How to enjoy your videorecorder for a long time!

by Ebay member: 1ivanka (746)

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I write this because I collect, repair and service VCR’s. My special interest are the comparatively rare and little known Video8 VCR’s. Most users know that the Video8 format was developped for small camcorders, but they don’t know, that there was also a wide variety of stationary Video8 recorders in the market. On this website and in another advice page I describe the variety of this very special class of VCR’s. Today, a VCR offers probably one of the last options to enjoy analog music and videos. As digital technology also uses VCR technology such as in the Digital8, Digital VHS and Mini DV format, the system of a drive and a tape as a storage media still seems to be a good choice. Probably the huge amount of data to be stored on tape, as compared to disc media, is one of the main reasons why VCR’s still have their importance.

For me it is allways fascinating to watch the cassette being loaded by the VCR, the tape being winded around the fast revolving head drum and watching all the different movements being coordinated by the system control (the brain) of the drive. Contrary to this, how boring is the movement of a rotating disc, being read by a laser beam, telling the engine by the way how fast to rotate. The two systems may be compared with a carousel and a roller coster. The first makes you feel giddy, while the second drives you to more adventures. Contrary to some expert’s opinion VCR’s by far have not died yet. I would like to tell you how to enjoy your VCR’s for a long time.

1. Inserting the cassette

Believe it or not: the majority of all VCR problems originates from the wrong insertion of the cassette. The very nature of a rectangular cassette allows for a total of 8 different ways of inserting it. And sad to say: there are some loading mechanisms, which allow some mistakes during the loading procedure which may lead to new problems. E.g. the cassette may be inserted in a diagonal way or just from one side, which will disturb the loading procedure. This is the best method: insert the cassette evenly about 2cm in the slot. For this you should use both hands. Then lay both hands on the top of the VCR and push the cassette evenly with both thumbs untill the loading engine takes over. Don’t apply any force. The branding and labels of the cassette should be readable on top, the two hollows which later are propelled by the two reels of the drive allways are on the opposite side, facing downward. Once the VCR is connected to the power, the loading should be initiated, no matter if the VCR is in standby or switched on.

2. Permanently plugged in

Any electric device with a switching power supply suffers from the standby mode; not from a week or a month of standby and not, if the permanent power consumption is extremely low. But devices with more than 10Watt produce heat and the heat producing electronic components, especially some of the capacitors suffer a lot and after 4 to 7years tend to misfunction. If there is a main switch in the VCR, make use of it. Such technology, however is no more in use, except for most professional VCR’s. So you might either want to use a cord switch or a multi socket with a built in switch.

3. Dust around your VCR

Dust is not just the problem for many little insect like spiders, mites or silverfish, if they escape to those dust covered areas. It also seems to be a problem for all technical stuff where electronics and fine mechanics are engaged. You should never run a VCR on the bottom of your floor for a long time. You won’t believe what I have found in defective VCR’s: animal hairs, dust bunnies, pet droppings, just to mention a few. Smoke is also dust, and a very special one, as it tends to become a semiconductor together with the condensed tar, once it is inhaled by a VCR at high dosages. The heat sinks of electronic components and the transformers behave like a radiator. The heat engages the circulation of air and dust, ending with thick covers of dust all around the power supply.

4. Allways at convenient temperatures

This may become a problem for a standby VCR’s deposited in a cabinet, sooner or later dying of heat, if there are not sufficient openings for air circulation. But it is also a problem of boxed VCR’s in hot attics (in the Summer more than 60°C, in the Winter less than 0°C!) or in humid basements. Such wide temperature ranges are a real problem for so called composite materials, which will simply burst, or glued connections may just fall apart. The brave new word of multimedia never really learned from the gold old days of solid construction work, as everything has to be cheap and should not be heavy.

5. Rewind your tapes and don’t leave them in the VCR

Dust will stick to the smooth, soft surface of a videotape. This reacts on the different layers of the tape like a mini sandblaster. Videotapes are rather sensitive to dust and mechanical wear. Because of this they are completely hidden in the cassette and protected from dust and fatty fingers. After use, the cassette should be winded back or forth and ejected.

6. Clean heads

... but, please do it the proper way! Head cleaning is necessary, once horizontal white stripes are permanently disturbing the picture. In the beginning some slight flashes of white spots may be seen. However, the same symptom also announces another problem: worn heads! VCR-systems with comparatively small and narrow tapes in such a situation tend to show no more picture, once the heads are dirty, as the dirt tends to be much bigger than for wider tapes with bigger heads. For head cleaning one should never use wet cleaning systems, which are still in the market. Such systems have already destroyed many a video head or caused a stuck head drum! The best cleaning method is done with dry cleaning tapes, as offered by several companies.

7. Old VCR’s and old cassettes

Every 6 months the old VCR should be plugged in and one cassette should be played back. The cassettes should also be winded once every 3years. Thus, the narrow windings of the cassette don’t stick to each other and get a chance to breathe some air and to find a new partner on the other side of the cassette. Therefore it is recommended, not to use fast forwind and after that a fast rewind, but use just one of them and do the other in 3 years!

8. Proper digitizing

During the cold season wait at least one hour, untill the VCR has adapted to room temperature. Before using playback, please use fast forewind and fast rewind, if they have not been in this VCR since a year. Should cassettes have been ejected somewhere in the middle of the tape: first rewind, then forwind and then another rewind to the start position. That way you have the optimum packing of the tape winds and the best adaptation to the drive. The chance of dropauts will be the lowest.