4 ways to protect and preserve your VCR

July 28, 2015

Take care of that old VCR — you might not be able to buy a new one. Give the machine a little attention, however, and you'll be watching tapes of your grandkids for years to come.

4 ways to protect and preserve your VCR

1. Run a head-cleaning tape regularly

  •  Use a head-cleaning tape to clean your VCR's video heads after every 100 hours of operation (about every four or five months of average use). More frequent cleaning is recommended if you rent a lot of tapes.
  • Cleaning is also required when the picture quality drops off or when you get a blue screen indicating that the heads are dirty.For regular cleanings, a good-quality dry head-cleaning tape will usually be sufficient.
  • Never use a wet head-cleaning tape, because the liquid cleaner may not evaporate before another tape is played.
  • That could make things much worse by spreading grime from the tape to the playback heads, resulting in a set of clogged heads.
  • If this happens, you'll need to clean the heads manually or make a trip to the repair shop.In a pinch, you can even use a new, blank tape to clean your VCR's heads.
  • Simply let the tape play for a couple of hours. The prolonged contact with the tape will usually remove any soft deposits from the heads.
  • This is reported to be effective approximately 70 percent of the time. Discard the tape afterward.

2. Don't leave a tape inside

  • It's not advisable to leave a videocassette in your VCR between viewings.
  • Even if you turn off the VCR's power, the tape is left wound around the heads (it's automatically un-spooled when you insert the videocassette into the VCR).
  • In addition to putting unwanted wear on the VCR's video heads, this can result in stretching or wrinkling the tape, which reduces its longevity and increases the likelihood of it getting jammed in the player later on.

3. Don't freeze the frame

  • To get the longest life from your VCR's video heads and videotapes, try to limit pausing the playback — using the so-called "freeze frame" feature — and previewing tapes with the fast-forward or rewind controls.
  • Both of these actions place considerable stress on the videotape, and usually cause oxides to wear off much faster, which, in turn, increases the risk of clogging up your machine's video heads.

4. Use a tape rewinder

  • Take some of the wear and tear off your VCR by using a videotape rewinder.
  • Purchase a two-direction model if you own a lot of tapes, because it's best to store tapes forwarded to the end of the reel. Get a good-quality rewinder.
  • Some cheaper models may wind tapes too fast and damage them.
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