Rescue Your Awesome Analog Treasures from Moldy Malfunction: THE SEQUEL! Chip Parton and SinsofCinema.com is back with even more tips on how to keep your VHS minty clean!
So you’ve gone through the process of cleaning the whole film from start to finish as outlined in part one, and there’s still mold on your tape. Again, if its large areas affected, it’s probably never going to clean up - but if it’s the “mold dots” and they don’t want to go away, they’re on the clear plastic spool that houses the precious magnetic film. Spool mold is by far the lesser of the two evils, but more complex to correct. For some reason, the mold will eat into the plastic almost twice as fast and viciously as the tape. I have no clue why this is, and in all honesty it’s a blessing; but you’re still left with the task of fixing it.
IT MUST BE ERADICATED! DESTROY, DESTROY, DESTROY!
DISCLAIMER: As stated the first go around, I am not responsible if you royally fuck your shit up. Again I will be using an expensive tape, Deadly Prey, to show that if done correctly there are no negative results to fear. If you feel you’d like some practice first, either use a tape you don’t care about or a blank.
READ EVERYTHING IN THIS TUTORIAL BEFORE ATTEMPTING! The good news is this is not hard to fix in the least; the bad news is it requires complete disassembly of the tape. If you follow these instructions you should be able to perform the open heart surgery like a pro. In addition to the materials noted last time, you’re going to need scissors, a screwdriver with interchangeable heads (one a small flat head, the other a medium sized cross), and a blank tape. There is a chance of breaking the blank tape in this process, so having a few on hand wouldn’t hurt at all.
Ready to defeat that malicious mold and dig on some DEADLY PREY. Well... almost... First, down to biz-nass.
Leaving the cover off the VCR so you can watch the tape inside, rewind the VHS until you see the clear plastic “anchor” attached to the spool. Some VCRs will wind the tape back to the very beginning of the film, which is not a problem. Eject the tape, flip it on its face, and unscrew the five screws holding the casing together. Now flip the VHS over to where it’s face up, pop open the top guard, and lift the top cover off. Don’t worry, there are no loose parts to fall out, everything is secured in place. If there’s a sticker on the side you’re going to have to cut it in half, but ones on the bottom can be saved. Just flip the top section of the VHS south and fold the sticker in on its self.
Make sure you hit all these bad boys with the screw driver. One false move, and that tape will snappity-snap and that would suckity-suck, indeed.
You’re going to notice several pieces making up the assembly. There’s the locking mechanism in the bottom center, the two tape spools, the feed rollers, and the “mud flap”. If this is the first time you’ve been into a VHS and you have a camera handy I highly suggest you snap a few photos of these components to make re-assembly a breeze. If the tape isn’t all the way unwound, put your finger on the locking device and pivot it towards you. You’ll see the two arms connected to it open from the notches on the spools. Now slowly use your other hand to unwind a few inches of tape, and then reel it on to the other spool. You need to do this until you completely run out of free tape to use and are left with the clear plastic starter visible.
Und hurr we have zee vorking partsh of dee VEE-AITCH-ESH tape. Yesh, they ist most incturresting and vital to thish opera-shun... You know I had to put the foreign mad doctor bit in here somewhere...Und herest more!
Notice the two metal cylinders and a single plastic one that control the feed of the film. PAY ATTENTION TO HOW THE TAPE IS WEAVED THROUGH THEM! Remove them and place them in a little bowl of alcohol to soak. Now gently life the two spools out evenly so the tape doesn’t get wrinkled. Set them on a flat surface with room to work. You’re going to need to use a small flat headed screwdriver to pop out the spool anchor clip. Wedge it in the grove where the spool and clip join and pop the clip out, then discard the old spool. Don’t even try to clean it- the mold has eaten in too deep and you’re wasting your time. Use scissors to cut the creased end off the clear plastic tape, and set the spool aside. Now open your blank tape the same way and do the same thing, freeing one spool. On your moldy tape it doesn’t matter the condition of the spool, but you need to be gentle with the replacement from the blank. Make sure you do not break, crack, or mar the replacement spool or lose the small clip that comes out.
