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Why Do Cassette Players Eat Tapes?

By Shelby Burr

Do you have a plethora of cassette tapes that you just can’t seem to get rid of? I mean, we can’t blame you.

There are some great jams on those things and there is no way you can get rid of them.

It’s also one of the few analogs left to our past! Cassettes came out in 1963 and grew in popularity so quickly. Now? They are a thing of the past. That’s why we hold onto them...we love our memories.


So, what happens if you want to relive your cassette tape memories and your cassette player tries to eat them? First, don’t panic. Sure, our hearts stop for a brief moment, but we can assure you that there is an explanation and a solution! So, why do cassette players eat tapes? To keep it simple, it happens when the tape within the cassette gets drawn out by the pinch roller inside the player. When a cassette tape is placed, the tape is wound around the pinch roller and pulled through. Eventually, your tape can get jammed and even snap due to the pinch roller. 


What is causing the pinch roller to create this issue? One factor is due to tape residue. Over time, your cassette tape can become sticky. The oxide on the tape naturally and gradually sheds, and added moisture from the air will cause your tape to get this sticky residue. That residue will then stick to the pinch roller and will cause your tape to get stuck.


Now that you know what might be causing your cassette player to break your tapes, what can you do to fix the problem? One solution would be to clean your player. Using quality tapes reduces any kind of shedding and residue, but the occasional cleaning of the pinch roller with isopropyl alcohol will keep it clean. 


Other players may just be too told and have developed a certain stickiness to the synthetic rubber parts. Eventually, this is caused by the chemical breakdown of the polymer back into the goo it was originally made from. The same effect leads to disintegration of the drive belts. Once this happens, replacement of those parts is the only option.


One other potential option for having your player eat your tape is the lack of tension in the tape itself. Tape in a cassette should be held under slight tension. Not enough to stretch it or add drag to the driving mechanism, but just enough to keep it on a straight and narrow path. Without that tension, the cassette tape will lose its grip on the pinch roller and slip off or get pulled through with it’s edges off the course. This will cause jamming or potential tears in your tape. We don’t want that! 


One solution that will save you time and energy (and worry) is to have your memories digitized. By digitizing your cassette tapes, you no longer have to fear whether your memories will last / hold up. You will have access to share your memories digitally through CD, thumb drive and digital download - easy! Your memories will be preserved and you will have access to them whenever you like. Having your cassette tape get stuck in your player will be a thing of the past! Enjoy your memories and save them for years to come.

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