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Backlight bulb is burnt out. The display, on its own, will not generate enough light to read so there is a backlight bulb that brightens the display. Need to disassemble and see what type bulb is in there. Radio Shack should have a replacement if you bring your old one it.
The Sony TC-766-2 is a 2 track (half track) format deck. In those types of decks used for mastering, there is NO side two. The deck uses the entire width of the tape in the one direction. What you are expecting is the side two of a 1/4 track deck and this is NOT what a 766-2 is for. That is why the -2 is on the model name. NO two track decks of any brand have a side two.
Well, not being there to try some diagnostics, there can be a number of reason that the tape plays backwards at times. One reason is that the tapes are 4 channel discrete tape requiring a 4 track 4 channel deck- this would mean track 2,4 are recorded in the forward direction. A Stereo (2 channel 4 track deck) play tracks 2,4 in the opposite direction. That is why you turn the tape over on some decks. Other possibilities could be tape path skew, that reverse relay is NOT changing the head that "listens: to the tape and that is just the start of what it could be. When a new person starts to use a deck of such age- it can be correct to assume that the deck is not working in some respect. A Tape deck Technician such as myself would know how to determine if the deck was working correct or not and know and have parts to correct it. I worked in the Factory Service in Chicago for Teac and actually have one coming into my shop in the near future. After 40 years of working on these I am still at it. I am sorry there may not be an easy answer to this.
Degraded tape, dirty heads (clean with acetone and Q tip but don't get on plastic), dry coupling capacitors.This assumes that the distortion that you refer to is dirty or fuzzy sounding audio. If a new tape, recorded and played back, sounds ok then your electronics are in good shape. That means your tapes are junk. If cleaning heads takes care of it, well that's pretty obvious. If your capacitors are dried out you will need to bring it in to a repair shop.
I take it that it's not a regular a/c cord available at Radio Shack. The model you listed TR313 is not valid on the website. Panasonic and Technics are owned buy the same company. goggle panasonic parts. or goto www.pasc.panasonic.com
If you still don't have any luck, Tell me what it looks like, and I'll try and check into it for you.