Thanks for your input. This machine doesn't have an opto sensor - it has a small magnet on the bottom end of the tone arm which activates a reed switch when it gets close to it at the end of a record play.
I have temporarily disabled the reed switch by cutting on of the two wires that are attached to it. No difference - it still rejects. Hope you can help.
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This model uses a ceramic cartridge. Sometimes the stylus holding part can become damaged. It should be possible to get a new cartridge and stylus for the unit. It looks as it will either screw or just clip into the headshell. Either way look around for a replacement cartridge. If it has a number on the cartridge quote that. Remember it's a ceramic type - not magnetic.
At the end of play, the tone arm moves a small piece into the revolving gear that operates the shutoff process. If the tone arm remains in the completely played position, this mechanical connection is not working.
Regarding the poor sound quality (and possibly the skipping):
check the needle condition, see if exchanging it with a needle (or the entire pickup head) from a working turntable does any good.
Check the pickup connection pins (contacts on the pickup head and on the end of the wires coming through the arm from the unit), see if there is any dirt or oxydation and clean the contacts if necessary, also check for any damage to the wires.
As for the skipping - a heavily worn needle may affect the sound quality and cause skipping as well - if cahnging the needle (or the pickup head) doesn't make a change, try to realign the weight on the tone arm so that the pickup head will become a bit heavier, this could help somewhat (before you actually try to realign the weight, try to put a small coin or a small weight of some kind on the pickup head while it is playing a record, if the skipping goes away, you need to realign the tone arm weight).
This could also be a problem with the tone arm lifting mechanism (may be obstructed by something or damaged so it won't let the tone arm sit properly onto the record and "grab" the groove).
I just mentioned a few things you might want to check, but don't take anything for granted, the problem may as well be elsewhere in the unit.
there is an opto sensor the gets blocked when the tone arm is at the end of the song. It looks like a black u mounted on a circuit board. The flag that interupts the sensor is on the tone arm. The opto must be dirty so it thinks it's at the end of the song and continues to the unload sequence dispite the tone arm having just started playing.
Sounds like the encoder on the mech. It's the black gear on the lower right that rotates through the box with the wires soldered to it. (right next to the white gear that makes the whole unit go left to right.) It uses an optical sensor to count the holes in the wheel/gear. It's not registering either because of the wiring or more likely gunk inside the unit blocking the optical sensor.