Re-grease and put it back together. This is where your notes and videos come in. You may have had to wait a few days to get your parts and your memory isn’t as sharp as it used to be, because you’re unexpectedly homeschooling during a pandemic- whatever. Make a bed of grease in the housing, grease your gears, put them back, grease the top casing of the housing and replace!
- Mix something. Tell the world about what a badass you are.
Here’s one of the videos I referenced. Do your research before opening up your mixer!
Here’s how all this relates to sewing machine mechanics and maintenance.
Are “All Metal” Machines the Best Type of Sewing Machine?
Zede and I have spoken about the flawed glorification of vintage “all-metal” sewing machines before, and here’s the short version:
- Just because a machine is old, doesn’t mean it is in good condition or has been well-cared for.
- Machines with metal casings often include nylon gears inside, so they aren’t “all metal”
- Everything wears out and needs to be serviced and sometimes replaced. There is no magic never-degrading material out there- at least they aren’t putting it in sewing machines.
- Plastic casings on the outside of machines make them lighter and more serviceable- often the inside of the machine is still mostly metal, even on the cheaper models.
- People sew well on machines they are used to. If a vintage machine is your groove, go for it! But age alone does not make a machine better than another.
This relates to my KitchenAid adventure, because the gears inside were all metal. After 8 years of use (the latter 4 of them being much more intense) the gears had worn down. They aren’t magic. They ground against each other through whipped cream and heavy, buttery brioche dough alike, and now one of them needed to be put to rest.
According to many videos I watched, people who use their mixers heavily re-grease them once a year. If I had done this, I’m sure I would’ve caught my gear wearing down much earlier and I wouldn’t have been in an emergency mixer situation.
Use the Right Lubricant When Servicing Any Type of Machine
When researching what was wrong with my KitchenAid mixer, all sources recommended I use a specific food safe grease. I listened and found this information very important! I asked on my personal Facebook page if anyone had some or knew where I could get some in town (as my mixer sat open on my counter), and I got a lot of suggestions to use other lubricants.
Here are some of the suggestions I got:
- Use the tractor lubricant that you must have in your garage: nope, not food safe.
- Use petroleum jelly: nope. It might be food safe, but it is not the right consistency.
- Use sewing machine oil: nope. Definitely not the right consistency and not food safe.
The housing for the gears in the KitchenAid mixer is rather vertical. The lubricant for this machine needed to have the right viscosity and be somewhat “fluffy”. Other types of oil would have followed gravity to the bottom of the housing and wouldn’t have been able to wrap the vertical gear situation with the lubricant it needed.
Over in sewing machine land, we normally recommend using light sewing machine oil for any maintenance you would do on your own. A lot of modern machines say they do not need the consumer to oil them at all (as long as you’re getting your machine serviced regularly).
As a consumer, you may never see the heavier greases sometimes used in the less accessible parts of the machine. For example, in Baby Lock sergers, there are wells at the back/bottom of the machine with a heavy grease. This is on purpose. This grease isn’t meant to be fluffy and fill a vertical housing, they engineers just want the gears to dip in as they work. When we were Baby Lock dealers, the only problems we encountered with Baby Lock sergers were when they had been left unused for years and years. Without movement, the grease had settled and the gears would stiffen. Often this could be fixed with a lubricating spa-day in the shop- but it’s interesting to not that non-use of a machine can lead to degradation.
Have you every serviced an appliance? Let us know in the comments!