[Advice & Info]
[Ask Dr. 8-Track]

A re you new to the world of 8-tracks? Confused about the difference between a 4-track cart and an 8-track? Do you have questions about repairs or playback problems? Wondering how to get that vintage 8-track player tuned up? Well, just Ask Dr. 8-Track! I'll do my best to diagnose all your 8-track ailments.
Do you have repair tips you'd like to share with the 8-Track community? Send me your great ideas and I'll post them here.
Thanks!

[Keep On Trackin!]




[frequently asked questions]

Table of Contents
  1. How do I repair broken foil splices?
  2. How do I repair rotten foam pads?
  3. What if I break the cartridge when I open it?
  4. How do I repair gummy rubber rollers?
  5. Is there any hope for wrinkled, scrunched tape?
  6. How do I repair a tape that breaks somewhere other than at the foil splice?
  7. Why does my tape sound weird when it plays?
  8. Where can I purchase new blank tapes for making my own 8-track or reel to reel recordings?
  9. How do I clean scroungy tape cartridges?
  10. Where can I find technical information on how to repair 8 track equipment?
  11. Where can I get my 8 track equipment repaired?
  12. I need a new belt for my 8 track player. Where can I find one?
  13. Is it possible to remove permanent ink marks from 8-track equipment?
  14. What is the difference between an 8-track cartridge and a 4-track cartridge?
  15. How do I repair my 2 track Playtapes?
  16. What exactly is quadraphonic?

How do I repair broken foil splices?

A broken, or more accurately, a loose foil splice is the most common problem you will find in 8-tracks. It doesn't matter whether your 8-track was still sealed in plastic when you found it or if it obviously had lots of use. This is typically the reason for the common complaint, "My tape player ate my tape." 99 time out of 100, your tape player had nothing to do with your tape being "eaten." The tape from your cart wound itself around the capstan because the splice came loose. The reason the splices come loose is because of age, not use. The good thing is that once you make this repair you should never have to do it again.

When repairing splices you need to understand that not just any material can be used in making this repair. Scotch tape doesn't cut it as a replacement for a missing foil splice. In addition to holding the continuous loop of audio tape together, the foil triggers the tape to change to the next track. A solenoid coil detects the splice where the endless loop of tape is closed, and sends a signal to the playback head to shift over to the next pair of tracks at that point. This is how the machine changes programs. If you replace that splice with a non-metallic substance the tape will just play the same program over and over. Because most of these splices are anywhere from 20 to 40 years old, I strongly advise you to repair all splices. If the splice hasn't broken yet, it will eventually. Better to take the time to repair it before it comes loose. It will save you from having to open the tape to make the repair and it may also save you from scrunching a very nice tape.

I learned this lesson the hard way, by scrunching lots of tapes. See, when the splice passes over the foil sensor and triggers the head to move, it exerts some pressure on that splice. Often times, the splice comes loose, but the rubber capstan continues pulling the tape out of the cartridge. You don't realize anything has happened right away because the tape continues to play, but instead of the tape feeding back into the cartridge, it is instead feeding into the inside of your tape deck or wrapping itself around the capstan post. Eventually, it slows down enough that you realize there is a problem. You pull out the tape and with it comes about 100 feet of scrunched up tape. The tape isn't necessarily ruined (we'll talk about how to repair scrunched tape later), but it will be damaged and is a mess you don't need to deal with. So, repair that splice now!

If the splice hasn't yet broken, play the tape to the end of a program and take the tape out of the machine just before it changes to the next track. Then, using your finger, roll the tape across the rubber wheel until you expose the foil splice. I usually get the splice in the middle, and then, using a butter knife, carefully pull a few inches of tape out of the cartridge. Using your fingernail, check the edges of the splice to see if it's loose. If it is, peel it off and replace it with a piece of 1/4" foil sensing tape approximately the same length as the original splice. Where do you find replacement foil? Well, Radio Shack used to carry it, but no more. However, you can still purchase new rolls of adhesive foil at the US Recording Media website. Below are some other resources.
UPDATE! Tracker David Perlman has discovered foil sensing tape available online from The Tape Warehouse. www.tapewarehouse.com
Price is \$13.57 for 150 ft. roll. That's a lot of splicing tape! Locate the product by doing a search for it by catalog number; #9199A
Sounds like a great solution to the foil tape price crisis.
If you happen to find some remaining stock at your local Radio Shack, their foil comes in 100" rolls. It is catalog #44-1155 and its exact name is "1/4" (6.35mm) Sensing Foil 100" (254cm) Long.
If the splice seems solid, place a small piece of tape on the backside of the splice to reinforce it. Ideally, you will want to use 1/4" audio splicing tape for this. The type I use is Scotch 41 Splicing Tape- 7/32 inch x 66 Feet. Pressure-Sensitive Tape Made For Splicing Magnetic Tape. This tape is sort of a milky white color and is designed specifically for splicing audio tape. You might be able to find it in your area at an audio specialty store. If not, US Recording Media has a few products that will do the job available for sale online.
I wouldn't really recommend it, but if you're really cheap you can use Scotch tape. Use the kind you can write on, not the shiny stuff. Be very careful to trim the tape so that none of the sticky adhesive overlaps the edges of the tape. You don't want to gunk up your heads. Remember, the Scotch tape method is not recommended. Take the time to track down some splicing tape.

