Genealogy: How to fix cassettes

006By Barry J. Ewell

If you have had any experience with cassettes, you know a tape can get caught in the inner workings of the cassette player or get bound up.  When you have one-of-a-kind information stored on the tape, it becomes imperative to try and fix the tape and salvage the information.  A broken tape or case can be repaired, though you’ll need a little fortitude and ingenuity.

Step by step instructions for replacing a broken case

  1. Purchase a new cassette that has a shell held together with small screws. Alternatively, you can buy a cassette shell from an electronics store.
  2. Carefully take out the screws from the new cassette and lift the top off.
  3. If the broken cassette case was held together by screws, do the same thing with that case. If it’s glued together, very carefully separate the two halves by prying them apart with a screwdriver and working it around the edges of the case seams.
  4. Remove the tape reels from the new cassette after taking careful notice of how the tape is threaded.
  5. Carefully transfer the reels of tape from the damaged cassette box to the new one, making sure that you thread the old tape the same way that the new tape was threaded.
  6. Replace the top of the new cassette shell and screw it together after checking to make sure the tape reel didn’t get pinched.

Step by step instructions for fixing a broken tape

  1. Purchase a cassette-tape splicing kit from an electronics store. The only way to fix a broken or damaged tape is by splicing it.
  2.  If the tape is still intact but one section is stretched or damaged, use a pencil to carefully pull the damaged section of tape from the case.
  3. If the tape has snapped, open the cassette case to get access to the broken ends of tape. If your original cassette box is held together with screws, you’ll be able to reuse it. Otherwise, follow steps 1 through 4 under “Replacing a broken case.”
  4. Follow the instructions that came with your tape-splicing kit to remove the damaged ends of tape and splice the tape back together.
  5. Rethread the tape and replace the case top if you removed it. If you had to break apart a glued case, follow steps 5 and 6 under “Replacing a broken case” for transferring the tape to a new case.

Overall tips & warnings

  1. Cassette tapes won’t last forever, even if they are carefully stored. Ten years is asking a lot of most tapes.
  2. Recordings that you want to preserve longer should be copied to new tapes or, even better, to CD-R media.
  3. Any repaired cassette is liable to break again, so make a copy of the material you’ve stored on it as soon as possible.