(From: Gillraker (email@example.com)). I pride myself on the cleanings I do with all repairs, I like to keep my shop up to command performance and a cut above the rest I usually even clean up the chassis and deck of most equipment and relubricate and all the trim. I have seen my share of broken heads come in from people after they use a Q-tip...or a store bought cleaning tape... I use a few different size hemostats with a folded up lint free cloth. When folded, it really buffs the cylinder units and leaves a nice shine on the tape guide rollers, and audio and erase heads too. I have cleaned a head with chamois swabs and then gone over them with my own cloth and was horrified to see the residue that was left from ordinary swabs, when it was all collected on the cloth. It doesn't snag the video or stereo hi-fi heads either - I have cleaned a few thousand this way and never snagged any
. I use generation 2000 disk cleaner for heads and acetone to degrease the posts and capstan - just a dip - not too much. (Editor's note: take care with strong solvents like acetone - both to protect your health and avoid damage to plastic parts. --- sam)
(From: Thomas L DeTogne (firstname.lastname@example.org)). Pardon me while I trip over my long gray beard :-). In the old days, we used to clean the platters in a disk drive using what were essentially tongue depressors wrapped with a Texwipe (Lint-free paper). We would first use 99% pure isopropyl alcohol and follow it with freon. (AAAAAh! the Ozone layer!) We would then manually run the heads out over the platters (while they were spinning) and listen for 'ticks'. If we heard any, we'd repeat the process. For those who smoked in the computer room, the residue could build up rather thick and evenly. Getting the whole mess off was a chore. If such was the case, I actually would use Soap and water, followed by water, then the alcohol and finally the freon. (This was more like R-22 and not the R-12 variety. That, we used do dump into the atmosphere freely trying to cool down components.) I have resurrected many road-kill VCRs by using those cleaning techniques on them. I haven't as yet had to use soap, but using other than alcohol proves beneficial. Just don't get too liberal with any of the cleaning fluids. By the way, the freon was used to remove any residue left behind by the alcohol.
The short recommendation is: Don't add any oil or grease unless you are positively sure it is needed. Most parts in a VCR are lubricated at the factory and do not need any further lubrication over their lifetime. Too much lubrication is worse then too little. It is easy to add a drop of oil but difficult and time consuming to restore a VCR that has taken a swim. NEVER, ever, use WD40 in a VCR! WD40 is not a good lubricant despite the claims on the label. Legend has it that the WD stands for Water Displacer - which is one of the functions of WD40 when used to coat tools. WD40 is much too thin to do any good as a general lubricant and will quickly collect dirt and dry up. It is also quite flammable and a pretty good solvent - and there is no telling what will be affected by this: (From: Matthew Fries (email@example.com)). "I heard a horror story when I was in tech school about someone who heard a little squeaking inside the VCR when it was in PLAY mode, so he sprayed WD40 in through the tape door (front loading) and 'lubricated' the entire inside of the VCR. The students who were working on this took apart the entire mechanism, sprayed it clean with TF solvent (4 cans - there goes the ozone) and it still didn't work. No surprise." A light machine oil like electric motor or sewing machine oil should be used for gear or wheel shafts. A plastic safe grease like silicone grease or Molylube is suitable for gear teeth, cams, and the roller guide tracks. Unless the VCR was not properly lubricated at the factory (which is quite possible), the only likely areas needing lubrication are the roller guide tracks - clean and grease. Sometimes you will find a dry capstan, motor, lever, or gear shaft but this is less likely. In general, do not lubricate anything unless you know there is a need. Never 'shotgun' a problem by lubricating everything in sight! You might as well literally use a shotgun on the VCR!
