Straight-to-video fixes

Know-how: A little inventiveness goes a long way to repairing garbles.

March 28, 2002|By Ken Sander | Ken Sander,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

For watching movies, the playback device of choice is the DVD player. Every day, more of us are using Personal Video Recorders (PVR) like TiVo and Replay for recording and for playback.

But there are still a lot more VCRs out there than all other recording media combined. If you have a VHS tape library, then you still need your VCR. So how do you keep your library in shape?

First, how you store your VHS cassettes is important. Keep them in a clean, dry, stable environment and not exposed to excessive heat or cold, and keep tapes out of harsh sunlight. Always stack them straight up. Keep the heavier end of the cassette (the end with all the tape on it) on the bottom.

Once a year, either fast forward or rewind the tape and flip the cassette over to the heavier side. The reason for doing this is to keep the tape from bleeding through, and you don't want the mechanism to freeze or the brakes to lock up. If you do this faithfully, then you can expect your tapes to last about 20 years.

What do you do if your tape gets snagged and mangled by your VCR? If the tape is ripped and you want to save it, then you have to make the tape into two separate cassettes. You can't splice VHS tape because it would most likely cause damage to your VCR.

If the tape is just mangled but not broken, then there is still some hope. Push the button on the side of the tape housing and flip the front cover open. In the hole on the bottom of the tape housing, stick a pencil through. This releases the brakes and allows you to smoothly pull out the mangled portion of the tape. Put the exposed tape on a soft, flat surface.

Take a smooth glass or plastic bottle and pour hot water in it. Close the bottle and make very sure that it's dry on the outside. You don't want to get any moisture on the tape. Gently roll the warm bottle back and forth over the tape and the heat will take out some of the wrinkles.

Then gently wind the tape back in its case. Fast forward and rewind the tape over the damaged area.

Ken Sander writes for The Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Publishing Newspaper.

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