With this done, you should never have to worry about repairing that splice again. The advantage of using the tape on the back side to reinforce the splice is that even if the foil splice falls off in the future, the tape will not get eaten by your machine.

If the foil splice is already broken it can be a bit more of a challenge to repair. If you're really lucky both ends of the tape will still be accessible. Carefully get both ends and put a new piece of foil sensing tape where the old splice was. Make sure the new foil splice is approximately the same length as the original. A "too long" or "too short" splice will cause your player to change more than one program. If one or both ends of the tape are inside the cartridge then you'll have to open the cartridge. This can be easy or difficult depending on the design of the cartridge. The tools you will need for opening the majority of cartridges are a small straight blade screwdriver and a butter knife. Use the screwdriver to carefully exert pressure on the tabs that hold the cartridge together and then insert the knife into the seam of the cartridge. Gently pry the cartridge open as you put pressure on the tabs holding the tape case together. If all goes well it should pop open. Keep the bottom of the cartridge facing down. Be careful not to dump the contents of the cartridge out. Find the ends of the tape, straighten out any twists and make your splice repair. Then, pull the tape from the side opposite the rubber roller until most of the slack is taken up. Get the tape back in place in the cartridge, replace the foam pad if it doesn't bounce back when you push on it (pad replacement is explained in another section), and carefully put the cartridge back together.

You now have a repaired 8-track.

With the foil tape crisis upon us, trackers have gotten creative with coming up with a foil tape replacement. Here are a few suggestions I've received;

Drew Witte writes;
"Dear George, I love your page. I e-mailed you to tell you about a new technique I discovered on how to fix the splice if you can't buy any factory made foil. I use double sided poster tape. On one side I put aluminium foil and stick it to the 8-track tape with the other side."

Claude E. Mounce has this suggestion;
"I'm new to the 8 track field--bought a Rolls Royce with an 8 track player and had nothing to play. Anyway, to repair the metallic splice I have had success using metallic duct tape. It's aluminum, 2 inches wide, and a roll of 10 yards cost about \$4. The only problem--minor--is cutting the tape to 1/4 inch strips. Works great and can repair about 2000 tapes with one roll."

Great suggestions guys! Give them a try and let me know how they work for you.

One more thing before we go onto the next topic. The preceding instructions refer to the splice repair in a stereo 8-track cartridge. But what if you also collect stereo 4-track cartridges? The 4-track cart is the predecessor to the 8-track. Invented by Earl "Madman" Muntz, the 4-track was the first continuous cartridge format that allowed people to take their favorite tunes on the road. The carts look similar to an 8-track with a couple of notable differences. If you look at the back side of a 4-track cart you will notice a large hole in the upper right corner. 4-track carts do not have a rubber or plastic roller. The 4-track players have the capstan roller built into them. Also, you will notice that a 4-track only has listing for two rather than four programs. So, one side of the album is recorded on each program. None of that annoying track changing in the middle of songs that the 8-track was so notorious for. The 4-track carts will not play in an 8-track player. They need a special 4-track player. They're pretty tough to find. There were some later models of 4-track machines that were switchable for both 4 and 8 track playback. Assuming you have a player to play these carts, you might notice a few things. First, your tapes probably won't changes tracks at the end of the program. The reason for this is that early 4-track tapes contained no foil splice to trigger a track change. They had to be changed manually. If you want to add a foil splice it is easiest if you have a little device known as a 8-track playback adapter. This is a little capstan wheel with a plastic backing that pops in the hole on the back of the cart. It is supposed to enable you to play 4-tracks in 8-track players, but the best use I've found for it is in repairing 4-tracks. Stop you tape at the end of a program, pop the 8-track adapter in the 4-track cart and add a foil splice. Wheel the splice so it's positioned directly over the adapter wheel and press firmly on the splice. Now your 4-track will change tracks automatically the next time you play it.

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How do I repair rotten foam pads?

