Cleaning the Tape Capstan

The TRV900 has the potential to cause you trouble if you allow tape residue to build up on the capstan, or other parts of the tape path. One problem this can cause is "tape crinkle", especially during rewind near the end of a cassette. It can also cause a tape jam during playback or when recording. I had a tape jam on June 2nd '00, while I was recording a live performance, causing me great annoyance. I believe the problem was caused by residue or gunk build-up from previous tapes, and I could have easily cleaned the tape path beforehand, probably avoiding the problem, if I'd been paying attention to my camera. Below I describe what I did, after the fact, and I recommend you check for this build-up situation before you take any video that is important to you.  Note: this issue also affects other cameras, see for example my VX2000 capstan.

A. INSPECT: Open the tape compartment and look inside, as shown in the images below. Toward the back end of the camera is a metal cylinder, the capstan. This drives the tape during record and playback. In operation, the tape is squeezed between the capstan and the larger diameter rubber pinch roller (down and to the left in the photo- see also tape path illustration and this cleaning page). The blue arrow points to a dark ring at the bottom end of the capstan, which if present, can and eventually will cause a problem. You can have the camera professionally cleaned, or if you are confident of your skills, you can clean it yourself in a few minutes as described below. Note; if you have doubts, and your warranty is still valid, feel free not to do this yourself. (my camera is out of warranty, and besides I'm impatient).


B. CLEAN: If you observe such a ring of gunk buildup on your camera, here's what to do. First, arm yourself with alcohol or special no-residue cleaning solution, and a lint-free chamois or foam-tipped swab, or other small cleaning tool as shown here. I used Radio Shack "Mini Foam Swabs (pkg.10)", RS#44-1001 along with "Professional Tape Head Cleaner" solution, RS#44-1115D (which according to the label is just a mixture of alcohols). Some people recommend cotton swabs, but be extra careful not to leave any cotton threads or lint behind in the mechanism, if you use those. Note, this page just describes my own procedure; a general cleaning approach from a more experienced technician is described here.

Make sure you have good light on your work surface. I used my kitchen table covered with a clean sheet. It is possible to clean the capstan without taking the tape door off, but it's easer if you do remove it. Just unscrew the two screws, and put them someplace safe! Lift the tape door off and inspect the mechanism (see below).

The blue arrow again points to the brownish ring of gunk, which being somewhat sticky can grab the tape and cause havoc. A foam swab moistened with the alcohol solution removed it very easily. By turning a foam swab inserted between the capstan and the metal part behind it, I was able to rotate the capstan shaft slightly and thus clean all around it. I also noticed a small fabric thread had somehow fallen into the tape compartment, which I removed with non-magnetic tweezers (don't get anything magnetic near the tape head drum, the large grooved cylinder at the left in the photo above).

After cleaning the capstan and any of the tape guides which aren't sparkling clean, give the area some puffs with a lens duster-bulb or can of compressed air. This evaporates any alcohol, and disperses any dust. Check again that there is no lint or dust left inside, and replace the tape door. It has two tabs which fit into the metal bracket on the lower side (toward the bottom surface of the camera). Note, when you seat the screws firmly the tape door will still seem loose and it can be rattled slightly. This is normal, believe it or not. Now you're done! Go forth and shoot video.

Back to TRV900 Cleaning and Maintenance