Repair: Elcaset Tape
August 9, 2019
The noble Elcaset, a cassette twice the size of a normal tape, tape the same thickness as what you use on tape recorders, but thinner.
This repair is more recommended if you actually have to repair an Elcaset, it is more of a manual than a story.
You may have to remove stickers, but if they come new in packaging or even foil, that is not the case. Parts are fragile and can be easily lost. The tapes are expensive and need a donor if something breaks. You may be able to 3D print them...
If you don't have much experience with the Elcaset, this information page is recommended before you start this type of repair.
- Disassembling A cassette
- Defective cassettes
- Preparing A new cassette
- Instruction videos
- Small Flat Screwdriver
- Tray for small parts (50x50mm)
- Gloves or clean hands
- lint-free and/or damp cloth
- Optional water (tap)
Ensure an empty and clean workplace and neatly place your tools in a fixed place. This is how I never work, although it is advisable. My surface is clean, I don't like dirty places. Especially not if I have to continuously take pictures for this website.
The cassette that I open is going to be stiff. Especially in the beginning and end, I want to know what causes the bad running of the band.
If you don't know how to take them apart, chances are you'll break or lose something. I myself have one tape as a donor and have used it to see how they fit together. The Elcaset is built from many parts, you have to remove them step by step.
If you open them incorrectly, you already have a chance that all the tape will fall out like a long garland. Try to roll it back into the cassette ;). Although I luckily didn't experience it, I did have that experience with 8-Track cartridges.
First look on which side the tape is wound, the best is side A (the side with the screws). If possible, wind this to Side A, because the tape must not be half wound!
Starting with the clips on the side, push it up with a flat screwdriver and with your finger push it halfway over the stud, not all the way because then you have a chance that it will break. Keep your finger in the same place while also lifting the bottom with the screwdriver. You have a chance that the clip will shoot away to the other side of the room. But if it stays on the studs, you can take it off afterwards.
Underneath is a metal spring, which is best removed with tweezers. I put them in the tray near the screws.
Now turn the tape over and repeat the same steps.
Now put the cassette on the table with side A up and turn it so that the text is upside down.
Unscrew the 5 screws and place them in the container for now.
The screws are in the plastic of the cassette, when you take them out, some of this plastic often comes with it. It is also on the screws themselves.
The cassettes are simply old, whether they come 'new' out of packaging or used. I personally don't do much about it, don't clean them but just turn them back in later.
Now lift the top of the cassette and lay it upside down. as shown here on the left.
When you do this, press the button with another finger that releases the brake, which is located on the bottom of the Elcaset.
Here the plastic 'tabs'. These can be red or blue depending on the type of tape, take it out.
Now take out the tape itself, the right spool that is empty you can carefully take out, while you do this press the button of the brake, otherwise the spool will get stuck.
I lift the spool with the tape out with my middle finger, it is thick enough to clamp in the teeth on the inside, as soon as it comes out of the cassette I hold the side of the spool with my thumb to prevent the tape from coming off falls and place it next to the empty spool.
You can also remove the small rollers, it is recommended if you would turn the cassette over. They can fall off and get lost.
Shown below you can see the foil that separates the coil from the brake that hides underneath.
With me it is a bit wrinkled, I remove them with tweezers, they are attached to the cassette with three points, so do this with care.
The brake is hidden underneath. there is a tooth on the end of the brake that can engage the spool, this keeps the tape in place when not in use.
Obviously if you had to open the cassette because it got stuck or something like that, you don't have to take it apart up to this point. In total, a cassette has 20 parts and if you count the brakes there are 24! But I see no reason to ever want to take it out.
In this case I cleaned the inside (and the empty coil) with a lint-free (glasses) cloth. You can also wipe them with a damp cloth (without alcohol).
Mine was actually not really dusty so my helper is here as an example of how that should have gone.
As a tip I was once given that you can also rinse the housing under the tap if it is dusty. It is advisable to remove the brake (due to metal parts). Also take into account the stickers that may already be on it.
I must confess that I opened the cassette for a completely different reason. A few months ago I opened this one (and a few others) and applied fine oil to the inside of the coils. This was not a smart idea, the oil continued to leak onto the tape itself!
So I'm sort of undoing that damage now. I can still clean the cassettes, the oil on the tape is permanent, I'm not going to try to polish hundreds of meters of sensitive tape.
A single tape with recordings has become a victim, the recorder contains a light sensor that checks whether the tape has come to an end. Due to the oil, he now wrongly thinks that the tape is at the end and regularly switches off the playback. The tape allows more light to pass through if there is oil on it.