The foam pad is the other most common repair you must make. If your 8-track has foam pads, chances are it will need replacing. If it has the metal spring with felt pads, just check to make sure the felt pads are intact. If they're not, cut a new piece of felt and glue it on the metal spring. Foam pads can be checked by pushing down on them with your finger. If they spring right back they don't need replacement. If they have no spring in them they need replaced. "Why?," you may be asking. Bad pads can cause several problems. Often a tape will play back with a very muffled sound if the pads are bad. Sometimes the sound will sort of fade in and out if the pads are bad. Another common problem is crosstalk between channels. So, even though it's a hassle, change those pads!


The easiest way to replace your pads is to purchase new pads. A fellow tracker manufactures his own and they're just like the real thing. Unfortunately, the link I had to the website where these can be ordered is now a dead link. I will do some research and when I find a new link I'll post it here.

The best makeshift replacement for foam pads is foam weather-stripping. What you need is 1/4" foam weather-stripping. If you're lucky you may actually be able to find it. I have never been able to find weather-stripping this narrow. So, I buy 1/2" weather-stripping and carefully cut it in half. Be sure not to get weather-stripping that has really stiff foam. I made this mistake and repaired about 300 cartridges before I discovered that the stiff foam didn't allow the tape to play back properly in some players. Try to find foam that is approximately the same consistency as the foam from a good 8-track. Most recently I have tried open cell foam. It seems to work pretty well, but it doesn't seem to be quite stiff enough. Check at your local hardware store and you should be able to come up with something that will work.

Once you have your foam the actual repair is pretty easy. You will have to open the top portion of the cartridge. The repair can usually be made without completely opening the cartridge. Open the top half until it's wide enough to get the foam pad out. Do not discard the plastic strip from the foam pad. Scrape the old foam off the pad and save the plastic strip. Cut a piece of foam weather-stripping the same length as plastic strip. Peel the paper off the weather-stripping and press it in place on the clean side of the plastic strip, leaving the dirty side down. You'll notice that there is a clear strip of tape on all factory foam strips. I have not really been able to successfully duplicate that slick, smooth plastic strip that is adhered to factory pressure pads. Audio splicing tape has the right smoothness, but is not sticky enough to adhere to the foam. So, I've given up trying to put any sort of smooth covering on the foam pad and just use it as-is. It works just fine.
Line the strip up where it fits in the cartridge container and see if you need to cut a slit in the middle of it to allow it to fit properly in place.

Place the foam pad back into the cartridge case. Carefully, close the cartridge.

Recently, I've become a little less fussy about how I replace pads. If you have a cart that is really going to be a struggle to open, consider this alternative method. Leave the cart together. Using a butter knife, pull up a couple inches of tape on one side of the top of the cart. Pull out the rotten pad with a screwdriver or some other blunt object. Scrape the surface of the hard strip the foam was mounted to. Clean out all that foam debris the best you can. Then move to the other side of the cart and pull up some tape to access the foam pad on that side. Repeat the process and pull all that old rotted foam out of the cart and scrape off the plastic strip as best you can. Once you have the old foam out, cut a piece of weather stripping just big enough to fit in one side of the opening at the top of the cart. Pull up some tape to give you access to position the foam. Line it up in the middle and then press the adhesive side in place on the hard plastic strip. Repeat the step on the other side with another piece of weatherstripping. When you are finished you have a foam pad on each side of the opening at the top of the cart and it will play great, plus, you never even had to open the cart!

I do have a couple other sources for pre-manufactured foam pads. They are actually for the old radio station broadcast-style carts. The design is slightly different than the traditional 8 track pad, but they work great.


They are also a little spendy, but not a huge cost for the convenience of saving one of your favorite tapes. If you would like to purchase new pads you will need to contact these companies for their current prices. Here is the contact info;
Advance Recording Products
8859 Balboa Avenue #E
San Diego, CA 92123
858-277-2540
advance@tapeweb.com
or;
JOA Online
888 562 8273
joaonline.com

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What if I break the cartridge when I open it?

Try to be very patient and very careful when you open the plastic tape cartridges. With care, most of them won't break. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you will accidently break some of the tabs off that hold the cart together. This may cause the top of the cartridge or a corner to be loose and open. Some people just put a piece of Scotch tape on the edge of the cart to hold it together. I think this is a very nasty, ugly way to repair a cart. It works, but it doesn't look very good. A much better method is to use a couple of small blobs of glue from a hot glue gun. Do not use Super Glue! Glue guns are the little pistol-like guns that hobbyists use for working on crafts. They take a cylindrical glue cartridge that the gun heats up. Anyway, heat up the glue gun, put a couple of small drops of glue on the loose edge or edges of the cart. Don't get carried away with the glue. You don't want to glue your audio tape to the inside edge of the cart. With a couple of small drops of glue on the edges, quickly press the cart together. Hold it closed for about 30 seconds until the glue hardens. You will probably have a bit of a glue blob dried on the outside edge of the cart when you're done. Use your fingernail and scrape that off. Your cart is now repaired. The nice thing is that it is a neat repair and it can be opened fairly easily if you ever need to get into that cart again.

