As soon as I insert a tape, it starts checking its ID then ejects it immediately without playing (no matter what the tape). Any clues as to what I should check? There's nothing obviously broken or obstructing in the mechanism.
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There are normally 2 causes.
One is some obstruction in the tape path. Please open the cover of the VCR and shake and see for foriegn objects.
Then there is one more possibility - Belts are loose..
Check the Tape Loading motor belt.Is it slack? This can happen over time.Change the belt.
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Try to find out, where the tape drive stops and why. If there is debris in the recorder it could fake the tape is not going where the recorder expect it to go. There are lots of reasons why the recorder will spit out the cassette. In the first place it does so, to protect the tape for damage, because the sensors don't sense a normal flow of the tape.
The Video portion of the set requires a belt and possibly a drive pulley. When the tape is inserted, the deck moves it forward then back and if it can't because it has lost its drive due to a belt broken stops dead. Hence "Emmegency mode".
Check the timing of the gears. they tend to slip. Find the loading motor. It should look like a big battery with a worm gear on the side. manually turn the gear backwards and forwards a few times. Hope this gets you watching tapes! GOOD LUCK!
This could be a mode switch problem, sometimes you can get it to work by spraying the switch with Servisol Video 40. Sometimes it has to be replaced in which case you will need the service manual.
The Mode switch may look like these: