Cleaning a Dogshit VCR

Over time I’ve taken in a small collection of VCRs and DVD players but never bothered to use them yet alone clean them. They were all received from people who no longer kept such media around. Most of them were defective and weren’t worth fixing to the original owners.

VCRs were mass-produced for a period of time until they were replaced by the DVD. As a result came a loss in quality, and a lot of broken VCRs. Nowadays, for the hobbyist or enthusiasts, it isn’t worthwhile to get it repaired (if one could even find a repair store nowadays…) and it’s more convenient to dish out $5 at the local thrift store to get a different preowned one.

I received this VCR with its box and remote. It was so intact that all the protective plastic film was still in place. Essentially, it was factory new apart from a few scratches.  The DVD player isn’t working and just displays an error whenever a disc is inserted. It’s also missing a face plate on the lower left, but everything else works fine.

Almost all of the components seem to be much more cramped than a standalone VHS player – the left side holds the faulty DVD player and the right side holds all of the typical tape playback functions. The factory grease along the roller guide tracks is surprisingly still intact – this player was barely used. The erase / audio head and capstan + pinch rollers were completely clean. Based on the condition of everything else, the risk of cleaning the drum wasn’t worth taking.

There was a lot of lithium grease that accumulated on the pickup rail. The laser diode seemed completely fine but it was cleaned with a bit of alcohol on a Q tip. I gave the rail a brief wipedown but I suspect it to be the reason why the DVD player refused to work – otherwise it would’ve been a burnt diode. Honestly too lazy and skill issued to replace it, we have a trillion DVD players anyways.

At this point I decided to crack open my other VCR. This one’s a standalone VHS player and is in working condition but has seen a pretty rough life – the outer case is generously scraped up and there was a thin layer of dust over the playback components. The pinch roller and audio / erase head were rather filthy though.

Whoever owned this before had opened it many times before and kept it in good shape – there were scratches around the screw hole and they lousily only left in a single screw out of all 7 holes… The belt was replaced and it rewound tapes like a beast compared to the silver shit box.

While I never managed to fix the DVD drive, it was a pretty interesting experience to open this up – My main intention with this midnight endeavour was to capture animation reference footage. Even though there are many videos on YouTube showcasing a VCR in action without its case on, it’s much more fascinating first hand, just like drawing from life instead of drawing from a reference photo.

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