Maintaining Your Player
A properly tuned up 8 track tape is only as good as the player it is played on! It is very important to keep your 8 track player in good working condition. Regularly cleaning the head and capstan shaft go along way in bringing out the best sound you can get from your tapes!!!
In this section I will go over the procedure for cleaning the Track Change Sensor and the Head. Pictured above is the location of the Sensor and Head when the flap on the outside of the 8 track player is lifted. A dirty Track Change Sensor will cause poor conductivity between it and the sense foil splice, causing the track to NOT change when it is suppose to. A dirty head will have an affect on audio fidelity and not cleaned on a regular basis can get physical damage from the dirt and grit. So it is important to keep these clean. I do not like the old cleaning tapes you can find on eBay, as I feel they are too abrasive and will scratch the head over time. And they don't do a very good job.
You can do a much better job with some 99% rubbing alcohol and some cotton swabs. You will need to purchase some audio cleaning swabs (just do a Google search for them), as these are much longer than a regular cotton swab and will reach into the machine. Make sure that your player is OFF AND UNPLUGGED BEFORE you clean the Track Change Sensor and the Head. To clean them, simply dip the swab in the rubbing alcohol and clean them until the cotton swabs come back clean.
Capstan Shaft Cleaning Kit
Keeping the Capstan shaft clean is just as important as keeping the Track Change Sensor and the Head clean. A dirty capstan shaft will cause wow and flutter problems and will make it easier for the tape to get eaten. But is a little bit more involved than cleaning the sensor and head. So I devised a "capstan cleaning kit" if you will, too make the job much easier. The kit is very easy and cheap too make and will make quick work of cleaning the capstan shaft.
What you will need:
**A 3 tab on the front 8 track tape with the inner reel and pinch roller removed (be sure to clean any lubrication residue off of the spindle the pinch roller rode on).**
**Green scouring pad (found in the cleaning section of any grocery or discount store. These green pads can shed a bit so try to remove any loose grit by running the pad through your fingers a few times.**
**Scrub Buddies, Mr Clean or Brillo (or any other brand) reusable wipes. These not scented and do not have any detergent on them. They are stiff cleaning cloths and can be cut into 5/8" wide strips**
As you can see in the picture, I am using an old cleaning tape for the capstan cleaning (that is what they are best for!). The abrasive cleaning gauze has been removed of course.
Cut the cotton round in half (pictured below)
Now fold the "half cotton round" in half and insert it into the opening in the cartridge where the pinch roller use to reside (pictured below)
Put a few drops of 99% rubbing alcohol on the cotton pad. Now insert it into your player and with the player turned on, let it "play" for about 10 seconds. Remove from player. Now remove the used cotton round half from the cartridge. Take the other half of the cotton round and repeat step 1 and 2. Do this until the cotton round comes out clean (no graphite reside). Now that the capstan is clean and shiny, we want to very gently "scuff" it up. If the surface area of the capstan shaft is to smooth, it doesn't do a good job of gripping the tape as it pulls it from the cartridge during play. And with the carts with the plastic pinch rollers, any splicing repairs you do can get stuck at the repair, causing the tape to get eaten or to get capstan "burn" (cutting the splicing tape at a 60 degree angle helps prevent this, as does this scuffing process). Remove the used up cotton round from the cartridge. Take your green scouring pad and cut a section about 1/2" wide and about 2" long.
Now that the capstan is clean and shiny, we want to very gently "scuff" it up. If the surface area of the capstan shaft is to smooth, it doesn't do a good job of gripping the tape as it pulls it from the cartridge during play. And with the carts with the plastic pinch rollers, any splicing repairs you do can get stuck at the repair, causing the tape to get eaten or to get capstan "burn" (cutting the splicing tape at a 60 degree angle helps prevent this, as does this scuffing process). Remove the used up cotton round from the cartridge. Take your green scouring pad and cut a section about 1/2" wide and about 2" long.
Now insert the piece of green scouring pad you just cut, into the part of the cartridge that the pinch roller use to reside in (just like you did with the cotton round).
Insert the cartridge in the player and let it "play" for about 20 seconds. This will gently scuff up the capstan shaft. Remove from player.
That's it! This will help control wow and flutter. I recommend doing this at least once a month. If you listen to a lot of tapes, you may want to do it weekly, or at least twice a month!