Record players allow us to listen to our favorite songs and albums on crystal-clear vinyl records. They can bring us a lot of joy, and, when they stop working, a lot of frustration too.
Has your record player stopped spinning?
This article goes over the common causes of a turntable that won’t spin, as well as some of the things you can do to fix it.
Types of Record Players and How They Work
While all record players are driven by a motor, the type of the drive can vary. There are two main ways that record players achieve turntable spinning to give the desired sound output. The types of drives that record players use to achieve this spin are belt drives and direct drives.
Some record player models have an electric motor mounted within their assembly connected to the turntable by a rubber belt. This belt transmits the rotation of the motor to the platter and causes it to spin when powered.
A considerable advantage of belt-drive record players is that the belt acts as a vibration damper and doesn’t transmit vibrations from the electric motor to the turntable. This reduces the occurrence of skipping caused by internal vibrations.
Other record player models have their electric motor directly connected to the turntable. This arrangement offers more consistent speeds for the platter but with the downside of causing some vibrations.
This vibration can distort the sound produced when picked up by the stylus and can even cause the record player to skip parts of the grooves. Direct drive record players also work well for record reversing, as they’re less dependent on external forces (such as belt friction encountered with belt drives).
Why Do Record Players Stop Spinning?
Sometimes the record player may have a problem and won’t spin. This can be very problematic, as it means that the record player is rendered useless until it can turn again. Some common issues that can cause a record player to stop spinning are outlined below.
A Problem with the Tonearm
In some record players, the tonearm that holds the stylus needs to be reset from time to time. This is often the case with vintage manual record players. For many manual record players, the tonearm clicks off when the record ends. When this happens, the record player will not spin again until the tonearm is reset.
A Problem with the Belt Drive
In belt drive record players, the problem may be caused by the drive belt itself. The drive belt may be too tight and cause too much friction that the motor can’t overcome, or it may be too slack and not have enough grip to transmit the rotation from the motor to the platter.
The drive belt may also be worn out, in which case the friction and grip won’t be enough to turn the platter, or the belt could be cut altogether. Whatever the case, none of these conditions will help the performance of the record player.
A Problem with the Direct Drive
In direct-drive record players, there’s a bit more complexity and technicality involved with the issues encountered. Contact between the motor and platter so that the turntable gets jammed is one of the more common problems with a direct drive record player.
A Problem with the Motor
Problems with the motor itself can affect both belt drive and direct drive record players. The motor shaft may be jammed due to an accumulation of dirt, gunk, and oil, which can cause it to no longer move freely.
The motor may also have a damaged fuse, which would mean that no power is reaching the motor. A faulty switch can be the cause of a motor issue as well.
How to Fix a Record Player That’s Not Spinning
Now that we’ve laid out the common issues that can make a record player stop spinning, it’s time to talk about how these problems can be fixed. Let’s take a look at some remedies.
Make Sure the Power Is On
The first thing to do is to confirm that there’s a power supply to the record player. Without power, the record player won’t work at all. While it might sound strange to make such a recommendation, it’s worthwhile to note that there’s a possibility that the player has been disconnected somehow.
Verify that the player is properly plugged into a working outlet. If it’s connected, check that the record player is switched on as well. Sometimes the solution to your problem is simpler than you might think.
Reset the Tonearm
In a manual record player, the tonearm may need to be reset after reaching the end of a record. This is easy to do. To reset the tonearm, push it to the right, past its usual resting place, until a clicking sound is heard. Try to do this gently so that the tonearm doesn’t accidentally get damaged in the process.
After this fix, and if a tonearm reset was the issue, the record player should start working correctly. This solution doesn’t apply to record players with a dedicated button or switch to begin the spinning function.
Adjust the Belt
The belt of the record player may occasionally need to be adjusted. With time and use, the belt can get a bit slack or loose. Even a seemingly negligible increase in length can cause a very noticeable problem with the record player.
A slack belt can sometimes be fixed by boiling the belt briefly, which will cause it to shrink back to its original size. For belts with just a slight bit of slack, some talcum may be rubbed on the belt and shaft to restore a decent amount of friction.
It’s also possible that the belt may have come undone within the turntable assembly. In this case, it’s just a matter of merely fitting the belt back into place.
Replace the Belt
If the belt is worn out, too slack, tight, cut, or missing, it becomes necessary to replace it entirely. When shopping for a new belt, care should be taken to purchase a belt that matches the record player model.
The player’s manual should contain information on the belt’s required diameter, thickness, and width. If a manual is unavailable, it may help check the manufacturer’s website for details on the exact model and search for belts confirmed to match the model.
Before attempting to replace the record player’s belt, it must be disconnected from any power source, and the plastic covering protecting the platter should be removed.
The platter is usually held in place on the center shaft by a circlip. Gently unscrew and pry away this circlip to free the platter. Be sure to keep the circlip, as it will be needed when recoupling the platter and center shaft.
If the belt is still attached to the platter, carefully remove it using a pencil or another similar object. Once the platter is free from the belt, lift it out and turn it over.
There will be a grooved hub for the belt to fit into the underside of the platter. Cautiously stretch the belt and fit it into this hub.
While the turntable assembly is open, it’s also advisable to clean the motor. After cleaning the motor, it should be oiled at the shaft to allow easy movement. This simple maintenance can prolong the life of the record player significantly. Be careful not to use too much oil, as it can begin to trap dirt and form gunk in the future.