With audio tape decks, demagnetizing is often recommended to improve sound quality and frequency response. There is some debate as to how much benefit there is to this practice but if done properly, there is little risk. Demagnetizing removes the residual magnetic fields that can build up on ferrous parts of the tape heads and various guideposts and other parts in the tape path which may affect frequency response. For the following, do not go near the video head drum, only perform demagnetization of the stationary A/C head, erase head, and guide posts and rollers. In my opinion, the video heads should almost never need to be demagnetized. The ferrite material from which they are constructed is not prone to easily being magnetized like steel. Use a small demagnetizer designed for a tape deck or cassette deck. Do not use anything homemade that might be too powerful or a bulk tape eraser which would certainly be too powerful. Make sure the tip is covered with a soft material to prevent damage to the finely polished surfaces in your VCR. Turn power on to the demagnetizer when a couple of feet away from the VCR. Then, slowly bring it in close and slowly go over all surfaces of anything that the tape contacts or comes close to in the tape transport. The key word here is **slowly**. Move fast, and you will make the magnetic fields stronger. When finished, slowly draw the demagnetizer away to a distance of a couple of feet before turning it off.
Cassette loading places the cassette into proper position on the tape transport. In a front loader, pushing the cassette gently into the slot should cause a motor to take over and suck it in and down to rest on indexing pins. The mechanism that actually holds the cassette is called the cassette basket. Several types of problems are possible: the VCR may ignore you when you push the cassette in or press EJECT, or it may spit it out immediately or cycle back and forth. On a top loader, you do most of the cassette loading manually, so the only likely problem will be if EJECT does not work. If attempting to load a cassette produces no response (though the VCR has power), then there could be a problem with the microswitch that senses the presence of a cassette, the cassette loading motor (if separate from the main motor), a slipping or broken belt, or a faulty driver or other electronic problem. Sometimes this could mean that the microcontroller is confused due to a faulty mode switch or because the mechanism somehow got into a peculiar state. Manual cycling of the cassette loading mechanism might reset it. Gently push a cassette in and turn the appropriate shaft or pulley by hand. First, try this with the VCR unplugged. If nothing happens or you feel resistance, try the other direction. Assuming you find no problems - there is no significant resistance to your turning and the cassette basket cycles from fully ejected to fully seated on the transport baseplate, leave the cassette basket in a partially loaded position and plug the VCR into the AC power and turn it on (this may not be necessary depending on the design of your VCR). It should now reset itself and either load or eject the cassette. If there are still no signs of a response, a power supply, motor, or electronic problem is likely. Note: If this only happens with T160 (8 hour) tapes, it may be a problem with the thinner tape confusing the sensors. Avoiding these tapes is really the best thing to do since they can cause all sorts of problems (especially if they are an off-brand and of inferior quality to begin with). If you hear a motor whirring but nothing happens, this is almost certainly a slipping or broken belt or something blocking the proper movement a mechanical part. If pushing a cassette into the VCR results in it being ejected as though it tasted really bad (there may or may not be hesitation), or if the cassette cycles back and forth without stopping, there could be several possible causes. If it stops part way during loading, does it pause as though the motor is straining or just abort with no warning? If the former, then check carefully for foreign objects, or lack of lubrication. A typical cause is a belt slipping, usually not the idler in this case. Help it out gently and see if that will complete the cycle. Sometimes it is helpful to cycle the mechanism by hand - turning the appropriate shaft or pulley and feeling and watching for any place where it binds. If the basket moves in the wrong way or you feel any significant resistance, try the other direction. Sometimes, the sticky cassette labels partially or totally peal off and clog the works. You may find a toy or rock inside carefully inserted by your 3 year-old! A bit of the cassette shell might have broken off and jammed the mechanism just to confuse you! If the microcontroller were detecting an abnormality, then it would abort instantly but would most likely try to unload the tape before giving up but not in all designs. It is possible that if the expected behavior is not produced by the end/beginning-of-tape sensors during cassette loading, an abort could be initiated. Therefore, these sensors could be suspect. In some cases, the mode switch may be dirty or faulty. A gear may have broken some teeth or slipped a couple of teeth and the timing relationships may be incorrect. There may be a microswitch that is controlled by the cassette basket position and this may be defective or dirty. Similarly, if the cassette seems to be cycling in and out in an apparently infinite loop, there may be an obstruction or the microcontroller is confused by a bad sensor or the basket is out of synchronization with the rest of the mechanism. A squirt of contact cleaner into the microswitch sensor and/or reflowing its bad solder connections may solve this type of problem. Similar comments apply to cases where pressing the EJECT button produces no response. In particular, if the cassette was loaded successfully and you just finished a thoroughly enjoyable movie, the microcontroller may think the mechanism is not safe and is not ejecting to protect your valuable tape from possible damage should it not be fully retracted into the cassette. As with loading, EJECT may result in partial movement and shutdown or reloading the cassette into the down position. All the same causes apply.