You will find that there are numerous cart styles. Each of which involves its own specific methods of opening. However, some are more puzzling than others. Newcomers to 8-track repair are sometimes baffled when they encounter an RCA cart. These carts were sealed shut with a rivet placed in the backside of the cart. I have always taken what I consider the easy way out when repairing these carts. I carefully drill thru the head of the rivet with a drill. Then I carefully pry the cart apart to make the repair. The rivet (minus it's head) is saved to insert back into the cart when the repair is finished. I use a couple small drops of glue from a glue gun to hold the cart together. The rivet head is also covered with a blob of hot glue.
Tracker John Winnard offers this neater method of repairing the RCA cart;

BEFORE you do any obvious drilling, altering, etc. You might try this method.
You will need......
Soldering Iron
Clothes Pin
Center Punch
Small hammer.

Plug in your soldering iron, and let it warm up. Turn the tape you are about to remove the rivet from face down on a table top. Compress a clothes pin and while the clothes pin is squeezed open, insert the 'handles' of the clothes pin inside the open end of the cart. The clothes pin will apply > pressure to both halves of the cart. NOW, using no pressure, let the soldering iron rest on top of the rivet.
When the rivet reaches the correct temp, the clothes pin will force the two cart halves open. When the cart halves separate, turn the cart over with the label facing up, and open the cart.
Do necessary repairs to the cart, (splice, etc. ) then put the two halves together.
NOW turn the cart face down again, with the rivet up, and GENTLY tap the rivet back into place with the center punch, and hammer.
Nobody will ever know the tape was opened.

There are other specific carts that are particularly challenging to open. One brand of cart that is particularly troublesome is the "Module 8" style cart. To identify a Module 8 cart, turn the cart over. Module 8 is imprinted on the back side. Here is advice on how to open these carts courtesy of Poodlebutt;

Module 8's do suck, and they are a pain in the ass. I take the screwdriver end of a Swiss army knife (= thin, narrow flathead screwdriver blade); then, looking into the open end, I use the screwdriver to push back the backing of the rotten pad, so that I can eyeball the sliver of plastic tab that is visible in the slot. With a steady hand, press the edge of the screwdriver blade against the tab and push hard, the aim being to dislodge the tab from the slot, obviously. Either you'll get lucky, you'll break the tab, or you'll break the tiny plastic "bridge" that makes the slot functional. As long as the tab isn't completely broken off, it will usually work (I fixed a Bo Diddley "Black Gladiator" today where I broke 80% of the tab off, but it still locks shut). Then, jimmy down along the sides to try to pop off the other two tabs. It's always better, if possible, to foist the risk onto the bottom part, since they can of course be taken from other carts (i.e. no rear labels on these fellers). Module 8 spare parts are always worth saving. I have often found myself kicking my own ass for passing up a perfectly good Module 8 parts cart at the Goodwill, only to find myself vividly recalling it three nights later when I've broken the bottom piece of one I'm trying to salvage.
Thanks for those poetic words of advice. Now go out there and tear into a cartridge or two.

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How do I repair gummy rubber rollers?

Gummy rollers are a fairly common problem, especially with Lear Jet brand cartridges, the hardest cartridges to open. A detailed description of how to open a Lear Jet cartridge can be found at 8-Track Heaven.

Once you figure out how to get the cart open you need to carefully get that roller out of the cart. There is going to be lots of black gunk all over your tape and the tape case. Clean this off very thoroughly using isopropyl alcohol. Try to get a strong mixture, like 99% isopropyl alcohol. Isopropyl alcohol is a great cleaning agent. Get the tape and tape case very clean.

After you've cleaned up the mess you will need a replacement roller. If you can salvage a roller that fits from an 8-track you don't want, that is the easiest way to make the repair. Be sure the roller you replace is exactly the same diameter as the one you took out.

These specific carts have been suggested as appropriate donor carts for rollers;
1. 70's RCA Carts-grey plastic rollers
2. Ampex 381 Blank
3. Scotch 90 blank -(with "ribbed" back )
4. Recoton / Dynapak

I have personally tried the RCA plastic rollers and they work perfectly. Many thrift stores mark down their items weekly. Wait until the Mario Lanza and Lawrence Welk RCA carts are next to nothing and stock up. Tear them apart, save the plastic roller and metal pressure pad for future repairs. If you live in some God forsaken little town where you can't find donor carts, you'll have to find some kind of material to replace the rubber roller on the hard plastic core that you took out of the cartridge. Clean all the gunk off the hard plastic core. I have tried several things to replace that rubber roller with. None of them have been 100% successful. I have tried automobile heater hose, large clear aquarium tubing and I am convinced that large surgical tubing would work very well if I could find it. If you discover something that works, please let me know.