To prevent the recorder from turning off, I stuck electrical tape on the opening where the sensor faces the tape. above you see two tapes, the bottom one contains the recording and is taped. Fortunately it still sounds good but I have to turn it off myself when it's finished.
It is striking that the heads do not suffer from it, the tape is more susceptible to dust now...
We are now going to reassemble the cassette, we start by putting the foil back. They don't just go back, you have to clip them in at an angle.
Fortunately I have a magnifying glass on my desk lamp, on MS Paint I then professionally drew how the foil should be replaced. It is best to 'click' it in at an angle. with the pencil I point to one of the small brackets where the foil rests under, the hole in the foil goes over the pin that is in between. Good luck!
For the sake of convenience I show the same photo again, but for some variation now a green arrow...
Carefully place the coils back in the same way with a finger that clamps well. When you put the empty spool back, press the brake again (at the green arrow) so that it comes into place.
Reinstall the two black rollers and the colored tabs, taking care to position them correctly (should the tape contain an important recording).
I forwarded the tape a bit to show you how to put it back in. If you do this wrong, the tape will jam when you close the Elcaset.
When you click the housing closed (which you have to do very carefully), press the brakes with your finger. It is advisable to check beforehand whether the tape is not in between, above you can see what I mean, the tape is twisted and clamps in the housing.
Turn the empty spool clockwise until the tape is tight again. Also, don't tighten it too much.
Turn the tape with side A towards you and screw it back on. The screws do not need to be overly tight. It's old stuff, handle it with care.
Now keep tension on the spring with your index finger as shown above. Now click the clip back on. The inside of the clip has notches that you can slide over the pin. Once the clip is on, release the spring. (This can hurt).
Pull the clip back and release it, it should snap back on its own. If he doesn't do this, you have to take it off again and repeat the above. Do the same on the other side, turn the tape for this as well.
And that's how you take an Elcaset apart and put it back together again. Lots of dry matter. If you have to fix one yourself, good luck! If you have any questions, you can always contact us.
Below are some updates to this page.
February 19, 2020
Recently, the EL-5 had it for the Elcaset I was playing. I didn't notice at first until the sound started to distort, I was probably just in time!
The tape got stuck around the Pinch roller and took quite a few turns before I noticed.
The tape is very sensitive, I want to touch it as little as possible by hand, so I use a small pair of tweezers, still being careful not to damage the tape...
Carefully I roll the tape off the Pinch roller, eventually there was a good meter of tape wrapped around it!
The point where the tape got stuck around the roller can be seen here, a deep crease in the tape, probably caused by rolling up (a consequence).
Fortunately, the rest of the tape is not damaged, by turning the Elcaset upside down, the tape 'uncurls' itself and I can carefully twist it back into the Elcaset.
Unfortunately I can't get the fold out, but because this is only a small fragment for the music, it is barely audible when this piece passes. When playing the B side, I kept an eye on the cassette but the problem has not recurred.
Now the question remains, how could this happen?
The tape is not sticky.
The Pinch roller and Capstan are clean.
So it remains unclear what the cause of this is, but the last has not been said about this yet...
May 24, 2020
A few months later it happened again! This time a different band, but luckily this time I could see how it was formed.
The tapes are simply very sensitive, once I pause the tape during play and resume it later, the right spool may not be able to apply enough force to start moving again, resulting in the capstan and pinch roller hitting the tape push forward but the bobbin does not catch it. The result is a crumpled piece of tape.
Again I was able to save the tape, more than ten seconds of tape are damaged. You can clearly hear this in the music.
I suspect at the moment that the recorder needs maintenance, but more will follow...
A few weeks later I brought in a whole pile of used tapes, they contain recordings and want to erase them before I start recording with them again.
I put the recorder in recording mode, I set the recording sound to 0. While the recorder erases the recording, I decide to have something to eat and leave the room.
When I come back I see something that is not right, the reels no longer turn but the tape is far from finished erasing. As soon as I take the tape out of the recorder I see something I would rather not have experienced.
At the start of erasing, an edge with coating has apparently come loose. This went on for the entire length until the recorder itself (luckily) stopped erasing. The tape probably got stuck and the recorder stopped on it.
The result is a forest with frayed coating. There are chips everywhere, both in the tape and in the recorder!
I manage to remove most of the flakes and what remains in the cassette and recorder I spray away with compressed air (I remove the reels with tape first, of course).
