How to repair a vintage typewriter

antique typewriter image by Gonçalo Carreira from

As typewriters become increasingly rare, finding a valuable gem at an antique shop or garage sale is a thrill. Unfortunately, these typewriters are usually old and rarely function as they should. Surprisingly, many vintage typewriters don't work due to rust and grime--problems that a cleaning easily remedies.

Other problems require careful fixing. Finding typewriter repairmen and tools is a challenge in this age of technology, but you can make many minor repairs with items found at most hardware and office supply stores.

Clean your typewriter to solve functioning problems caused by dirt build-up. Add a few drops of liquid hand dishwashing soap to a bowl of water. Dip a cloth in the solution and wipe down the typewriter. Work the solution into the crevices with Q-tips and an old toothbrush.

Apply aluminium polish to remove rust. This may eliminate some functional problems, such as keys that stick.

Dribble a small amount of sewing machine oil into the crevices of your typewriter. According to "Reader's Digest," this especially helps keys that don't rise up to hit the platen, which is the roller part of the typewriter where the paper sits.

Hit every key to make sure that it doesn't stick. Untangle letter bars and straighten type bars. If a type bar stays up in the air after you release the corresponding key, grip it with pliers and gently bend it from side to side until it is repositioned to fall back into place.

Wipe the platen gently with an emery cloth if paper consistently slips while you're typing. You'll notice this if the spacing between lines is not consistent. Rotate the platen as you rub to reach all sides. Attach a hose attachment to your vacuum cleaner and vacuum up leftover sandings. Rub the platen with denatured alcohol to finish.

Insert a new ribbon if you notice faint print when you type. Take off the top of the typewriter, replace the old spools with the new spools and thread the ribbon into place.