Back in the days of “Be kind rewind,” VHS tapes ruled the home movie world. Everything from Hollywood blockbusters to home movies, VHS tapes ruled home theater. But like most physical media, tapes weren’t meant to last forever – and they didn’t.
For everyone old enough to remember, VCRs after extended use would often show their gritty teeth and either eat the actual film, the VHS’ tape would wear down, or it would get jammed in the console causing you to lose part one of your two-part copy of Titanic (not speaking from personal experience or anything) – or more importantly, your childhood memories.
Which brings up the question, how do you repair your old VHS tapes and heroically save those precious family and childhood memories?
Well, rest assured because it can be done – it just isn’t always the easiest procedure. So before we begin, this is probably a good spot for a disclaimer – *dissect at your own risk.
Inspect the tape
This is the easy part. Simply start by inspecting the tape to see if there’s physical damage. Is the tape split? If so, you’ll more than likely notice a mess of jumbled tape. If no visible tape mess is apparent, then open the flap to see if there is any visible tape at all. Once you’ve diagnosed the problem, it’s time to operate.
Open the tape casing
Bust out your standard Philips screwdriver and get to unscrewing. There should be five screws on the casing – one at each corner and a final one in the center.
Once you’ve got all five screws out, it’s time to open it up. It’s important to make sure the front side of the tape is facing you. If it doesn’t budge easily, try gently rocking it back and forth to get it ajar. The last thing you want to do is further damage the internal workings.
Perform film surgery
Once the tap is in two parts, you’re ready to wash in and perform surgery. You want to start by giving yourself plenty of “clean” tape in which to work. If the tape has been eaten by those gnarly VCR teeth and you’ve got a mangled mess, it’s best just to simply remove all portions of the damaged film. You can do this by unwinding the tape from the reels a bit – six inches on both sides should suffice. Once you’re ready to cut the tape, make sure you cut a clean edge. Splicing a tape with a frayed or jagged end is just going to make things harder for you, and it’s probably safe to assume you don’t want that.
Tape up your tape
After you’ve cut your clean edge, you’re going to want to splice and tape the new bit of film to the previous cut to make a seamless and working transition. You’ll lose the portion of tape you had to cut out, so hopefully it wasn’t your favorite action scene or childhood memory. While Scotch tape can work here (sometimes), it’s recommended you go with a thinner, actual splicing tape.
Now, it’s time to put those steady surgeon hands to the test. Don’t accidently cut any of the actual film while you’re cutting the excess tape, and make sure that none of the tape is overlapping with its sticky side up, this will only gum it up and you’ll more than likely have to start from scratch.
Once you’ve successfully spliced and taped, you’re almost finished. The next step is running the tape through the pinch rollers and wrapping it around the top of the cassette (like how it should look when you open the protective flap of a working VHS).
Put ol’ Humpty back together again
Put the outer casing back into place and gently rock it until you’ve got a seamless shut. From here, you reinsert the five screws and tah-dah, your tape should be as good as new … if new was 20 plus years ago. But you get the point.