How To · vintage Record Player Repair

Repairing a Record Player While Pretending it’s a Camera

I have written several times about my Aunt Frances who passed away recently, and how she passed down her Polaroid Spectra camera to me. I haven’t yet written about the German made record player she wanted to make sure I had before she passed. It was special to her because her husband who passed away more than 20 years before her, purchased the stereo when they first were married. It is also special to me because it is something I distinctly remember seeing every time I went to visit her.

Towards the end of her life she started to become very ill very quickly, so when I received some of the furniture she wanted me to have, I would call her on FaceTime and show her that I was taking good care of them. It seemed to make her happy. I was especially excited to show her the stereo because I was amazed it still worked. I played her some of her 8 tracks and she’d smile. I was disappointed along with her when she asked if the record player worked and I had to tell her it didn’t.

The video below is the last one I sent to Aunt Fran to play her 8-tracks for her.

I kept telling her she had to get better because I wanted her to come to my house for thanksgiving so that I could cook the stuffing recipe she gave me, and we could play Christmas music on her stereo. Unfortunately she passed away in November and we never got to celebrate the holidays together.

It was a while before I could bare to play the stereo again until one day I was talking to my Uncle B on the phone. I have mentioned him before as my uncle who sends me boxes of old cameras he finds on his flea market crawls. He also buys old radios and fixes them himself. We got to talking about the old stereo and the record player being broken. I told him how the turntable wouldn’t turn. He explained to me that it would be an easy fix, just like fixing one of my cameras only with bigger wheels and cogs. This had me intrigued.

The Stereo

Before I go into how I fixed it, I wanted to talk a little bit about which stereo cabinet it is and its history.

The logo above is located on the stereo itself. PS stands for Phono-Sonic which is also written on the AM/FM stereo. From what I have found in my research (I couldn’t find much) the cabinet itself was manufactured in East Germany (before Regan ordered them to tear down that wall), in the 1960’s and the stereo parts may have been from different manufacturers to create this entertainment system.

The Stereo

Inside the right drop down door is the Stereo. Pictured above. Then located behind the left drop down door is the turntable and the 8-track player.

Drop Down Door
The Turn Table in the compartment next to the 8-Track Player

Below those two compartments are the speakers located on either side of the console and lined with red velvet. In between the speakers is located the liquor cabinet where lights dance around with the music playing. The light turns like a lazy Susan to reveal cup holders for your liquor. Seems like quite the party favor.

Testing the Stereo before it was shipped to me
Cup Holders in the Lazy Susan

The only other info I could gather was from some receipts inside that belonged to my aunt showing when and where it was purchased in New York. Also a service sticker inside shows that it was last serviced in 1972.

I found that the turntable is a BSR record changer which was common from the 60’s throughout the 1980’s, and mine is from the 1960’s because it includes the 16 rpm speed. If you know anything about this console, please let me know in the comments.

How I Fixed It

*If you’re not interested in this part, feel free to scroll down to see the record player in action.

As you can see in the picture above, the last time it was serviced was in 1972. That being almost 50 years ago, it is no surprise that the turntable was seized up due to very old oil and grease gumming up the works.

Repairing the Turntable – Step by Step

The first step was to remove, carefully, the silver decorative disc in the middle seen below, and then lift up the entire turn table. Under that silver disc is a black clip called an E-clip that you lift off using a screwdriver. You’ll see several of these as you go deeper.

My turntable was seized pretty good, so it would not lift up. So, I applied some 3 in 1 oil to the center and let it sit for a couple hours. If that still doesn’t work for you, you can apply some heat to it using a hair dryer, but make sure you don’t melt the rubber.

1st step is to remove the silver disc in the center
You can see the clip holding the turn table in place

Once the plate is lifted off, the cogs and wheels are now accessible. You can see the larger cog, called the cycling gear or Cycling Cam, in the picture below. It was turning very slowly. All of the wheels, cogs and washers were gunked with old oil. I used alcohol to clean them.

Before I cleaned it up
I used alcohol and q-tips to clean off all the old grease

There are smaller E-clips holding all of the cogs and wheels on, those are removed easily by prying them upward with a screw driver. Be careful they don’t fly out of your hand. Then I was able to remove the gear and clean off all of the old grease. Remember where the old grease was because you will replace it with new grease. If you have trouble lifting the gear off, again you can use oil or a little heat to lift it up.

After removing the old grease.
the trip attached to the cycling cam

You also have to remove and clean the end-o plate trip (I think thats what its called). The video below shows how I did that.

*I am sorry about the shaky videos. It was difficult to video and repair by myself.

After removing the cycling gear you can see in the video clip below that the piece holding the gear called the cam follower, is supposed to move back and forth and also simultaneously spin. Mine was stuck so I cleaned it with alcohol and then oiled it up with some 3 in 1 oil.

Next, I carefully removed the two washers around the center pole. In hindsight I should have removed the pole first. You can see the bbq sauce-like grease caked on them in the video below. I cleaned them off with alcohol and then replaced the grease with some white lithium grease.

Before I cleaned off the old grease
The two washers Cleaned up
after I cleaned off the old grease

Now that everything was cleaned up, I replaced the Cycling Gear back where it belongs after adding grease inside the bottom track. It can be difficult to push the cam follower forward and at the same time fit it into the track underneath the gear. I had to try it a few times before it fit in place.

Next, I needed to remove and resurface the small black Idler wheel. You don’t want to clean this with alcohol because it will squeak. Next to it is a motor bearing that is supposed to spin. I resurfaced the wheel using sandpaper, and I oiled the motor bearing. The video below shows what I did with these two things.

I forgot one step before I replaced the Cycling Gear. That was to re-grease and replace the two washers on the center pole. So I removed the gear and replaced those two washers. Then replaced the gear back where it was.

Finally, I cleaned up the plate, and replaced it back onto the table with the center pole. I could see that it was no longer seized. That was a good sign. The final test was just to plug it in and play a record.

To test it out I used my grandfathers record that I received after he passed away, and when it played and proved that I had fixed it, I felt so many emotions. I felt happy that I had accomplished something I didn’t think I could, and I was sad because my Aunt wasn’t there to see it.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I know it isn’t film related, but it was very special to me and I wanted to share it with you all. I hope you enjoyed this as I did.

Until next time, stay motivated and keep shooting.

6 thoughts on “Repairing a Record Player While Pretending it’s a Camera

  1. Thank you for writing this article! I was able to use it to restore the turntable in my old Koronette unit and I freaked out when it worked haha. Really appreciate the thorough guide, happy listening 🙂

  2. This is awesome! You’re an adventurous soul.

    Those BSR turntables were incredibly common when I was growing up in the 70s and 80s. They were almost the default turntable in most stereo systems.

    I’ve never seen a console like yours before! Console stereos were a thing in the 60s and 70s. But most of them were made by Magnavox or Zenith and lacked the multiband German radio and the light show.

Leave a Reply