After fitting the belt on the platter and cleaning the motor, flip the platter back over onto the record player, but don’t clip it in place yet.
Gently turn the platter until the motor is visible through the access hole on the platter. Through this access hole, carefully extend the belt and wrap it around the motor shaft.
When the belt is on the shaft, spin the platter clockwise and counter-clockwise. This will help the belt sit properly and lock into place.
Make sure to look out for any resistance to the spin. The spin should slow down steadily and not in a sudden or jerky motion. If resistance is encountered or the platter jerks to a stop, it can indicate that the belt is twisted and will need to be remounted.
If the belt is mounted correctly, the platter will rotate even with pressure applied to it. Place the circlip back on the center shaft above the platter, lock it in place, and then tighten with a screwdriver.
Finally, replace the plastic covering on the platter and test out the record player. With any luck, it should start spinning just fine.
Check the Direct Drive
For a record player with a direct drive-controlled turntable, the direct drive mechanism will need to be checked. It may be that the motor shaft is clogged with dirt and debris that’s preventing it from spinning. It could also be that the speed components are dirty and will need cleaning.
To open up a direct drive record player, the steps are similar to that of a belt-drive record player, except that there’s a magnet assembly at the bottom of the platter. The platter should be lifted as carefully and evenly as possible to prevent damage to it.
Once opened, the speed and pitch adjustments and the motor itself should be gently cleaned with an electronics cleaner. For hard-to-reach areas behind knobs, a little cleaning fluid can be sprayed as the knobs are turned to dislodge the trapped dirt. A small, pointed tool can also be used to fish out clumps of dust in these areas.
Check the Platter
In some direct drive record players, it’s not uncommon for the turntable platter to jam itself against the casing of the player. This happens if the platter shifted out of place and has contacted the sides of the record player’s case.
The platter should be carefully lifted out, examined for damage, and then placed back in gently, taking care to align it properly as required for smooth functioning.
Replace Damaged Components
The problem that makes a record player stop spinning might not always be easily fixable and might even require some parts’ replacement. For both belt drive and direct drive record players, the motor can get damaged no matter how well-maintained it is. This is just the result of age and use.
In such a scenario, the purchase of a replacement motor will be necessary if the record player is to work again. A replacement that matches the power, size, and configuration of the original motor can be ordered and used to substitute for the damaged motor.
Switches can also be damaged or faulty and may no longer supply power when turned on. A bad fuse could also mean that while the record player is connected, the electric motor’s power is cut off. The fuse should then be replaced with a matching fuse of similar specifications.
Checking the inside of the player may reveal frayed or damaged cables as well. Depending on the state they’re in, the cables could either be carefully rejoined or have to be replaced entirely.
How to Fix a Record Player That Spins Erratically
Rather than not spinning at all, your record player can also spin too slowly or too quickly. A record player that turns too slow may be the first sign noticed before it stops spinning altogether. A change in the record player’s speed can change the pitch and distort the sound completely.
Luckily, it turns out that this can usually be fixed. Here are some of the solutions.
Cleaning and Maintenance
When the platter begins to spin too slowly, dust has likely accumulated around the moving parts (especially the shaft). The presence of this accumulated dust will generate excessive friction, which will hinder the platter’s free movement. To solve this, detach the platter and clean it thoroughly to rid it of all the dust.
When this is done, use synthetic oil to lubricate the shaft so that it can turn freely again. Dust accumulation in some direct drive record players can also cause the platter to spin too fast, especially when this accumulation is around the speed controls. A quick cleaning should solve this problem.
Realigning the Belt
It could also be that the belt is beginning to get slack but not slack enough to completely lose friction and stop spinning the platter. A slack belt will have low friction and won’t spin the platter properly. Another possibility is that the belt has somehow gotten twisted or is rubbing against some other surface within the record player.
This kind of twist or external contact should be rectified as soon as it’s noticed because it will quickly wear the belt out and even cause it to get cut. Once the belt is cut, a replacement becomes necessary.
Tuning the Motor
While it’s quite rare, the motor can be out of tune and spinning at an incorrect speed. If this is the case, the user manual should be consulted for details on finding the tuning adjustment screw. It’s commonly found under the platter or under the record player itself.
Turning the screw clockwise usually increases the speed, and turning it counterclockwise slows it down. Tuning the motor is a trial-and-error activity, and after each adjustment, the effectiveness should be tested by listening to the output of a record.
A strobe disc can also be used to check if the speed of the record player is suitable. To use a strobe disc, place it on the turntable and observe how it spins. If the shapes on the outer end of the disc form a solid black color, it means that the player is spinning correctly. Otherwise, there’s still a need for more fine-tuning and adjustment of the motor.
Record players are reliable companions and have a cool, vintage feel to them. They also provide the benefit of pure analog sound with fantastic quality. However, to get the best out of a record player, it’s essential to maintain it properly and store it in the right conditions.
If your record player doesn’t spin, try some of the fixes above to see if it can be saved. Many “bad” record players just need a little love to get them back in working condition. Good luck!
Frequently Asked Question
Q. Is it ok to leave a record on the turntable overnight?
A. Best practice is to store the record properly in its sleeve when not being played.
If you inadvertently leave the record on the player and the player is still on it can loop in the same spot and ruin your record.
If you are sure the player is off and you just don’t want to find the sleeve to put it away then technically you can leave it to sit on there. But you risk it getting dirt and dust particles on it. Which can affect the sound until it is cleaned properly.