It is a common experience - the rental movie is due back at the video store **now** but no matter how you press the EJECT button, yell, scream, hold your breath, or jump up and down, the cassette refuses to be appear. To remedy the underlying problem, see the sections on: "Cassette loading and eject problems" and other for appropriate information. This section only deals with getting the cassette out without damaging either your valuable recording or VCR. Under no circumstances should you force anything - both your tape and your VCR will be history. First, see if the VCR just got into a confused state - pull the plug and patiently wait a minute or two. This may reset the microcontroller and all will be well. These things happen. If this is not successful, you will need to open up the VCR (unplug it first!) and attempt to cycle the mechanisms by hand. Probably both top and bottom covers will need to be removed. The following procedures assume that there are no broken parts, foreign objects, or other damage which might prevent manual cycling of the tape loading and cassette loading mechanism. (Inspect for toys and rocks.) Also note that some VCR designs use solenoids to engage various operations. This will complicate your task (to put it mildly) as locating and activating the proper ones at the appropriate time is, well, a treat. 1. Tape unloading: The first step is to determine if the tape has been unloaded from the video head drum back into the cassette. If the tape is fully retracted into the cassette - there is no tape showing, then go on to step (2). If not, you will need to figure out which shaft or pulley to turn to unload the tape. Trace the linkage or gears that move the roller guides back to their motor - it may be the main capstan motor or a separate small motor used only for this purpose. Rotate this in the direction which moves the roller guides back towards the cassette. It will take many revolutions - be persistent. If you feel any significant resistance or the roller guides move out toward the drum, turn the other way. The tape is fully unloaded when the roller guides are all the way into the cassette and the tape is straight across the cassette's stationary guideposts. If a single motor performs both the tape loading and cassette loading functions, stop turning as soon as you see the cassette start to rise and read the next section before proceeding. If you are not fully successful or if there is still a tape loop outside the cassette even once you have been turning for what seems to be an eternity, you can still try to eject the cassette but will need to be extra careful not to crinkle the tape as the cassette door closes with the tape sticking out. Before proceeding on in this case, try to find a way to turn one of the reels to pull that tape back in as this will make your task a lot easier. There may be an idler that swings between the two reels and this may be accessible from the bottom (the cassette will block it on top). 2. Cassette unloading. Once the tape is fully retracted into the cassette, the cassette can be ejected safely. If a tape loop is still sticking out of the cassette - and you care about the recording - you will need to be especially careful not to crinkle the tape as the cassette door closes. It is usually not possible to get the cassette fully out without its door closing, so the best you can do is to make sure when this happens, the tape is flat across the gap. With care, it should survive. On a top loader, there is usually a solenoid specifically for EJECT or a simple mechanical pushbutton. Once the appropriate lever is pressed, the cassette should pop up - hold the basket with one hand as you do this to prevent any exposed tape loop from being crinkled. On a front loader, locate the cassette loading motor and begin turning it in the appropriate direction - this will be fairly obvious assuming there are no broken gear teeth or other broken parts and that something isn't totally jammed. If this is the main capstan motor, then just continue turning as in (1). Eventually the cassette should raise up and out. If you have a tape loop, be extra careful not to catch it on any guideposts or obstructions as you remove the cassette. Then, wind it back into the cassette by turning one of the reels (you may have to depress the release button on the bottom of the cassette with a pencil - this is the small hole in the center near the label side.) Assuming the tape is not torn and not badly crinkled, it should be fine. If it is severely damaged, refer to the section: "Recovering damaged or broken tapes".
