Turntable Repair 101

Repairing A Turntable

Turntables, like any mechanical device, can develop technical problems that require either repair or replacement of a part. Most common turntable problems are the result of user error or accidents: because the tone arm is delicate and the unit relies on a steady and fluid motion and jarring, bumps or drops can cause an immediate malfunction. Of course the motor, bearings and electrical parts as well as rubber belts in belt-driven tables will almost inevitably happen due to the normal wear and tear.

Turntablists and DJ's who use turntables for scratching, fading and multiple stops and starts, may see more repairs when compared to the average home user or audiophile who treats their turntable as if it were one of their children and who who uses it only for listening to their prized collection of vinyl.

Buying replacement parts for repair has become a mainly online pastime as the turntable is more of a specialty item now and finding parts and motors isn't as easy as getting extra digital storage at the local mall. Often it is cheaper to replace the entire turntable as it may be a struggle to even find the replacement parts required to fix the problems, especially if it is an older model. We aim to offer the best online replacement parts for turntables but before you buy a new deck you might want to check for some common problems and solutions.

1. Turntable won't turn
If your turntable does not properly spin, runs at an inconsistent speed, or seems sluggish or jammed you can first try to lubricate the spindle with a machine oil or a recommended cleaner suggested in your instruction manual. If this doesn't solve the problem of the turntable motor not running it is likely due to a malfunctioning of the actual motor or belt drive if your turntable is belt-driven.

This problem can usually be fixed by changing the motor, which is almost always easier than trying to fix a malfunctioning motor; or replace the turntable belt which may be stretched or have become brittle and broken,When the turntable motor doesn't run at all but power seems to reach the unit the problem could be the result of loose wiring or a faulty solder. The belt of a belt-drive turn table should be properly fed over the capstan, sometimes the belt can slip off or break.

2. No sound coming from turntable
If your turntable turns properly when the unit is switched on or when the tonearm is lifted into the manual play position but there is no noise, humming or loud crackling noises this would suggest a problem with the needle or some sort of catastrophic failure of the stylus or cartridge assembly.

So, any loose screws or wrong pins cause the needle to malfunction. It can also be due to a problem with the stylus; the tip may have broken off. In both of these cases, the user is better off getting new parts as it may be difficult to repair the malfunctioning parts.

3. Tonearm Problems
Depending on the style of turntable you have, there may be times when the tonearm may not lower correctly down to the vinyl on the turntable or it will not lift and return automatically after playing. One solution to try, if your specific model instructions or user guide doesn't show it, is to try and manually reset the tonearm.

Hold the stop button carefully, and manually rotate the turntable 90 degrees and then release the stop button. This will reset the tonearm function in many turntables.

Some LP sizes can cause the tonearm to lift at the wrong time or a setting on your nameplate might be causing the tonearm to act in a way that is normal based on the settings of the levers but is not performing as expected. Just double check all settings.

4. Turntable Runs Fast or Runs Slow
Stroboscopic impressions on the edge of turntables allow for fine tuning and pitch adjustments to the motor speed so the first thing to verify if you have a strobe speed system is to adjust the pitch.

Usually there are rows of dots on the turntable edge and as the pitch changes the spots will appear to stop moving. This nifty optical illusion allows you to ensure the turntable is running at the proper RPM. If you can adjust the pitch, do so. If you don't have a strobe pattern on your deck and can't check the speed but can tell it's running fast or slow you should check the belt and motor to see if there is slippage or a improper connection.

There is also the possibility that the potentiometer that finely controls the speed adjustment has become dirty. In this case you need to do some dis-assembly, to gain access the the potentiometer, and use a contact cleaner to restore the full operation.

5. Turntable Static or Cracking Sounds
Dust is the usual culprit when noise arrives. First check for the classic ball of lint that attachs to the needle and remove it. Always gently clean the turntable using an anti-static cloth, similar to the one to wipe your actual vinyl, to remove the dust.

A can of compressed air can be good for spot-cleaning and removing visible particulate from the album. Ensure the tracking and weight settings of the tonearm are adjusted. Anti-skating settings should ensure steady tracking and of course a worn needle can be another cause of deterioration of sound quality.

6. Skipping or Jumping
Check the balance weight of the tonearm. Most turntables have a cantilever system of adjustable screw weights on the tonearm that can ensure proper weight is on the head shell so the needle stays in the groove. You want the needle to be lightly touching so that there is no additional wear on the vinyl but not too light that every breath you take causes the needle to jump from minute vibrations.

Adjust tracking pressure and anti skate
If your turntable has these two adjustments (most high quality turntables do) you adjust this by moving the tracking force counter weight until the needle hovers perfectly balanced above the record.

Then you rotate the dial with numbers until they align with zero. This means that zero grams of pressure is on the record. You then rotate the weight and numbers together until you reach recommended tracking pressure for your needle which is usually between 1 and 3 grams. 

Then you should rotate the anti skate settings to have a setting of equal value to tracking pressure. Ideally, you want the least amount of needle pressure pushing down on the record as possible without it skipping or sounding bad. These settings will give you the longest life from your needle and records.

Anti skate is adjusting side to side pressure unside the grooves of the record. Tracking pressure is how much weight the needle is pushing down inside these grooves.

To ensure the vertical Azmith is correct you should look at the stylus at eye level: the tip of the needle should be pointing straight down in the 6 o'clock position.  If it is pointing at "5:30" or "6:30" then channel volume will be uneven and there may be skipping of the record.

Changing your Needle

Turn off all power and preamps and unplug all connections.

Lock the tonearm in place.

Remove the cartridge carrier, or head shell, to have easy access to the needle. If you are swapping out the entire cartridge it's just a question of connecting the new head shell and re-screwing the cartridge connector to the arm.

Grip the head shell and firmly but carefully slide out the old needle. Use your phonograph user manual if you have it to ensure proper handling of the head and needle.

Use the air spray to clean the new connections and remove any dust from head shell.

Make sure your diamond stylus is the right way up, it seems obvious but you'd be amazed at how many people try forcing the needle in backwards or the wrong way around.

Linear Turntable Tone Arm Cleaning

• Remove the plastic cover that can hide the tonearm bearings. Lift the lid with a Flathead screwdriver or remove the screws of the cover. In many cases, the tone arm bearings are easily visible.

• Use a clean cloth to wipe the tonearm and eliminate all traces of residual grease inside the bearings at the rear of the tone arm.

• Apply a few drops of Silicon oil inside the bearings and along the shaft of the tone arm. Use your cloth to evenly apply the oil throughout the tree and inside bearings.

• Replace the cover of the pick-up arm and fixing screws, if necessary. Play a disc on your turntable. This will work the lubricant in the bearings.

Turntable Bearings
Issues with the bearings of a turntable are more complicated to fix, so if you are not mechanically inclined you might need to find a professional repair service of there is one locally or decide if it is easier to just buy a new and better unit. No matter your expertise it is fairly simple to identify bearings as the source of tracking problems.

If your tonearm has a vertical or horizontal "sticking point" which the arm never wants to pass or go beyond then this indicates a problem with the bearings. First thing to try is to adjust the weight, counterweight, and anti-skating so that the arm sits level without pulling back too hard to the resting position on the cradle. Next, carefully push the arm toward the center of the record, and if it stops before it gets to the end you know the arm has a sticking point and is experiencing a problem with horizontal tracking.

To alleviate this, gently tap the arm downward to check for a vertical sticking point as it bounces back up. The bearings adjustment also varies from arm to arm, so you should consult your turntable service manual to see how to set them. This process generally requires achieving the right tightness balance between the set of screws and the lock-nut.