How to get a stuck VHS tape out of a VHS player

Updated February 21, 2017

Anyone who ever owned a VCR can probably recall at least one time when the "Eject" button was pressed and the VHS tape cassette popped halfway out of the machine and stopped. Closer inspection revealed a snarl of tangled tape wound up inside the VCR. When the tape gets stuck, there are two broad courses of action: either give the cassette a good yank, break the tape and throw it away, or attempt the more delicate removal of the cassette intact, to salvage the recorded contents.

Press the "Eject" button several times on the VCR while gently pulling the cassette in an attempt to free the tape on its own.

Unplug the VCR from the electricity if the first attempt fails to remove the stuck tape. Turn the component upside down on a flat surface, preferably on a towel to protect the table and VCR finish, while catching any loose parts that may start to roll away.

Remove the four screws on the bottom of the VCR that attach the cover to cabinet. Set aside these screws in a safe place, then remove a fifth screw holding the cover to the back of the cabinet.

Turn the VCR right-side up and carefully remove the cover to expose the internal mechanisms and electronics.

Plug the VCR power cord into a wall outlet and press the "Eject" button once more to watch for the locations where the tape is stuck or tangled inside the equipment. Be careful not to touch anything inside the VCR for risk of electrical shock. It should be apparent where the tape is hung up inside the machine, most often around the steel and rubber rollers that hold the tape on the playback and recording heads when the VCR is in use.

Unplug the power cord and use tweezers to loosen and unravel the stuck tape from internal VCR parts. The wheels and guides on the VCR can be turned counter-clockwise by hand to release sections of tape that may become wrapped around them.

Lift the tape with tweezers out of the mechanism and let the coils of tape sit on top of the VHS cassette.

Plug in the VCR again and hit the "Eject" button to release the cassette. Use a finger to lift the cassette door on the VCR so the loose coils of tape can be pulled gently out of the VCR with the cassette. The door raises by pushing inward from the outside.

Unravel the tape as straight as possible if it is unbroken, then push the small black button on the right edge of the cassette to release the cassette gate over the tape. This also disengages the locking spools inside the cassette so the tape can be rewound inside the housing.

Turn the cassette upside-down and rotate the left spool counter-clockwise to wind the loose tape back inside the housing. Depending on how badly the tape was mangled inside the VCR, that section of tape may display a wobbly, distorted image and no sound whenever it is played, although minor bending may correct itself with repeated use.

Replace the VCR cover with the five screws after unplugging the component.


Try fast-forwarding and rewinding the tape several times before playing it again to smooth out any wrinkles caused when the tape became stuck. Clean the VCR with a VCR head-cleaning product to remove dirt and dust that can cause a tpe to snag and become stuck.


Never touch anything inside the VCR with bare fingers or metallic objects while the power cord is plugged into the wall.

Things You'll Need

  • Towel
  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Tweezers
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About the Author

James Clark began his career in 1985. He has written about electronics, appliance repair and outdoor topics for a variety of publications and websites. He has more than four years of experience in appliance and electrical repairs. Clark holds a bachelor's degree in political science.