How-to: Repair a VHS tape

Friday, April 4, 2008

Photo-vhsVHS tapes are not used as much as they used to be since the development of newer formats such as DVD’s, but many people still have them in their homes as they were often used to store family memories.

The Video Home System (VHS <>

The drawback of VHS is that the tapes can stick or break altogether. Sadly, this happens to the most watched videos, which you probably want to see again.

This article will look at how to repair a video. With the help of images in this article, you will be able to dissect one and put it back together. I wrote this article after repairing a video from when I was on TV at the age of 5, which I will finally be able to show my wife. The video has not been playable for many years.

Disclaimer: I am not a video repairer by trade. Everything I have learnt has been through my own trial and error. I am trying to share what I have learnt in this article. I wrote this article as I was unable to find the information elsewhere online. I have tried to fix 3 videos and had complete success with each of them.

It is possible that your video could be damaged as you take it apart to look at it. It would be worth first trying it out on a video you don’t care much for, before you try to fix your wedding video. There are companies that will repair videos and re-spool them. The costs are high so weigh up if this is right for you. I can’t see what the pros would do differently.

Video tapes are a fairly basic design which lets the repair be fairly primitive and basic also. The main reason for this article is to show you how to get the tape back into one piece.


Pulling apart a video is fairly easy. Putting it back together is the tricky bit. In fact, fixing the tape itself is easy too. I am hopeful that the dissection pictures will help you put it back together to its original state.

Looking at a video tape from the outside, there is not much to it. There is a flap which can be opened by pushing the button near it. This will expose the tape. The only other thing that we can do with the casing is cover or uncover the read write tab. More on this later.

Complete caseYou may want to remove the label from the spine before you begin because it is likely to be torn in half. There are 5 screws on the underside of the tape, but that’s just the beginning. You need to take caution here as the casing will come apart, but so will all the little pieces which are a pain to return to their original location. Ensure you keep the underside on a flat surface to keep the pieces in place. Pay attention to where the pieces came from as your reference for later.

As you can see, there is nothing too complicated about a VHS tape. Lets take a closer look.

Left guideRight guideThe left guide has two rollers in it, which the tape travels between. Normally, one will be plastic and the other metal. It is important to ensure these guides are in the right places. These rollers will often fall out as you open up a tape.

The right guide has only one roller which is fairly self explanatory.

Flap spring

The flap spring is a little trickier to attach. It slides onto the plastic pole and the short bent wire wraps around the clip. The longer end sits in the groove of the flap.

The most complicated part of the tape is the lock mechanism in the middle of the tape. This is often the culprit of a jammed tape.

It is hard to figure out how all these little pieces work together. You should end up being able to move the trigger backwards and forwards and have all these parts move simultaneously.

Machanism pulled


Both of the springs wrap around poles and the left and right side mirror each other. There are various designs that are used for this, but the theory is the same. You want to be able to move the centre piece and the other two will spring it back into place.

Repairing a broken tape:

There is nothing glamorous about repairing a snapped tape. We see videos of directors splicing tape and sticking it back together in the movies. The theory is the same, only we are going to use bog standard sticky tape.

It is best to use the finest tape you can find. The video is unlikely to play where the tape is, but it should make its way through the player to the next readable section of tape.

Make sure you place sticky tape on on both sides of the tape rather than wrapping it around, as this will cause friction. If it is broken at the start or end of the tape, you have the luxury to be a bit more generous with the tape. You may need to fold some of the sticky tape to hold it onto the spool. This is fine as the normal pressure from the VCR will keep it taut.

Put the casing back together and put in the screws and see how you went.

Touching on a few related topics:

Transferring to a new video:

New videos are becoming harder and harder to come by. You may want to track down S-VHS tapes as these are normally better quality than standard VHS tapes. I have not come across a video player that can’t handle S-VHS tapes, even though you are unlikely to receive all the benefits S-VHS offers.

All you need to do is hook up two video recorders side by side by wiring up the video and audio. The next step is to press play on the original and record on the other. Make sure you get these around the right way, as there is no undo button!

Transferring to another format:

EvermediaIt is not hard to transfer your video to a digital format, however it is time consuming and you will probably need to buy some extra equipment to plug into your computer. The cost should not be more than around $AU100 for the hardware, assuming you already have a computer and DVD burner.

Using a gadget as shown to the right lets you connect your VCR to your computer. You can then use something like Windows Movie Maker (comes with Windows) to copy your videos to a digital format.

Once you have it in digital format you can copy it to a DVD or compress it as a DivX file for playback on your computer.

There is a lot of information available on other websites on how to do this.

The Read/Write tab:

VHS tapes have read/write tabs, just like you would see on a floppy disk. With video tapes being harder and harder to come by, you may find it easier to buy used videos, or recycle your own. If it is a commercially released video, the read write tab is probably removed. All you need to do is place some tape over the hole and your video recorder will over-write it.

This is also useful to protect your content. If you have a special video that you want to keep safe, you can remove the tab, and the VCR will spit the tape out when you press record.


I feel the video is a long way from being obsolete. I know a guy who bought around 10 Beta players and hundreds of tapes when it looked like they would become obsolete. He is sure to have weeks of viewing pleasure at a very minimal cost. Now is the time to buy VHS tapes to enjoy for the years to come. And then it won’t be long before DVD’s will become obsolete as well.

1 Responses to How-to: Repair a VHS tape

  1. Anonymous Says:
  2. This article was very helpful. I bought a VHS of an old movie that is no longer released. It had a broken flap. I tried replacing the flap and discovered that the two halves were not compatible. I moved the old tape into a new case and it works like new. I am so happy to have saved this movie. Your articles was a great help. Thanks for the great pictures and instruction.