UPDATE!
Dan Gibson of "The Track Shack" says,"Try the replacement rubber spindle for a Ryobi oscillating table mounted sander. I have tried this and it does work. The rubber thingie is the right shape as a replacement roller, but it is about 6" long. You can cut off pieces and use them. I found them at my local Lowe's Store. Dan2

Fellow tracker, Bryan Welsh, sent this advice on how to deal with the gummy roller issue;

"I was checking out your FAQ. Concerning Lear Jet cartridges, I found that the best thing to do is to scrap the whole cart itself and transfer the tape spool into a donor cart. One good reason is that once you've opened up the Lear Jet cart its kinda ruined. The other thing is that you'll spend alot of time cleaning the goo and then you still have to devise a way to replace the roller. Now I did find that newer Ampex carts have a roller that will fit into the older Lear Jets. I've tried other rollers but nothing works right and I still haven't found an easy way myself to replace the rubber on the Lear Jets. Now, not all carts will work on the Lear Jet spools, you'll have to find one that will allow the spool to spin freely on the center pin. I spent all night once trying to file down a pin on a cart just so I could get the spool to spin easy. So, now what about the label? Well, Ive found that most labels on the Lear Jets carts aren't adhered very well and will usually peel right off. If not, you can put a little steam to it and with a little patience and care it'll come off in one piece. You might have to back it with another piece of paper to make it sturdy again though. Peel the other label off the donor cart and stick your label on with a glue stick. Good as new. I just did a Doors cart and put in a newer Ampex cart (best donor to use Ive found) and it works looks like new. Ive also got something else for you. I had a Black Sabbath cart that was real noisy, not musically but mechanically. The spool was making noise on the pin. I took it apart and used just a tiny bit of petroleum jelly on the pin and the noise went away."

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Is there any hope for wrinkled, scrunched tape ?

Actually, yes. You will need to get the wrinkled portion of tape out of the cartridge. You may be able to do this by carefully pulling it out. If it's a real tangled mess you may have to open the cartridge and carefully untangle it. The wrinkles can be removed with an iron.

Set the iron on Low heat. There are a couple of methods that I have heard about and tried. They both seem to work.

One method suggests that you place the tape on a hard surface, cover it with thin paper, and then iron the paper over the top of the tape until the wrinkles are removed.

The second method suggest that you hold the section of damaged tape in your hands and actually pull it across the edge of the warm iron. I have tried this method also and it seems to work very well.

Obviously, the key is to get the iron at the correct temperature. Too hot and it will actually melt the tape. Too cool and the wrinkles don't come out.

You might want to do some experimenting with temperatures on a tape that you don't care about. The final results are very good. You usually can't tell the tape was even damaged.

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How do I repair a tape that has broken somewhere other than at the splice ?

If your tape has broken somewhere other than at the foil splice, then the first thing you should be concerned about is your tape player. There’s no good reason for a tape to be broken by a player. I would hesitate playing any tapes in a player that has physically broken a tape. That said, you still need to repair that broken tape. My first piece of advice is to salvage all the tape if possible. If the tape hasn’t been stretched beyond the point of repair, plan to iron out the wrinkles on both ends on either side of the break. If the tape is absolutely ruined, you will have to extract a chunk of it. This is really a last resort because you will now have a missing chunk of audio in your tape. I will always opt for a slightly muffled section of audio over a missing section of audio.

A good investment for anyone repairing tapes is a splicing block. These can be purchased at Radio Shack for a couple of bucks. They hold your tape in place in a grooved channel that allows you to align the tape ends perfectly. If you need to cut the tape, they allow you to make a perfect splice that can be taped back together. Once you have straightened out your tape or cut it as needed, place the two ends in the splicing block. You want the underside of the tape facing upwards. This is the side opposite where the foil splice is placed. You want to make your splice on the underside, not the topside of the tape. Make certain there are no twists in the tape before you make the splice. To make the splice you will want to use something like Scotch 41 Splicing Tape (Cat. No. 41- 7/32 – 66) . Not certain where you find this. You should be able to find it at an audio specialty store. You can also order a variety of splicing products from US Media Recording on the web. Align the two ends of the tape in your splicing block and make certain they are butted together with no gaps. Carefully place a small piece of tape over the break or cut in the tape and press into place. Feed the tape back into the cart and you’re ready to play it again. Just be sure you’ve resolved the problem with the tape munching machine before attempting to play it.

