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I have advised people before that replacing belts is not the only answer and sometimes people that are not experienced can upset some part of the deck without knowing it. We don't yet know the model or brand of the unit and from the description this kind of points to a Piano key or lever key type deck. I could also be a cam system deck. This complaint of buttons not staying down would not apply to a tack switch or solenoid type transport. Like Jerry says a visit to a good Tech is the answer. I have been doing tape decks for 40 years and have worked at Sony and Teac service shops. If you need my help let me know. I am near Chicago.
This is a case of a failing reel motor. What happens i sthe brushes become aged and wear down and the motor has what they call a dead spot on the Commutator. The motor will work fine at high speeds as the inertia is working for it but when you use a slow speed as in play mode the motor hits the dead spot and stops. You will need a new reel motor in the most likely case- I can service the deck if you want at Skywave Tape Deck Repair Chicago area. I will most likely put a new motor into the deck.
Hi Glenn, The correct way to service a unit like this is to get a service manual and then see how the transport comes out of the unit- the cleaning of the tape path is always a pain when dealing with this kind of deck. That is why I stick with the well known C-3RX and like models. They will last a very long time but are not the size of this unit.
Without actually seeing your Teac reel deck, i suggest you verify that all fuzes in the deck are good..not blown. Also with a tape correctly installed..ensure that left and right tape tension arms are held under tension/ closed by tape tension, also ensure the capstan shaft is rotating... look in back to ensure the capstan drive motor is running.. if yes, and tape still will not play... problem could be a stuck/failed solenoid, dirty or corroded push buttons, or corrosion on contacts where rear circuit boards/plugs insert into other boards.