If for some reason, the microcontroller gets confused and refuses to raise the basket and there is no tape in the VCR, first, try pulling the plug for a minute or two. This may reset the error condition. However, since the mechanism is in an illegal state, the microcontroller may refuse to do anything for fear of making things worse. Assuming that the problem is still present, here are two suggestions: * Manually turn the appropriate motor shaft with power off to put the mechanism through the eject cycle. In many VCRs, this is as simple as turning the EJECT motor or possibly the main motor. Be patient and gentle - it will take a while. If there is some underlying problem which caused the basket to be lowered without a cassette in place, than the VCR may return to the illegal state, do nothing, or do something else that is peculiar once power is restored or any button is pressed. * Convince the microcontroller that a tape really is present when there is none. You need to (1) cover the start/end sensor LED poking up in the center of the deck, (2) depress any other microswitches that sense tape present, press EJECT, and (3) possibly turn the non-driven reel by hand a bit while it is attempting to wind the tape loop back into the cassette. Three or four hands are a definite asset. Make sure you get your fingers out before they are caught! Again, an underlying problem may produce unexpected results. For additional info on initialization problems, see the section: "VCR is failing the power-up sequence".
Usually, the owner will admit that the machine is pre-Jurassic and has never been cleaned or serviced. Anyway, rule out the idler tire as well as the idler clutch - if it weakens, then the idler wheel does not press against the appropriate reel with enough force to grip. Is it s top or front loader? If a top loader, you should be able to trick it into playing a nonexistent tape by covering up the end-of-tape light (the one sticking up in the middle) so that it will think there is a tape inserted. (In some models, there might also be a microswitch.) This may permit you to see what is going on. If a front loader, then it is tougher. You need a cassette cheater (see the section: "Cassette cheaters"). Then, with the cheater in place happily fooling the VCR, feel the spindles while the machine is operating. In FF or REW, you may find that they are not being driven or or being driven very weakly. Try to determine if the idler is even being pushed into position or is hung up on something. If there is any chance that it is the idler tire, try turning it inside-out. The relatively protected inner (now outer) surface may grip well enough to confirm the diagnosis. Has it been serviced in the last 15 years? The last 100 years?
In this case, the tape starts to move - possibly at a reasonable speed - but then may shut down - possibly erratic or tape dependent. Make sure the tape is not the problem - try another one. If it starts the operation (as evidenced by whirring sounds and the tape counter changing numbers) but at some point - perhaps near the end of the tape - aborts and shuts down, then a worn idler tire, worn or broken idler clutch, bad belt, or lubrication problem is likely. See the section: "VCR will not fast forward and/or rewind" as well as "Lubrication of a VCR". With instant start transports - where the tape is maintained around the video head drum for all but the fastest rewind, there could be other control problems as well. If the tape starts fast forwarding or rewinding properly (from a visual inspection with the cover off) but the tape counter does not change value and then the unit shuts down, a reel rotation sensor problem is likely. See the section: "Reel rotation sensors". If the operation aborts at the same location on only certain tapes, there could be pinholes in the tape oxide coating allowing light to pass through and confuse the sensors. This happens mostly with T160 or old well worn tapes. If you can locate the problem area, you can try indelible ink on the NON-oxide side of the tape but DO NOT use adhesive tape or glue. Else, discard the tape or live with its behavior.
While these operations are never exactly quiet, when grinding or squeaking noises are evident, it is time to at least consider the possibilities. First confirm that the same thing happens with more than one cassette - it could be defective. (Portions from: Alan McKinnon (firstname.lastname@example.org)) and Oldguyteck (email@example.com)). You get several types of noisy rewind: * A high pitched squeak - dirt and/or dried or lost lubrication on reel spindles, remove both reel tables, clean and lubricate the shafts. On older machines you often find this as well on idler pulleys. * Periodic 'eek-eek-eek' type noise, check for an out of round rotating part rubbing on something. No pat answers here, you have to get your eyes out and look. * A grating metal on metal noise that sounds like car brake pads that should have been changed 5000 miles ago is always the capstan rubbing on its bearing. The only cure s a new motor. Ignore those that tell you to strip and clean the bearing. I've tried this trick at least 10 times on different machines - it won't last. If a capstan motor is worn enough to howl, the shaft and bearing are way beyond repair. Miscellaneous causes: * Cassette not seating properly and/or tape path alignment problems. Press down on the cassette during REW or FF and see if it shuts up. * Brake levers not disengaging completely, pads worn, or misadjusted. * Missing fiber washers (who worked on the VCR last?); worn, broken, or distorted gears; other lubrication or dirt problems, etc. * Bad bearings in main motor (usually older VCRs). The list goes on and on. In the end, the only way to narrow down the problem will be with your eyes and ears!