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Why does my tape sound weird when it plays ?

There are several reasons for playback problems. Some of them are due to your tapes and some of them are due to the tape player.

If you can hear more than one song playing at once, you should first check the tape. This can sometimes be caused by bad foam pads. Confirm whether it is a tape problem or a machine problem by playing several tapes. If you can hear more than one song when you play all of them then your tape player's head need alignment.

Aligning the head is very easy. Sometimes there will be a small access hole in your tape player housing that allows you to insert a small straight blade screwdriver to make the head adjustment. If there isn't an adjustment hole you will have to take the case off the tape player. Just take out the screw in the case and the tape player should slip out.

Being very careful not to electrocute yourself, keep the tape player hooked to your stereo system and play a tape. The adjustment screw is located near the top of your playback head. If you see a screw, try turning it and see if it makes a difference in playback. You will have to be sure that you know what song is supposed to be playing on the program that is selected. It is possible to adjust the playback head too far so that it will actually playback program 2 when program 1 is selected. Turn the screw until you no longer hear another song playing in the background. You will want to wait until the silence between two songs to confirm that you have adjusted the head properly. That's when you can most easily hear a song from another program playing faintly in the background. Keep adjusting the screw until you there is silence between songs.

If the music is very muffled there are a couple of things you can check. Once again, bad foam pads can cause muffled playback. Make certain you have a good tape with good pads to make this test. Next, if the pads are good and it still sounds muffled, check to see if the tape is flipped upside down in the cart. This is a more common problem than you might expect. The tape at the top of the cart opening should usually be a brown color. The underside is a dark grey. If you see the shiny dark grey side facing up, then somehow the tape got flipped upside down in the cart. You will have to open up the cart, very likely make a cut in the tape, and then unwind the upside down tape until you find the twist. Wind it back onto the reel with the brown side up, splice the tape with audio splicing tape and you'll be ready to rock.

If your tape is good then the most likely reason for muffled sound is a dirty playback head. Cleaning tapes are all right for periodic maintenance, but for the initial cleaning you need to give it a good cleaning with 99% isopropyl alcohol. Get some Q-Tips with long wooden handles on them so you can reach inside the machine to the head. Soak the Q-Tip in isopropyl alcohol and swab down the head until all visible residue is removed. Clean the capstan post and tape guides also.

There are a variety of cleaning cartridges that can be used for future cleanings.

If the sound fades in and out then it is very likely that you need to replace your foam pads on your cartridge. This is the only thing I know of that causes this condition.

If you have a problem with your tapes playing too fast, too slow, or at variable speeds, chances are that your belt is worn and needs to be replaced. Get the exact model number from your 8 track player and check with an electronic supply company to see if a replacement belt is available. You may have to do a bit of hunting. If you find one, remove the case from your 8 track player, take the old belt off and replace it with the new one. It should solve your playback problems.

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Where can I buy new blank 8-track or reel to reel tape for making my own recordings?

Unfortunately, blank 8-track tapes for recording have not been sold in decades. If you are dead set on finding new "old stock," then your best bet would be to run a "wanted" ad on one of the 8-track sites. Don't count on finding large quantities of these original blank tapes. They are fairly rare. Also, keep in mind that even if you happen to find some sealed 8-track blanks, they will still have the same problems as old pre-recorded tapes. It is likely that the pads will be rotten and the splice will need replacing. Also, they could have some tension problems from being kicked around for years. So be prepared to do some repairs.

Some people like to do back up recordings onto 1/4" reel to reel tape. Fortunately, there are still many companies that manufacture reel to reel audio tape. Here are a few places to order audio tape online. Prices typically range from about $4 to $15 per reel, depending on brand and quality.
www.deltamedia.com
www.prodataplus.com

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How do I clean scroungy tape cartridges ?

I don't know what on earth people did with some of the cartridges I've found, but I barely want to touch some of them, let alone play them. I have found that 99% isopropyl alcohol makes a great cleaning agent for the tape cartridges. Don't use it on the labels, just the plastic cartridge case! Get a wad of toilet paper, put some isopropyl alcohol on it and scrub the case. It removes all the dirt and black marks from the tape player. They come out looking very nice.

If a label is completely loose and almost ready to fall off, carefully peel it the rest of the way off. Place the label on a hard surface, spray it very lightly with water and iron it with an iron on Low heat. It will completely flatten the wrinkles! Be careful not to iron it for too long a period or you may seal it to the surface you are ironing it on. I usually iron, peel it carefully off the surface, move it to another spot and iron it some more until all the moisture is out of it.

