Your record player isn’t spinning, and you’ve already checked the basics. You’ve made sure it’s plugged in, that it is getting power, and that it’s turned on. Now, what do you do? To begin troubleshooting a turntable that isn’t spinning properly, you should establish whether it is a belt drive turntable or a direct drive turntable.
Belt drive record players tend to malfunction by slowing down intermittently or stopping altogether. With a belt drive turntable, a motor spins a belt, which in turn spins the platter. When a belt drive turntable has spinning issues it will frequently have to do with the belt.
With a direct drive turntable, the motor is directly connected to the spinning platter. Direct drive turntables can sometimes seem like they are spinning out of control. When they have spinning issues, it usually has to do with the motor.
A basic troubleshoot: have you reset the arm?
Maybe you bought a vintage record player from a garage sale or some other individual seller, and it neither came with a user manual nor are you finding it easy to locate one on the internet. Chances are, this vintage model record player uses a basic manual operation, and its arm needs to be reset before the turntable will spin.
Many manual record players click off when the record ends. This means that even if the arm is in a resting position to the right of the record, after playing, the spinning function of the record player will not begin again until it is reset. You can do this by moving the arm further to the right, past its resting place, until it clicks. The turntable should begin spinning again, and you can put the needle on the record.
You do not need to reset the spinning function after every record, just before you play a new one. So for this type of record player, which includes newer Crosley models as well as vintage manual players, it is a good practice to simply replace the arm at rest to the right of the turntable when a record is finished. Then, to begin playing the record, move the arm to the right, until the model clicks and begins spinning.
This does not apply to you if your record player has a switch to begin the spinning function. These switches will often be located in conjunction with the speed selector. Some automatic record players will only begin spinning when the needle is lifted toward the platter or dropped onto the record. You can find out about these functions in your manufacturer’s manual.
For Turntables with Belt Drives
Okay, now you have everything set up, so your turntable should be spinning, but for some reason, it still isn’t spinning properly. Many record players rotate because of an electrical motor that is in conjunction with a drive belt. The drive belt runs underneath of the turntable platter. It should be taut and attached to the motor mechanism.
Belt drives are common in higher-end models because the elastic belt absorbs the motor’s vibrations and prevents those vibrations from causing skips in the music. This also allows less noise to be transmitted to the tonearm. Less interference of this sort will produce for you better sound quality. However, belt drive turntables can produce less accurate playback speeds, and they often need to be speed calibrated. The belt will also wear down after a few years and will need to be replaced from time to time.
If the drive belt is loose or unattached, attach it or attempt to tighten it through repositioning. If the drive belt is missing altogether, you will need to buy a new one, as the platter will not spin without it. If the drive belt has become too stretched, broken, or worn out, you will need to purchase a new drive belt.
Other indications that you might need a new drive belt include your record player making lower pitched or deeper sounds. You may see noticeable changes in your turntable’s speed or hesitation when the needle hits the record. This speed variation could be visible, but it is more likely that you will hear it, as the slowing speeds change the sound of the record.
A strobe disc, such as this one, can help you to determine if your turntable is not holding the proper speed.
While strobe discs are primarily used for determining the ideal speed for your particular turntable, a strobe disc can also help you identify if your turntable is not spinning properly. The disc mimics the weight of the vinyl and will turn on the platter as if it were a record.
To use, place the disc onto the turntable and watch to see if the shapes around the disc make solid black bars. Calibrate the speed setting until they do. If you are using the strobe disc to test your drive belt, then watch it play on the turntable for an extended length of time. If the black bars remain solid the entire time, then your turntable is spinning properly. But if you notice that the bars are broken up as the record player slows down and speeds up, then it is time to change the belt.
Changing the Drive Belt
Make sure to purchase the right belt for your record player. The belt’s width, length, and thickness will alter how your records play. You want to find your manufacturer recommended belt, so check your user manual, or when in doubt, search online the replacement belt for your specific record player model. If you are ordering online, make sure the specs check out by measuring your old belt against the one you are intending to purchase.
For safety sake, turn off and unplug the record player before you start taking it apart. Then lock the tonearm into place, and remove the plastic mat and platter. The platter may be attached to the center shaft with a removable clip. If there is no clip, pull up on the platter, while lightly tapping the center shaft with a hammer to remove the platter.
