How to Troubleshoot an Audio Cassette Deck

Written by christopher godwin
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How to Troubleshoot an Audio Cassette Deck
Troubleshooting your cassette deck can save you time and money later. (tape out of cassette image by timur1970 from

Troubleshooting an audio cassette deck before taking it to professional technician can save you quite a bit of time and money since you will be able to explain the problem to the technician, shortening the time they will need to inspect all of the parts of the machine to isolate the problem. While you may not be able to fix an audio cassette deck without years or technical training, you can determine what is wrong with your machine.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Stereo headphones

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  1. 1

    Check to make sure the cassette deck you are having trouble with is getting power. If the power indicator light is not on, check to make sure the unit is properly plugged into a surge protector or wall outlet. If the unit is plugged in but no power comes on, test the outlet with an appliance you know to be working like an alarm clock or different piece of stereo equipment.

  2. 2

    Listen to the cassette deck as it is playing to make sure that it is running quietly without squeaking or making grinding sounds. Squeaking and grinding sounds are often associated either with the motor dying or capstan rollers needing to be replaced. In most cases, you will not be able to perform these repairs yourself, but you should be able to narrow the problem down to a few possibilities before taking the cassette deck to a professional technician.

  3. 3

    Watch to see if the heads of the cassette deck are spinning when you press the play, rewind or fast-forward button. If the heads are not spinning, this generally indicates a broken transport or capstan problem. In some cases, this can also be a broken or worn-out belt or an insufficiently lubricated solenoid. Again, these problems are hard to fix without years of technical training, but you can isolate them.

  4. 4

    Listen through headphones if one channel is dead to determine if the sound coming out is intermittent or completely out. Intermittent playback is usually due to a faulty playback head or a small component within the playback head or transport.

  5. 5

    Listen for erratic speed changes in playback. Erratic speed changes are often electrical problems related to the motor. In most cases, replacing the motor will fix this problem, but this is a fairly difficult repair that should be done by a professional; however, there may be an internal capstan not turning properly as well.

Tips and warnings

  • Avoid taking an audio cassette deck apart if you do not have a schematic and a bit of technical experience. Most commercially sold cassette decks are quite complicated and have many moving parts. If you take the machine apart and are unable to put it back together properly, it may take your technician several billable hours to reassemble the machine before fixing the original problem.

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