You can then turn the label upside down, cover the back completely with glue from a glue stick and carefully press it back into place on your cartridge. It's usually a big improvement. I emphasize that this only works on a few labels that are practically ready to fall off already. Don't make the situation worse by trying to pull off a label that is still too tightly adhered to the cartridge.

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Where do I find technical information on how to repair my 8 track equipment?

There are a few sites on the internet that sell service manuals and owners manuals for many brands of 8 track equipment, quad equipment, reel to reel and classic receivers. It used to be that your only option was to purchase manuals. However, with the advent of the internet, there are some great websites that offer free downloadable owners manuals and service manuals for vingage gear. Hopefully, they will have what you are looking for. Check them out at the following links;

Hifi-manuals.com / Downloadable Service & Owners Manuals

Manual-Buddy.com / Downloadable Service & Owners Manuals
If you don't find what you are looking for at either of these sites, there are still some old school vendors who sell hard copies of manuals. I have checked into purchasing manuals from these sites and have been quoted prices ranging from $18 to $35 plus shipping. Depending on the manual you are looking for the price may be more or less. These are sometimes originals, but typically will be xerox copies. Here are the web addresses;
Stout & Associates Stereo Manuals (Also Quad Manuals)

A. G. Tannenbaum / Service & Owners Manuals

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Where can I get my 8 track equipment repaired?

I've recently updated this section after receiving an email from Barry of Barry's 8-Track Repair. He makes a very good point. In this day and age the likelihood of finding an electronics service techician at a local repair shop that has any clue of how to fix an 8-track player is very unlikely. As Barry stated in his email to me, "A typical TV or other consumer electronics repair shop WON'T do a good job on an 8 track player, and they will charge the customer an arm and a leg for poor service. They are set up for newer electronics, which pretty much means board swapping to save troubleshooting time. These digital-immersed guys have never taken apart a motor or even sized a belt in most cases. They will spend tremendous amounts of time learning how the unit is supposed to work, and they will have NO service documentation. One of my customers paid $400 to an audio specialist to diagnose a bad playback head - something that takes me 30 seconds once the unit is open."
So, the lesson here is that you'd be far better off trusting your equipment to someone who has a thorough knowledge and love of vintage gear. My suggestion is that you get in touch with Barry if you have any equipment repair needs. Please keep in mind, Barry operates an equipment repair business. He is not in business to dispense free advice and to offer appraisals of how much your vintage equipment is worth. However, he will advise you if a certain piece of equipment that you have is worth investing the money in repairing properly. I think it is fantastic that there is someone out there with the knowledge and passion to keep this vintage gear operating.
Barry's 8-Track Repair
Barry's is the only dedicated 8-Track repair shop to offer a lifetime warranty. Barry has more than 35 years of experience in the repair of vintage electronics. In addition to repairing your equipment Barry offers fully refurbished equipment for sale. Check out his website for lots of great stuff.

Vintage Electronics
Another online repair shop to check out.

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I need a new belt for my 8 track player. Where do I find one?

If you happen to own a Sears model 8 track component you may be able to find a new belt through Sears 800 number for parts. At least you could years ago. I have not tried in quite a few years. Be sure to have the exact model number of your 8 track player available. If they run into deadends suggest that they check the microfisch records. That's how they finally had to track down a replacement belt for me, but that was years ago and you may not get someone to go to this much trouble today. It took me about 4 calls before I got a person that suggested searching via this method. So, if they say they don't have it, don't believe them. See if you can find someone else to talk to.
I haven't tried Radio Shack for replacement belts, but my guess is that they might still stock them. Try your local Radio Shack store or call their 800 number. 1 800 THE SHACK. They have an internet site where you can request information about the availability of parts. Their site is here; Radio Shack
If you have one of a zillion other brands of 8 track players you can give this place a try. It's called Premium Parts Plus. They have an internet site where you can order parts directly. The URL is; www.prbline.com Their email address is; info@prbline.com Their 800 number is; 1 800 558 9572. They also have a cross reference guide available for \$4.25. It will allow you to look up your replacement parts yourself. They have a minimum order of $10, so get together all your lists of needed parts before you call. Their prices are reasonable. I recently found a belt for a Panasonic 8 Track player available thru them for $2.40.
Another place that carries a variety of replacement belts is Projector/Recorder Belt Co. If you provide them with the manufacturer and model number of your 8 track machine they can check and see if they have a belt in stock. They don't have a website, but their phone number and fax number are; 1-414-473-2151 (phone) 800 635 8101 (fax).
Just found another site on the internet that sells belts for 8-track equipment. Problem is, it doesn't appear that they cross reference them by the model of your player/recorder. They ask you to measure the belt. Since your belt may have turned to goo or is stretched far larger than its original size, I'm not certain this site will be helpful for all. But if you can't find any other source for belt replacement, you might give them a try. Their URL is; http://www.ceitron.com/passive/belt.html
Here's a new source for belts I was just informed about;
TRI-STATE ELECTRONICS
200 W.NORHTWEST HWY
MT.PROSPECT,IL.60056-1391
PHONE #847.255.0600
www.tselectronic.com
MODEL # WILL HELP,RADIUS LENGTH WILL ALSO HELP.
BELT PART #FRM11.0 WILL FIT WELTRONS 2001 AND AQUATRONS.
BELT PART #FRM11.2 WILL FIT PANASONIC PLUNGERS...GOOD LUCK!!