The damage is extensive, a thin strip of coating has been completely eaten away from the tape.
I briefly try to repair the damage by manually rewinding the tape while removing the flaky coating. It is not really successful and decides to say goodbye to the damaged piece of tape.
I cut the damaged part away and sew the remaining ends together again with the 'splicing set'. The damaged piece of tape goes in the trash.
After the repair work I put the cassette back in the recorder to erase the remaining part with recording, meanwhile I keep track of how many minutes of tape is left with the stopwatch. Fortunately, the damage is not all over the tape, of the 45 minutes there is eventually 35 minutes and 30 seconds left. The band has thus been downgraded from a 90 minutes to a large 70 minutes copy. A different sticker should therefore be applied over time, but fortunately the damage is still limited.
I'm bummed, but the blame is entirely my own, I shouldn't have left the band unattended. Both the tape and the recorder are fairly old, so problems like this can occur, especially if you don't know the quality of a tape that has not been checked before. I learned another lesson!
Preparing A new cassette
January 10, 2022
We fly just under two years further. The EL-5 recorder has been unused for a while after the last accident, but today I gave it another try and a very unique one!
Today I'm going to be recording on a newly out-of-box Technics RT-60XDLC (a mouthful).
The tape is still out of the plastic packaging and still looks as good as new, but looks are deceiving.
Because the cassette has been in the packaging untouched for years, there is a good chance that it is not immediately usable, but I still take the risk and place it in the recorder.
First I wind the cassette back and forth and keep a close eye on it. It seems to play flawlessly so I start my recording, Side A goes without any problems, but when I turn around and start recording on side B the problem starts. The right coil doesn't turn, I try a few times but can't get it to move. It's the same problem as what I've experienced before. But instead of looking at the recorder, I take the cassette apart for inspection.
- The Cassette itself
- Phillips screwdriver (PH1)
- Cotton swab
- Small flat screwdriver
- Ball bearing grease
The order of the photos opposite the text is not quite right, I have already recorded the cassette with both sides in the image, although the problem has been solved on side B, it can still occur on side A. A great opportunity to let you see what i did to fix the problem.
The small screwdriver needs some extra explanation, because I bent the head, this way I can use it as a small crowbar for a wide range of applications, because it comes in handy here too!
First of all, I disassemble the cassette as described at the top of this page, except for the stickers, a Technics cassette is exactly the same as one from Sony. So there won't be any noticeable difference.
The 'pry bar' comes in handy when releasing the two spring loaded clips, I hook it under and lift the pry bar to release the clip from the cassette.
The problem is in the housing on which the coil rests, more precisely the part of the coil without the teeth. We zoom in for a better picture.
The round notch is where the coil itself rests and rotates, it may be hard to see in the photo, but you can see small chafing marks here. The problem with the other (B-side) side was even worse, here the coil was so stiff that it could no longer rotate. Although it's not so bad in this photo, I'm going to tackle it like I already did on the other side.
I dip the cotton swab in the grease, but very lightly because I only need a very small amount.
Then I dip the rod on the edge of where the coil will later rest. Again only very slightly, a deposit of the fat is sufficient, because too much can cause it to spread with heat and end up everywhere in the cassette, we want to prevent that of course!
Here is the result of greasing. I wipe off any grease that has ended up outside this edge, after which the cassette can be reassembled.
After assembling, I rewind the cassette back and forth in the recorder. After this, he is ready for a good number of years of fun!
Ultimately I can conclude from this that the jamming of the cassettes was not entirely due to the recorder. The tapes will all have to be treated beforehand with a thin coating of grease. They just run too rough. At the same time, the recorder still needs some attention and is probably not powerful enough to run a heavy running cassette. But once greased it seems that the heavy barrel is a thing of the past because they play effortlessly after this and the recorder no longer has problems getting the cassette going.
Finally, a golden tip! On the supplied sticker sheets, there are also stickers for the side. I used to stick it on, but now I don't anymore. You would have to open the cassette in the future (something that is almost unavoidable). Does it also mean that the stickers on the side are in the way. Moreover, the stickers contribute little value if everything is already clearly described on the box and cassette.
If I have to be in the cassette and there are already stickers on it, I cut it in half with a fine hobby knife. This is hardly noticeable and the stickers no longer have to come off.
It should certainly not be missed to make a reference on this page to the Youtube page of 'Elcaset restoration'. Here the maintenance of both the tapes and the EL-5 recorder is discussed in detail in a series of movies. Below are the videos about the tapes themselves.