Should you buy a tape rewinder to save wear and tear on your VCR? Take it or leave it. I think they are good if your VCR is old and for whatever reason has trouble with FF or REW. However, sluggish FF or REW may be a precursor to tape eating and should be addressed to avoid an impending failure which may ruin a tape. Rubber parts deteriorate by just existing. The surface layer oxidizes and use may actually be good (don't quote me!). I would not bother with a rewinder just to prevent wear and tear on the motors or heads. In many VCRs - particularly older VCRs without real-time tape counters, the tape is totally retracted into the cassette during high speed FF or REW and does not contact the heads at all. In newer VCRs with real-time counters, the tape will contact the control head lightly but wear should not worth worrying about. Wear and tear on the motors is not a serious problem - much less than playing a tape. If the convenience of being able to rewind off-line is important to you, then there may be no harm in using one. However, some rewinders can be hard on video tapes as they usually do not sense the clear leader but stop rewinding when the tape tension increases at the end of the tape. This may eventually damage the tape and/or pull the tape from the takeup reel hub. I have heard of some crinkling the tape edge and actually mangling tapes. (From: Jim Lagerkvist (firstname.lastname@example.org)). There are dozens of fast rewinder units claiming to save wear on your VCR. The earliest ones snapped-off the clear leader from the hubs. The later ones with IR sensors simply made the real problem obvious: Precious recordings are being damaged by a cheap transport screaming the tape at high speed. The tape is either creased or an edge is rippled (usually the control track). I have a long list of heartbroken people that have lost their archives with these things; me included. If a customer complains about a tape suddenly not viewing well, ask if they use one of these things.
If efforts to record (directly or via the timer) are totally ignored or cause the cassette to be ejected, then the record protect tab on the cassette may be broken off or the record protect sense switch in the VCR may be dirty or defective. This switch sits just under the cassette slot (on front loaders). Locate it by referencing the tab position on the loaded cassette. It can easily be tested with an ohmmeter - if you can get to it. To confirm, short out or disconnect (which you will need to do depends on the design of your VCR) the appropriate wires (maybe there is a connector - this could have bad contacts as well) and see if the VCR is more cooperative.
This is a problem with the process called 'tape loading' - pulling the tape loop out of the cassette and wrapping it around the spinning video drum, engaging the capstan and pinch roller and reel rotation. Check all the belts above and below the deck. Belts can appear to be firm but if they do not return immediately to their relaxed length when you stretch them 25%, they will need to be replaced. With the cover off, observe the behavior when you hit play. (You may need to put a piece of cardboard over the cassette to block external light from interfering with the start/end tape sensors). Assuming this is a basic VCR (no instant start features), you should see: 1. The video head drum begins to spin. 2. the roller guides move smoothly on the tracks, wind the tape around the drum, and stop snuggly pressed against the 'V-Stopper' at the end of the tracks. 3. The pinch roller moves into position and presses the tape against the capstan. 4. The tape begins to move and is wound up by the takeup reel. 5. The picture and sound appear on the TV. With a 'rapid or quick start' (or it may be called something else) transport, the tape moves to a half-loaded position when the cassette is inserted. This is at an intermediate position partially pulled out of the cassette but not wrapped around the drum. On VCRs with a real-time counter and/or index search capabilities, the tape will be in contact with the control head. With an 'instant start' transport, the tape will fully load around the spinning drum when the cassette is inserted but the capstan will not engage and no tension will be applied to the tape until you press PLAY or REC. (After about 5 minutes, the drum will stop and it may unload to the half loaded or unloaded position.) Note that for VCRs with a real-time counter and/or index search capabilities, the tape must be in contact with the control head (but not the video heads) for all relevant modes. These VCRs (which include many modern units) must therefore pull the tape at least partly out of the cassette. In all cases, the completion of the sequence results in approximately the same mechanical configuration during PLAY. Several likely possibilities when it shuts down: 1. Everything occurs as above, picture and sound appear for a few seconds, but then the VCR unloads the tape, ejects the cassette, goes into REW mode, stops, or shuts off. Two common causes: * The takeup reel does not turn and tape spills into the machine. This is sensed by the microcontroller which aborts record or play and attempts to save your valuable cassette. Most likely cause: old/dirty idler