How to Repair 8-Track Tapes like a Pro

Many of us are completely in love with those old 8-track tapes. Some enjoy the 8-track tapes as a part of their vintage cars; others collect 8-track tapes as the cheapest way to acquire vintage albums to transfer over to CD, and still other collect 8-track tapes because the players are a current fashion statement trend in many designer magazines.

I am a longtime 8-track tape collector and 8-track tape dealer. I collect simply because this is what I have always done. When cassettes replaced the 8-track tape, I just couldn’t bare to part with my 8-track tapes, so I recorded all of the new cassette music onto blank 8-track tapes and kept going with my hobby.

The biggest problem with 8-track tapes is that the original design of the tape made the 8-track tapes very unreliable when they were new, and these continuous loop tapes were always malfunctioning. Some of these 8-track tapes are now 50-years older than new. This means that every person who wants to enjoy 8-track tape collecting (or selling) must learn how to do some simple 8-track tape repairs.

Absolutely all of the old 8-tracks must be checked to see if they need repairs before you play them in your machine. This is true even with the brand new, still sealed, old 8-track tapes as well. These old 8-track tapes fall apart without needing to be out of their original wrappers.

What is an 8-track tape?

8-track tapes have a long piece of Ã?¼” tall tape that plays in a loop. This tape is like a freeway with eight lanes of traffic (or eight areas of music) running along the tape. This one long piece of tape is curled into the case and it forms a continuous loop. The tape is held together into a loop with a little piece of metal foil sticker called a splicing foil tab.

If your 8-track tape splicing foil tab comes apart while the 8-track tape cartridge is playing, that long piece of tape will unwind while it is playing into your machine. This creates a disaster inside of the machine, and your 8-track tape is normally trashed beyond repair.

8-track tapes have splicing foil tabs holding them into a loop. This loop of tape moves over a cushion pad, or pads, that you can see by looking into the top of the 8-track tape cartridge. These pads hold the 8-track tape tightly against the playing head and spinning capstan bar inside of your tape player. 8-track pads do a very important job.

If your 8-track tape is not being held tightly against the machine playing head, the music will sound wrong. If your 8-track tape is loose beside the spinning capstan bar inside of the 8-track tape machine, the tape will get caught and pulled into the machine to be ruined. We call this the act of the machine eating the 8-track tape.

The 8-track tape works by having the turning capstan in your tape player pull the tape over the playing head inside of your playing machine. The pads hold the tape tight against the playing head and capstan just inside of the door to your 8-track tape player. The 8-track tape machine head is playing two of your eight lanes of music on the 8-track tape at a time. This gives you four tracks of music, like sides of an album.

At the end of a track of music on an 8-track tape, the splicing foil touches a piece of metal inside of the player that sends an electric signal to the playing head inside of the player, telling the head to move to the next two lanes of music. That is the loud clunk sound that 8-tracks are famous for at the end of a track of music.

Fix Splicing Foil Tab:

Every old 8-track tape needs the splicing foil tab re-glued. Use your 8-track tape player to get the tape close to the ending of a track of music, and then manually turn the 8-track tape with your finger until you have the splicing foil tab centered at the top of the tape cartridge. Or, manually wind the tape through the cartridge until the splicing foil tab is at the center of the top of your cartridge without using a tape playing machine to help.

Next, pull the 8-track tape up and away from the case a little bit and slide a piece of paper under the tape. Re-glue one side of the tab to the 8-track tape making sure that you do not get glue on top of the foil; let it dry. Then, re-glue the other side of the tab to the 8-track tape and let it dry. Make sure that the tab is laying flat without any edges sticking up.

To replace a foil tab, you can use products being sold on eBay that are like real splicing foil tabs or stickers. Or, you can make your own splicing foil tab from things that you have around the house:

The inside foil liner from some cigarette packages like Marlboro and Camel work as splicing foil, some metal covered paper butter wrappers work as splicing foil, and gum foil wrappers used to work to make splicing foil tabs out of but I have not been using them in recent years so do not know if this is still true. The foil must be very thin and bend easily as it winds through your 8-track tape machine.

Fix Fuzzy Pads:

Fuzzy pads for 8-track tapes come in sets of two pads on the tape. The fuzzy pads look like tiny black fuzzy squares that are attached to a flattened ‘V’ shaped bar that is located right underneath the tape part at the top of the 8-track cartridge. If a fuzzy pad falls off, you can simply glue it back on, or make a new fuzzy pad out of a heavy piece of felt, or thin piece of fuzzy black window weather strips that go onto your home doors and windows to keep the drafts out.

With a pencil, gently lift the 8-track tape up a little bit so that you can get to where the fuzzy pad needs to go. Add some glue or double sticky tape to the back of your new fuzzy pad and using tweezers place the new fuzzy pad onto its spot on the ends of the flattened ‘V’ shaped wing bar. With clean hands gently rewind the pulled-up 8-track tape back into the cartridge case.

Fix Foam Pads:

You test the foam pad on your 8-track tape by taking a clean first finger and pushing the tape over the pad area down as far as it will go. The foam pad should spring right back up into shape when you take your finger off. If the pad does not quickly spring back up, you need to change this bad foam pad before trying to play your tape.

There are two different ways to change a foam pad. The traditional way is to crack or to pop open up your plastic tape case… And, my non-traditional way of not opening the cartridge that seems to work out just fine.

With a pencil, lift the top of the 8-track tape up a little bit so that you can get to the foam pad. Using pliers (or your fingers) grab the hard plastic bottom of the foam pad, and pull hard until the pad comes out of the cartridge. The foam pad will normally come out in crumbly pieces, make sure that you get all of the little crumbs out. Next, scrape the entire old pad off of the plastic bar that you just took out of the 8-track cartridge case.

At the hardware store get some Ã?¼” firm foam weather-stripping for a door if you can find it. If you can not fine Ã?¼” firm foam, get Ã?½” firm foam weather-stripping and cut it in half. You will also need some heavy clear packing tape.

Cut a strip of Ã?¼” firm foam weather-stripping to the length of your plastic bar. Cut a piece of heavy clear packing tape to fit the top of your new foam strip and stick it onto the foam. Cut the packing tape topped foam in the middle and remove the backing from one piece of foam so that it will stick to one end of your plastic bar. Stick this new foam onto the clean side of your plastic bar. You should now have a plastic bar with one half done with a new foam pad.

Slide the plastic bar back into the 8-track cartridge, through the center bridge that it came out of, so that the foam pad is in the center area of the tape. This sounds confusing in writing, but you are just reversing the process of what you did to get the old pad out of the cartridge case. Gently wind your 8-track tape back into the cartridge so that the 8-track tape part is flat across the top again.

With a pencil, pull up the left side tape a little so that you can get the other half of the pad onto the plastic bar inside of the 8-track tape cartridge. Take the backing off of the new pad piece (like a sticker) and stick the pad onto the plastic bar inside of the cartridge. I use a pair of tweezers or locking hemostats to put the second half of pad into the 8-track tape cartridge, but you can just use your fingers to put the pad into place if you would like.

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