Repairing an Old Automobile Tape Deck

Quite of a bit of the stuff I own and use everyday is, let’s just say old. This includes a 1988 Mustang convertible that sometimes becomes my daily driver. This car is what they call “bone stock”, and I like to keep it that way, though there can be challenges with it. One of the challenges is the sound system that gives you the option of a FM/AM radio or cassette tapes. Lately I’ve been relying mostly on the cassette tape player.

The problem with the cassette tape player is that after so many years, the pinch roller losses it’s grip, and the tape plays at too high a speed, giving you awful Donald Duck sounds. The last time that happened, I found an exact replacement tape deck on eBay and simply swapped it in. Well, eventually the replacement deck started exhibiting the same issue. This time around, though those decks can still be found on eBay, I figured that I would try to fix it. This became a multi-week adventure, as I stripped down both decks, swapping the best components of the replacement deck onto the original deck, which I had kept stashed in the attic. In the end, I ended up with a pile of parts and a working deck, but it wasn’t easy.

Radio in Pieces

Radio in Pieces

Here is some of the stuff that I did to get a working tape deck.

  • The original deck had chipped corners on the front bezel, so I swapped in the bezel from the replacement deck. In doing this swap, some of the wires on the flat flex cable connecting the front PCB to the main PCB were damaged, so jumper wires had to be added to repair this.
  • The backlight for the original deck’s display was gone, so I had to swap in the backlight from the replacement deck. This might actually be the light that was originally in that deck.
  • A power supply trace on the main PCB was found to be broken and had to be jumpered over.
  • I’m not sure, but I think the original tape deck had an issue with a switch, resulting in the tape playing at fast forward speed, similar to the slipping pinch roller sound. Rather than troubleshoot, I ended up swapping in the replacement deck, after cleaning the pinch rollers, which is was next step.
  • The pinch rollers on the replacement deck were cleaned, as best I could. In fact, if I had done this in the first place, that is all that I would have had to do.
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