Cleaning a VCR or Camcorder is not like changing the oil on your car. It doesn't need to be done unless you have cleaning related symptoms, so, lets talk about those symptoms.
No picture, just snow. This is the symptom we expect when video heads are contaminated or damaged. Tape path cleaning will usually take care of this symptom. If you feel lucky, you might want to try a cleaning tape, but that may put your machine at risk. Our flat rate for professional cleaning and/or estimate of $30 for VCRs and $75 for Camcorders should cover it. If we find other problems, we will advise you, and the amount already paid goes toward those repairs if you so choose. If your problem was contamination, you must take steps to prevent it's reoccurrence. Remember, for obvious reasons we cannot provide a warranty on a cleaning job.
Picture not as good as it used to be. Probably not a cleaning related. Generally picture quality problems tend to be electronic rather than mechanical.
Eats tapes. Usually not a contamination problem. It can be caused by gummy lubes, worn, broken, or out of adjustment drive parts and timing issues.
No eject, or won't take a tape. Most frequently these symptoms are caused by bent or broken parts. Did someone force a tape in or out of it?
Loss of sound, picture ok. Usually not cleaning related. Contamination normally affects picture before sound, except on older, non HiFi machines which use a separate audio head and 8mm equipment.
Let's say you just sat down to watch that movie you rented. It starts out ok, but then you see white lines scrolling down through the picture. You may also hear a faint buzzing sound, then suddenly, just snow. If you're like most of us, you grab another tape and try it. Nope, that one doesn't play either, nor does the next or the next. What has just happened is you got hold of a wrinkled/contaminated tape, which smeared it's contaminants along the tape path and into the heads of your VCR. Worse than that, by trying those other tapes, you contaminated them also. Did you remember which ones they were so you can discard them to avoid recontaminating your VCR after it gets repaired or replaced? OOPS...
So, what do you do if you lose your picture after one of those rental movies in your VHS or VHS-C VCR? First choice is to take a NEW, good quality unrecorded tape and label it "CLEANING TAPE - DO NOT REWIND". Then run it for 10 to 20 minutes in SP record. Chances are it will pick up most of the contaminants IF that is what is causing your problems, without putting your machine at risk. If this works, you're back in business. If not, then you have to make a decision. You can purchase a cleaning tape and take a chance of making your problems worse, or you can take your equipment to a qualified, FACTORY AUTHORIZED servicer and have it properly repaired. If the problem is only contamination, you will probably get by for less than thirty dollars. If not, the servicer will advise what you can expect to pay. Most competent servicers do charge for this service, so don't expect a free ride.
At least once a week a VCR or Camcorder comes in with a complaint of "It stopped working after I used the cleaning tape". In a large percentage of those cases, the VCR or Camcorder is damaged beyond economical repair.
If you are in a hurry, don't want to spend the extra money, or are just feeling lucky, the following information will help you make an informed decision about cleaning tapes.
The above information is also valid for 8mm, Digital 8mm and Mini-DV equipment, but due to design differences, they may safely have contamination on the tape path addressed by the use of proper cleaning tapes. For 8mm and Digital 8mm, we can recommend the SONY Hi-8/D8 cleaning tape, and for Mini-DV use JVC or Panasonic cleaning tapes. These are dry types, and reasonably safe and worth a try before you bring the unit in for service. Avoid wet cleaners or anything with pads or brushes !!
Courtesy, Halle's Service, Inc.
Last modified: March 31, 2007