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How to repair a cassette player that eats tapes

Updated February 21, 2017

Cassette players are inherently problematic because they require that the cassette tape be pulled between a set of rollers by a capstan shaft before being wound on the take-up reel. The capstan shaft and rollers can become dirty from the tape flaking off on them during use. This causes the capstan shaft and rollers to become sticky and the cassette tape to get stuck and wind around them. Cleaning the capstan shaft and rollers on a cassette player ensures that tape passes smoothly through the rollers instead of being “eaten.” The repair can be done within a few minutes and doesn’t require disassembling the cassette player.

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  1. Remove the batteries from the cassette player and disconnect the power cord from the cassette player, if present. Put the cassette player down on a table. Eject the lid. Remove the cassette tape, if present. Carefully unwind the cassette tape from the capstan shaft or from the rollers, if wound around them.

  2. Blow out the cassette player with compressed air. Dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and hold it till there is no dripping from the cotton swab. Rub the cotton swab against the capstan shaft while gently rotating it from the top with your fingers. Repeat this process with a second cotton swab. Stop swabbing when the capstan shaft is free of any debris.

  3. Replace the batteries and the power plug, if one was being used. Insert a cassette and close the lid. Press the "Play" button on the cassette player and listen to the tape to make sure it is running correctly.

  4. Tip

    Computer cleaning swabs will have longer sticks on them, making them easier to manoeuvre in the cramped quarters where the capstan shaft and rollers sit. VCR head cleaning fluid can be used instead of rubbing alcohol for cleaning the cassette player.


    Do not drip any rubbing alcohol inside of the cassette player, as the fluid can damage the electronic components.

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Things You'll Need

  • Cotton swabs
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Compressed air

About the Author

Marshal M. Rosenthal is a technology maven with more than 15 years of editorial experience. A graduate of Brooks Institute of Photography with a Bachelor of Arts in photographic arts, his editorial work has appeared both domestically as well as internationally in publications such as "Home Theater," "Electronic House," "eGear," "Computer and Video Games" and "Digitrends."

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