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Newbie question about VCR head cleaning

Discussion in 'Electronic Repair' started by Tom Cumming, May 27, 2007.

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  1. Tom Cumming

    Tom Cumming Guest

    (Apologies for the multi-posting - I've had no replies at
    so am trying here.)

    About 2 years ago I bought a Philips DVP620VR DVD player & VHS recorder
    combi machine. The VHS side of things has only been quite lightly used,
    and playback quality was always good, until about 2 months ago, when one
    day I went to use it and found it was playing "slow" - snow all over the
    video image and the sound playing back wobbly at half speed and pitch, as
    though the machine thought I'd given it a tape recorded in Long Play when
    I had not. This affected both pre-recorded tapes and stuff I recorded
    myself, but only when actually playing - the snow goes away when the tape
    is paused or ff/rw.

    I bought an extended warantee, so I took it back to the shop (Richer
    Sounds, UK) for repair. When it came back, the paperwork said all they had
    done was cleaned the heads, but sure enough it was now working fine.

    I then did not use it for about a month, and found after this time the
    problem has returned. Not wishing to cart it back to the shop
    unnecessarily, I tried a head cleaning tape, which helped, but the next
    morning the problem was back again.

    Now I understand that heads need to be cleaned but this is a bit
    ridiculous. If I take it back to the shop again I'd imagine they'll just
    clean the heads again. With every other VHS machine I have used, dirty
    heads have caused a slow, gradual degradation of playback over time, not a
    sudden change from excellent to unwatchable overnight.

    Does anyone have any experience with this machine? Is this a known issue
    with it, and does it have a fix? Or can anyone suggest anything else I
    might try, apart from hassling the shop and trying to get a refund /
    replacement model?

    Thanks in advance for any help.
  2. Art

    Art Guest

    In actuality, if the product is not being used the heads should not be
    clogging up, necessatitating a cleaning. That is unless the device is
    located in a very dirty location having many atmospheric contaminants.
    Generally the action of the spinning heads against the video tapes tend to
    keep the heads clean unless a noted damaged tape has been run through the
    machine. A tape that has been used multiple times may begin depositing
    pieces of it's coating within the machine, inclusive of the heads. Use of
    good quality medium should mitigate that problem.
    Generally an inactive vcr will not simply produce a coating of material on
    the heads that require cleaning to make the product usable.
  3. If you want to try to clean the heads yourself, be careful. You can damage
    the heads if you are careless.

    Google for how to instructions.
  4. Charles

    Charles Guest

    I wonder if the head/cylinder assembly is scratched? That might cause a
    rapid buildup of the tape coating? Just a wild guess.
  5. N Cook

    N Cook Guest

    If there is a silly lump of foam on an arm that moves to "clean" the head
    then remove that totally , arm and foam.
  6. b

    b Guest

    Agree wholeheartedly -this is called the 'auto head cleaner', which
    to the non-technical sounds great but in reality it is the mechanial
    equivalent of using one q-tip to clean your ears for the rest of your
    life! it ends up redepositing dirt back onto the drum.

    Assuming you have checked the cassette you've been using for wear or
    spillages and it/they are ok, this is the only probable cause of
    spontaneous clogging. Get rid of it - carefully.

  7. Jeroni Paul

    Jeroni Paul Guest

    By your description I would guess your video heads are not getting
    clogged, but maybe your audio/control head. It could be the tape path
    might be a bit off or unstable and it is not getting properly to the
    control section.
    If you are out of warranty you should open the unit and look for the
    audio/control head alignment or head status. This head is usually not
    properly cleaned by head cleaning tapes and requires a manual
  8. Arfa Daily

    Arfa Daily Guest

    The quickest way to clog heads repeatedly like this, is to put a cold or
    damp tape in the machine. It used to be a regular thing in the days of tape
    rental stores. People would pop out in their lunch hour in the winter to
    pick up a tape, then leave it in their car all afternoon to get nice and
    cold, at the end of the day, they drive the few miles home, then leave the
    car outside to get cold again. At 8pm, they remember that they've got a tape
    to watch, rush out to the car to get it, and then shove it straight in the
    nice warm machine in the nice warm house. Result? Instantly clogged heads.
    So before suspecting such things as head damage and scratched drums, you
    might just stop and think a moment if you've done anything that has
    subjected the tape to a large and rapid temperature change, just before
    playing it ...

