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How to Clean and Fine-Tune a Tape Deck
Author: Gabriel Torres 19,766 views
Type: Tutorials Last Updated: June 19, 2012
Page: 2 of 3
Cleaning the Tape Deck

Looking inside the tape compartment, you will see one or two heads and one or two rollers, depending on your tape deck model. On our tape deck, there were two rollers and only one head, as shown in Figure 4.

What you will clean
click to enlarge
Figure 4: What you will clean

You will need to make the tape deck lift the head(s) and roller(s) so that you can clean them. On most tape decks, you will need to press a mechanical sensor located at the upper left corner and press the “rec” button. However, on old tape decks where the buttons are mechanically connected to the head assembly, the “rec” and the “play” buttons must be pressed simultaneously. See Figure 4. This should be done with the tape deck turned on so that its motor spins during the process. On some tape decks, you won’t be able to remove your finger from the sensor, because when you do, the tape deck “thinks” there is no tape inside the deck and automatically stops the motor.

The next step is to get a cotton swab (“Q-tip”) wet in alcohol and clean the head(s) by rubbing the cotton swab against it/them. After cleaning the head(s), get a new wet cotton swab and clean the roller that will be spinning. This should be done by touching the roller away from the existing metallic rod; otherwise, the roller will “eat” the cotton swab. As you can see in Figure 4, this means that you will be touching the roller on its right-hand side. Keep cleaning the roller until you don’t get any black stuff coming out of the roller. You may need to use a few cotton swabs wet in alcohol until the roller is completely clean.

On tape decks with two rollers, you will notice that only one of the rollers will be spinning, and that the right-side roller will be dirtier than the left-side one, as it is used more often. To clean the other roller, you must press the “reverse side” button of the deck. (On some tape decks, this button has the same icon as the “play” button, but poiting to the left instead of to the right.) If such a button is not available, don’t worry. As long as you clean the right-side roller, you are good to go.
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