Set the platter aside upside down. Now you should be able to see the motor. This is a good opportunity to clean the motor, using a rag and some rubbing alcohol. Consistent cleaning and maintenance is an important part of the longevity of your record player. The more you clean its parts, the better and longer it will perform.
Stretch the new belt around the center of the platter. You will notice that the bottom of the platter has a hub in the center of the larger wheel. You need to make sure that the belt fits snugly onto this circle. Make sure that it is straight, centered, and that it lays as smoothly as possible without twists or kinks.
Some belts will have a ribbon attached. This ribbon is made to help you to orient the belt and attach it to the Motor Pulley. In this case, you need to line the ribbon up with the square opening near the edge of the platter. These square openings are called the access holes.
Flip the platter back over and place it back on the turntable, but don’t secure it with the removable clip yet. Turn the platter until you can see the motor through the access holes. The motor will be a small metal shaft rising from a corner of the turntable. Hook the belt onto this shaft, using the ribbon if available, to help you position it. There should be a little cap on the motor spindle that keeps the belt from slipping off the top.
If your platter does not have access holes, stretch the belt onto the small peg located near the edge of the platter. Now your belt will take the shape of a circle with a cone on top. Align the bottom of the platter with the motor spindle and place the platter down. Spin the platter two full rotations clockwise and then two counter-clockwise. This should allow the belt to hook onto the motor.
Spin the turntable to test the belt. Give it a few clockwise spins, and then a few counter-clockwise spins. The table should spin without immediate or jerky stops. If it does have jerky stops, troubleshoot the belt by looking for twists and kinks. If you find twists, start over in reattaching the belt. If you feel a light, constant resistance, then the belt is on right. Replace the clip to secure the platter, if there was one, and plug the turntable back in. Start the motor to make sure that it is spinning properly.
For Turntables with Direct Drives
Direct drive turntables offer higher torque and more consistent speeds. These are preferred by DJs for scratching and playing in reverse because the speed is less influenced by external forces. But the rotation of the motor can negatively affect the sound quality, as the tonearm picks up the motor’s vibrations. You can cut down on these sound intrusions by installing shock absorbers between the platter and motor.
Sometimes, rather than not spinning at all, a direct drive turntable will spin out of control. Erratic spinning in a direct drive turntable is a motor problem, but that doesn’t mean you have to jump all the way to replace the motor in order to fix it.
Check to speed components to make sure that they are clean
Dust can settle into the components that allow you to control the speed. Over time, with dust and oils this turns into gunk, and gunked up controls could cause your motor to work less effectively. This can also cause erratic volume control and crackly sound quality.
You can clean these settings by using an electronics cleaning fluid, such as DeoxIT D5. Makes sure to turn off power to your record player and unplug it, before going through with any electrical cleaning.
Lock down the tonearm, then remove the mat and platter. Direct drive turntables often have a magnet assembly attached to the bottom of the platter. Try to lift the platter out as evenly as you can in order to prevent damage to the magnet assembly. Using the electronics cleaner, you can gently clean the motor, and the speed/pitch adjustment controls. You may also want to clean the speed selector switch as well.
Spray the cleaning fluid into openings in the components. For the speed adjustment, there should be an opening where the wires attach. With each spray, attempt to rotate the knobs to dislodge the dirt and get them functioning again. Do the same with the speed control switch. Also, while your motor is exposed, take a second to oil the motor shaft, which can also affect the spin rate.
Reassemble the platter and try out the newly cleaned system. It should be spinning much better now.
Something that both drive types have in common is the use of a motor for their ability to spin. You can take all necessary precautions to remove the platter and clean the motor every year or so. But if your record player simply isn’t spinning, and the drive belt is well-installed, then you might be facing a motor problem that warrants replacement.
If your record player isn’t spinning, you can check the following:
- Begin your troubleshoot by making sure that electricity is getting to your motor.
- Check that it’s plugged in.
- Check that it’s turned on.
- Make sure you understand the arm reset on your model.
- If your manual player automatically stops after one playback, pull the arm all the way to the right, until it clicks to set it spinning again.
- If you have a belt drive turntable, check that the belt is intact, in place, and not too worn.
- If your belt is broken or overly worn, change it by lifting out the turntable platter and attaching the belt to the underside.
- If you have a direct drive turntable and it’s spinning erratically, make sure that all motor functions, especially the speed controls, are clean.
Do you any experience with these spin issues? How would you go about fixing a record player that spins erratically or just won’t spin?