tire. As a test, turn the idler tire inside-out. The fresh surface will now work well enough to confirm this diagnosis and will continue working long enough for your replacement idler tire to arrive. See the section: "General guide to VCR cleaning and rubber parts replacement". * The takeup reel is turning properly but one of the reel rotation sensors or its electronics is defective. As a test, check to see if the tape counter is changing at any time during the loading and abort process. Non-real-time tape counters usually get their pulses from this same sensor. (Real-time counters operate off of the A/C head control pulses and therefore would not be affected by a defective reel sensor). Some older VCRs used a belt driven counter - the belt may have broken or fallen off. Most newer VCRs use an optical sensor which may simply be dirty. See the section: "Reel rotation sensors". 2. The roller guides are getting hung up and not fully loading the tape either as a result of an obstruction or dried up grease, or a slipping tape loading belt (often accompanied by an spine tingling squeal). Parts may have broken or fallen off of the roller guide assemblies preventing them from fully engaging the 'V-Stoppers'. A similar fault may prevent the capstan from fully engaging against the tape and pinch roller. A toy, candy, or a plastic bit of a cassette shell may be jamming something. 3. The mode switch sensor is dirty or defective and confusing the poor microcomputer as to the position of the loading mechanism. In this case, the loading process may stop half way, pause, and then unload as in (1) or (2), above. Or, it may do almost anything. See the section on: "Erratic behavior in various modes". 4. Some other condition such as the end-of-tape sensor thinking that you are at the end of the tape is aborting the tape loading process. This might be indicated by a sudden reversal and shutdown rather than a pause (usually accompanied by the sound of a motor whirring) at some point attempting to complete part of the cycle. For problems with record in particular, the record protect tab switch may be dirty or worn resulting in random aborts. 5. Electronic problems like bad grounds or other bad connections are also possible. Since with some models, (a number of JVC manufactured VCRs, for example) ground integrity is via screws through the mainboard, should these loosen, erratic behavior may result. Tighten the screws. 6. A defective microcontroller or other logic could also be at fault but this is less likely than any of the preceding.
In this case, the VCR starts to play or record but, say, an hour later, shuts down for no good reason - at least not as a result of a command you thought you issued. Make sure the tape is not the problem - try another one. There may be spots on the tape where the oxide has come off resulting in pinhole (or larger) areas which are activating the end-sensors. Confirm that you are using the proper play or record modes - not OTR (One Time Record) or other timed play or record modes which will likely operate in increments of 15 minutes depending on how many times you press the button. In addition, on certain VCRs, if the program timer is enabled with a program setting that has its stop time occur while you are using the VCR - even if the record operation has been aborted by pressing the stop button - the VCR will shut down. If play or record aborts at the same location on only certain tapes, there could be pinholes in the tape oxide coating allowing light to pass through and confuse the sensors. This happens mostly with T160 or old well worn tapes. If you can locate the problem area, you can try indelible ink on the NON-oxide side of the tape but DO NOT use adhesive tape or glue. Else, discard the tape or live with its behavior. Finally, make sure you are not using any 'insert editing' modes which require a previously laid down control track and would abort once blank tape was reached. See the section: "Recording stops at random times on previously used tapes". Once all the obvious problems and cockpit errors have been eliminated, mechanical problem still likely even though the VCR does not abort immediately. A worn idler tire, worn or defective idler clutch, bad belt, or improperly adjusted backtension, are all possibilities. This is particularly likely if the problem is more likely to occur or only happens near the end of tapes as the required takeup reel torque is greater and any of the above mechanical problems will be exacerbated. With instant start transports - where the tape is maintained around the video head drum for all but the fastest rewind, there could be other control problems as well. If the operation starts properly (as indicated by a changing picture on the TV in play or from a visual inspection with the cover off) but the tape counter does not change value and then the unit shuts down, a reel rotation sensor problem is likely. See the section: "Reel rotation sensors". This could still be due to problems similar to those which cause an immediate abort if some components or connections are marginal. Also see the section: "VCR aborts play or record during startup or shortly thereafter".Go to [Next] segment
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