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Playing a damaged VHS cassette may not only damage or destroy the tape stretching, breaking, tearing or edge damage but also the playback equipment. Some typical cassette problems include cracks in the housing, a broken or missing window, broken reel flanges, hubs that have seized and do not freely rotate or are stripped, and a broken or improperly functioning cassette door.
VHS cassette hubs have a lock feature that prevents them from turning when the cassette is not being used and therefore prevents the wind from becoming loose. In order to test that the hubs are functioning properly, the small button located between and below the hubs, as shown in Figure 4, needs to be depressed and held while gently rotating the take-up reel.
Do not use excessive force if the hubs are not turning. The functioning of the cassette door can be verified by depressing the small release button found towards the top right side of the cassette, as shown in Figure 5.
Once the button is pressed, the spring action of the door can be tested for smooth movement.
CCI Figure 4. Depressing the area indicated by the arrow unlocks the hubs so that they can be checked for smooth rotation. Pressing the button indicated by the arrow allows the spring-loaded gate to be manually opened so that the proper functioning of the gate can be verified.
This is an essential component of the cassette. The same cassette with the gate opened. Lightly shaking a cassette and listening for excessive rattling noises can help determine if there is any internal damage. Note that the hubs normally do move around a little and will produce some rattle.
Looking through the window of the cassette while moving it may lead to the discovery of loose parts within the housing. If the cassette is damaged, it is recommended that the tape is transferred to a new shell so that it will play properly and without being damaged.
Although this can be a challenging procedure for the inexperienced due to the many small parts Figure 6it can be done. If attempting to perform this type of repair, it is a good idea to practice on a discarded VHS cassette and to have an open one available for reference.
Ideally, a shell from the exact same brand should be used, but generic cassette shells are also available and can be equally useful. CCI Figure 6. Image of an opened and dismantled VHS cassette illustrating the many small parts that exist.
Tape quality When evaluating the condition of the VHS tape, it is worth taking note of the brand. Generic brands or those without a recognizable manufacturer brand name are generally inferior and likely to exhibit more dropouts or momentary signal losses during play, higher wear rate and other problems caused by shedding magnetic oxide material, such as video head clogging and contamination of the tape transport.
Brand name tapes experience less of these problems, although a brand name does not always guarantee a good product because batch-to-batch variations do occur.
VHS tape is often labeled usually on the external packaging for the cassette but sometimes on the cassette itself with a designation such as Standard Grade, High Grade or Extra High Grade. Although there is no standard for what these terms mean, High Grade and Extra High Grade generally refer to a better and more durable product, although in some cases there may not be a significant difference.
Also, these terms only have meaning within the same brand. A high grade labeled tape from one manufacturer may be inferior to a standard grade one from another. Therefore, although generally useful, determining tape quality based on brand name and tape grading system can be unreliable in some cases.
Tape condition Because video tape is in a cassette, the evaluation of its condition is not straightforward. One thing that can be done without opening the cassette housing is an inspection of a small portion of tape as well as of the two inner guide posts in the cassette.
In order to perform this inspection, the cassette door needs to be opened and the hub lock released as described above under Cassette condition. The door should be propped open so that it will not slam shut on the tape.
Once the hub lock is released, a small amount of tape can be pulled away from the posts. Always use lint-free cotton gloves when handling tape to avoid fingerprint contamination. Examine for contaminants or any damage.
More importantly, examine the posts for any signs of buildup. This may be from degradation of the tape binder, which will appear as black or white debris, likely from lubricant breakdown.
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