  9. Ron(UK)

    Ron(UK) Guest

    It could be that the heads are just very very worn to the point where
    their natural self cleaning action has ceased. If it has an extended
    warranty, take it back to the shop.

  10. b

    b Guest

    given the fact the OP says the unit is new and it has had light use
    only I think that is very unlikely.
  11. Ron(UK)

    Ron(UK) Guest

    Well he said he bought it 2 years ago, one mans light use is another
    mans hammering - the quality of tapes has an effect on head life, and
    the 'automatic cleaners' take their toll. I don't know about the newer
    machines, but Phillips vcrs used to have a bad rep for head life (the
    ones with the split rotary transformer), and the worn head symptoms I
    remember were very much what the OP mentioned.

    If I were him, I would only use it with brand new tapes for a while to
    see if the problem recurs, if it doesn`t, he might be able to narrow it
    down to one or two old tapes

    Anyhoo, he`s paid for an extended warranty, he needs to take it back and
    complain till they sort it out.

  12. Tom Cumming

    Tom Cumming Guest

    Yes, I'm going to, but was interested to find out if anyone could suggest
    anything. (I'm just suspicious that without some pestering, they'll just
    clean the heads again like they did last time, and it will fix it only

    Regarding the quality of tapes, I do have a number of rather old pre-
    recorded tapes I've bought in charity shops, who's image quality seems OK
    but obviously I don't know how they've been treated. But since the whole
    reason I'm still using VHS and not something more modern is to be able to
    play these old tapes, I guess I'll just have to live with it if that's
    what's wearing it out.
  13. b

    b Guest

    Avoid the start of the tapes, as that is where they generally suffer
    most heavy use and wear, what with loading and unloading cycles.
    Also if they are left lying about that is wher contaminants may enter.

    I second the idea of using only new tapes for a week and see what
    happens. Given that you have used charity shop tapes of dubious origin
    it seems to suggest here may lie the problem.
    you might want to try and get hold of a vcr off your local freecycle
    to experiment with old tapes on, then you can filter out any duds
    before playing them in your new unit.

  14. Tom Cumming

    Tom Cumming Guest

    Silly question but they all appear to play fine, so what would I be
    looking for? If they did not play well enough to watch then I'd have
    binned them by now.


  15. Guest

    The prob could be in the pinch roller worn, glazed or dirty and
    needs replacing, a lot of repair shops don't replace them these days
    and can cause probs as the newer models use smaller dia rollers and
    cause more probs. Try taking it back as the tech should look at it
    more carefully and diagnose it better.
  16. Ron(UK)

    Ron(UK) Guest

    It only takes one sticky or oily fingerprint on a tape to clog up the
    heads, or a crumpled or stretched section of tape where the oxide is

  17. Arfa Daily

    Arfa Daily Guest

    You may not even be able to see a problem if a tape is shedding oxide. Those
    heads are rotating mighty fast, and the actual head ferrite tips press into
    the tape surface like knife edges. The head gaps are more tiny than you can
    imagine, so the tape doesn't need to drop a lot of oxide to clog the heads.
    If it's losing tiny amounts all the time, you probably won't even notice
    anything wrong with the picture, but when a slightly bigger bit comes away,
    you will likely clog the heads. If you look very carefully, you might just
    see tiny pinprick dropouts on the picture from a bad tape, but even that is
    by no means certain, as the dropout compensator circuits are pretty good on
    most machines. All you are looking for really, is which tape causes the

  18. Here's a suggestion: Once you have it working, whether by having it cleaned
    by the shop or whatever, ONLY test it with a few tapes you know to be
    good. Brand new out of the wrapping if need be. If it behaves, then
    you know that your tape collection - or even a single tape - is to blame
    and not the VCR.

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  19. Tom Cumming

    Tom Cumming Guest

    Ok I think you've convinced me now :)
    I'm going to take it in for repair again on Saturday, so we'll see what
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