How do I get a stuck videocassette out of my VCR?
December 2, 2011 5:42 PM   Subscribe

A VHS video cassette is stuck in my VCR. How do I get it out?

I inserted a video cassette, but the mechanism seized up in the process of loading the cassette, and now it's stuck inside, but not all the way inside, and the VCR won't spit it out.

When I turn on the VCR, it tries to do something with the stuck cassette, but after a few seconds, the VCR switches itself off. Pressing the eject button while the VCR is on doesn't help.

The VCR is a Philips VR656.
posted by paleyellowwithorange to Technology (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I was always really excited when this happened growing up, because it meant my parents let me take apart the VCR. Make sure it's unplugged (duh) and avoid poking the capacitors (little cylindrical things) with your screwdriver.

I'm sure you could try to brute force it, but there's probably a loading arm jammed up into one of the reel holders, and you risk breaking VCR and/or tape. Probably best if you open it up and try to lift it out gently.
posted by phunniemee at 5:48 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, way back when, we would take the top off the VCR and gently extricate the stuck cassette. You should only need a Phillips screwdriver and a well lit kitchen table.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 5:51 PM on December 2, 2011

Yeah take the case off the VCR, you should be able to get the tape out that way.
posted by delmoi at 5:59 PM on December 2, 2011

I've had this happen with nearly every VCR I've ever owned. My solution is always this: when the VCR is on, gently push the cassette until the loading mechanism remembers what it's supposed to be doing. (This may take several tries if the VCR keeps shutting off.)
posted by 23skidoo at 7:44 PM on December 2, 2011

If I have to, I'll take the VCR apart, but only as a last resort.

I just tried 23skidoo's advice. Looking closely inside the VCR, I can see that the bit of the cassette that covers the tape is flipped up. That is, the VCR has opened up (and possibly engaged the tape inside) the cassette.

Don't know if that makes any difference to anyone's advice.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 8:08 PM on December 2, 2011

If it's only part-way in, then it won't (or shouldn't!) have engaged the tape and looped it out of the cassette. That's literally the last step if loading a tape - it goes in, then down over the guide pins, then the pins move forwards pulling the tape out of the case and around the heads.

2nding 23skidoo's advice, with the addendum of gently wiggling the cassette sideways and up and down a bit to try and get the loading mechanism going again, and N-thing the suggestions to pull the cover and engage in some gentle prodding if that doesn't work.

Pull the plug before you remove the cover, do it on a table (not the floor), and plug it back in once the cover is removed (keeping fingers well away from the electrical bits), because the whole loading sequence is driven by a motor or two, and you'll risk stripping the little nylon gears if you try to brute-force it - let the motors do their thing.

If worst comes to worst, you may have to try and figure out how the loading mechanism works and operate it manually. Turn the power off again, and turn the gears closest to the loading motor by hand - ideally, you'll be able to access the gear on the end of the loading motor (usually a worm gear, but occasionally a normal gear) - and back the tape out that way.

(I used to repair VCRs on the side, and stuck tapes were about 90% of my jobs. Only once did I have to disassemble the loading mechanism / cage to get a tape out. Most of the time a little gentle prodding, poking, and helpful pressure did the trick.)
posted by Pinback at 10:25 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Got it!

No amount of jiggling would dislodge the cassette, so I took off the cover. Turns out the tape had engaged. Pressing the eject button caused the tape to disengage and then re-engage, after which the VCR would power down. Observing this process a few times from above, I waited until the tape disengaged one time, then quickly stuck my finger under the cassette and gave it a slight lift. This got it back on track, and it popped out of the front of the VCR.

Thanks all for the help, and especially thanks Pinback for the detailed and practical guidance.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 12:56 AM on December 3, 2011

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