Place the clear starter in the replacement spool and line it up with the notch the anchor clip goes in. I usually leave about 1/2 an inch poking out the side to ensure a good fit. Too little and it can slip out, too much and you’re wasting potential fixes in the future. Now place the clip in through the notch cut out in the clear plastic and align it with the grove it fits in. You’re not going to slide it in, you’re going to have to push it in. I have found the best way is to start one side in the notch with your finger and use the interchangeable screwdriver with no head (the flat surface won’t damage the plastic) and push in. This will take a good bit of force. This is the part where you can easily damage something. Just be as gentle as possible and don’t put the plastic in a bind at all. You’ll know it is properly secured when you hear a loud snap. No snap, no good. If it isn’t snapped in place and you play the tape, it could come loose and your VCR has just had lunch.
Flip the switch! No! Don't flip the switch! Wait... YES! Flip the switch! And now.... SWAB! VICTORY IS AT HAND!
Set the spools back in the case and tap the locks to let them back down. Now put the cylinders back in, make sure the tape is identical to how it was when you first cracked it open, and gently put the cover back on. Screw it back together and fast forward it to the very end. Now repeat this process with the second spool, give it another cleaning like mentioned in part one, and that’s it. You now have a VHS that is completely mold free. I suggest you celebrate with a nice beer. Victory is at last yours, and all those moldy motherfuckers know there’s a new sheriff in town.
Here are some important things to remember: Keep the screws and guide cylinders from each tape separate. Different VHS have different parts, and some are not interchangeable. Using the wrong cylinders can pitch the tape at an angle and cause your player to ruin it. Some tapes used fine threaded screws, some used wide. If you get these mixed up, you could crack the screw housing and completely ruin the tape.
MAKE SURE THE FILM IS PLACED BACK IN RIGHT! If the tape and cylinders are not placed back in the right positions you’re going to mulch the film. I use a Q-tip with the end broken off to help position the tape, the place the guides back in. The left side should go through the “mud flap” (which is just a little flap that wipes the tape clean) and a metal cylinder, and the right weaves between the second metal and plastic cylinder in an “S” pattern. If any of your replacement parts are damaged or scratched up, don’t use them. If you leave a big plastic bur poking out of the spool notch and expect it to proper hold your tape in place, it’s not. Obviously you’re using a screwdriver to pop these pieces apart and they sure as hell won’t come out looking brand new, but keep the condition as good as possible.
While you have the tape apart, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to wet a Q-tip with alcohol and thoroughly clean the inner housing, especially the inside part of the “windows”. You’d be amazed how nice you can make a tape look by just field stripping it and cleaning the hell out of it.
It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on tapes that have had mold at one point. We’re human and can make mistakes while cleaning, and that does mean you can miss a spot. If the mold is still living it can grow back, so just make sure it’s still disease free before you pop it in your good VCR. I’ve only had one case of mold coming back, and after cleaning the hell out of the tape again, it’s been free for months now.
HELL YES IT IS! DIG IT!
I learned almost all of this through experimentation, so I hope it helps you out. There is such limited information on tape repair other than “cut and scotch-tape the film back together” tutorials that I feel glad to have shared this knowledge with everyone. Hopefully my trial and error experiments will be put to good use and salvage your tapes from the brink of the garbage bin. And maybe you won’t have to mangle a dozen tapes to learn the proper way to repair them like I had to. There’s a mass grave of Sony SP blanks buried in my backyard. In Analog Glory, Chip Parton
Chip, the Videovores of the world SALUTE YOU! Huge hi-fives and infinite “Hell Yeah, Man!”s to Chip for his sage-like teachings on the path to keeping minty tapes. You can check out all of Chip’s other totally awesome endeavors on his site RIGHT HERE. Videovore Approved! Keep your tapes in good health and take them for a spin as frequently as possible. That VCR is HUNGRY!