How to Fix a Cassette Deck

Real repair work on a cassette deck is beyond most of us, but some simple maintenance techniques are within grasp to fix common cassette-deck problems. If you're unsure about a symptom or uncomfortable performing a fix yourself, a trip to the shop may be in order.

Old tape player, recorder and casette on wooden background
How to Fix a Cassette Deck
credit: Piotr Adamowicz/iStock/Getty Images

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Check all cable connections to make sure they're secure.

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Change the cable connecting the cassette deck to your receiver.

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Clean tape heads with isopropyl alcohol and cotton swabs. Oxide particles can flake off of tapes and collect here.

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Clean the contacts on the player and receiver with electronics-grade contact cleaner.

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Make sure the cassette output cables are going to the receiver's "tape," "cassette" or "aux" input. The "mon" (monitor) input will produce a low volume.

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Clean capstan and pinch rollers (the parts that spin around to move the tape) with isopropyl alcohol and cotton swabs.

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Inspect any belts (usually thick black rubber bands) that you can see inside the deck for wear.

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Replace broken, brittle or stretched belts.

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Loss of High Frequencies. Make sure the bias settings are correct for the type of tape you're using (I, II or IV) and that the noise-reduction settings used in playback are the same as those used during recording. Check to see if tape heads need to be realigned or replaced.

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Incomplete Erasing of Tapes. Demagnetize tape heads with a cassette-deck demagnetizer (available at electronics stores). Check if the erase head needs to be replaced.

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Poor Sound With Tapes Made on Other Cassette Decks. Try adjusting the bias. On some high-end decks, this can be set by the user.

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Muffled or Garbled Sound, Especially With Tapes Made on Other Decks. Angle of the tape head gap, or azimuth, may need to be realigned by a technician. However, doing this will make tapes you've already recorded with the bad alignment sound wrong.

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Tapes Getting Jammed. The capstan is turning but the take-up reel is not, causing loose tape to bunch up and get jammed. Look for a worn or broken belt or a broken gear that might need replacing.