I have had fairly good luck finding replacement belts at a small independent electronics repair store in my area. These type of repairmen work on so many different types of equipment that they just may still have belts available for your 8 track player. Luckily, the belts from 8 track players are also used on other electronic equipment.
Good Luck


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Is there any way of removing permanent ink marks from my 8 track equipment?

Funny you should ask. Actually, yes there is. I'm not sure if any of you have ever purchased any audio equipment from Goodwill Industries, but Goodwill takes pride in pricing their audio components by placing the price on the item in giant permanent ink marks. I guess it's so you can proudly say, "I buy all my audio gear from Goodwill!"
This tip on how to remove those or any other permanent ink marks comes courtesy of my son David who discovered that if you write on a permanent ink mark with a dry erase marker you can remove the permanent mark. With your dry erase marker saturate a section of the permanent ink mark by writing over it. Very quickly wipe the area off with a moist cloth or a cloth with a bit of isopropyl alcohol on it. Continue writing over sections of the permanent mark until it is all gone. It works great!


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What is the difference between an 8-track cartridge and a 4-track cartridge?

The 4-track cartridge is the predecessor of the 8-track cart. It was developed and marketed for use in automobiles by Earl "Madman" Muntz. Muntz also manufactured his own line of 4-track cartridges. What are the differences between the two audio cartridges? Well, first of all, a 4-track cart will only play in a 4-track player designed specifically to play 4-tracks. There were some player units made to play both 4 & 8 track carts. These had a switch on the unit where you selected either 4 or 8-track playback. A 4-track cart uses the same 1/4" recording tape used in an 8-track cart. However, in a 4-track cart there are only two stereo channels recorded on the tape. Two stereo channels = 4 tracks. The 8-track cart takes that same tape and records four stereo channels on the tape. Four stereo channels = 8 tracks. As a result, the 4-track is a higher audio quality recording and has only two programs vs four programs on the 8-track cart. Another benefit of the 4-track is that since the contents are recorded in two programs just like the Side A and Side B of an album, there is not the annoying possibility of the notorious track changes mid-song as is often experienced on an 8-track cart. If there are any downsides to the 4-track it's that you can only select between two programs vs four on the 8-track.
So, how do you identify a 4-track cart? First of all, there are only two programs listed on the label vs four programs listed on an 8-track. Second, the 4-track cart has no rubber or plastic roller. Instead, on the reverse side of the cart there is actually a round hole in the top right corner of the cart. The 4-track player has a built in roller instead of including the roller in the cart.



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How do I repair my 2 track Playtapes?

Playtapes are the tiny 2 track versions of 8-tracks. They are prone to the same problems 8-track cartridges have, but more difficult to repair because of their tiny size. There is a great article on 8trackheaven.com outlining in detail how to repair these little carts. You can find the article here; www.8trackheaven.com/playtaperepair.html


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What exactly is quadraphonic?

It occurred to me recently that not everyone that is a current 8-track fan was around for the birth and death of the quadraphonic recording format. Quadraphonic audio was an early 1970's invention. Basically, quad is dividing up the audio recording into four separate channels rather than the conventional two programs for stereo. That's why it's also described as surround sound. The idea was to surround the listener with the sounds of the recording, making it more of a concert hall type of experience.
Quad is very cool. I have gotten back into collecting the quadraphonic 8-tracks and have amassed a pretty good collection. They still sound great to me. But as a commercial format in the early 70's, quad was destined for failure. The main problem was that the predominant format of that era was the vinyl LP. A standardized method of decoding the quadraphonic info from records was never established. Instead, there were several competing methods that were used to create a four channel sound from a record groove.
Also, quadraphonic for home use required a significant investment in hardware. Four speakers, a four channel amplifier and decoder. It's a concept the world just wasn't prepared to accept in the 70's. And, as it goes with many good ideas, quad was short lived.

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