Do Scratched Records Still Play?


Do Scratched Records Still Play?

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One huge issue with records is that they can get scratched quite easily if you aren’t careful with them. So what happens if you have a scratched record? Do scratched records still play?

Some scratched records will play fine while others will skip and jump around. They will often get stuck as well if they have deep scratches. Having a scratched record is normally annoying as you won’t get to listen to the music uninterrupted unless you fix your record. 

In this article we will discuss scratched records and how to fix them to get them playing properly again. 


It may feel like quite a long time ago, however just a few decades have passed since record players were the “new” way to listen to music. They even had record players in cars at one point! (For real! Check out this video below!) Yes, that was many years ago but records are still around and are actually making a comeback as well!

To see the most popular record accessories currently on the market just click here.

Cleaning Your Records

Most records that you get at yard sales, Goodwill, flea markets, etc. can be brought back to new by using some standard cleaning techniques. Obviously if you can avoid having or buying damaged records then that will alleviate the need to clean or repair them. However, if you find some old records or a specific record that you have been searching for then don’t allow some dirt or grime to keep you from buying them. 

Ideally you will want to find records that are just dirty and haven’t been scratched. Dirt and grime is relatively easy to clean out while scratches are much more difficult to fix. Depending on the depth of the scratch it can even be impossible to repair fully. 

The reason that scratches are so bad for a record is the stylus runs through the grooves on the record playing the music. If the scratches are bad enough that they mess up the grooves then the stylus won’t be able to follow the pattern like it should. 

Think of a record like a train. The train has to follow it’s tracks but if one piece of the track is damaged or missing it can cause the train to derail. Records work just like that. 

Assuming that most of your records are just dirty they can be cleaned with some common household cleaners. This video below has some good tips on cleaning your records. 

Scratched Records

When a record player gets bumped or someone gets careless, the needle skips crosswise over the grooves, literally carving a path through the soft vinyl. Remember since a record is like a train track every time that the needle goes “off track” it damages the record a little more. 

The vinyl being removed needs to go to some place. Some of it winds up on the needle, some of it winds up as grime at the bottom of the groove and some of it is pushed off the beaten path, accumulated like snow when it’s being plowed. 

 It’s pushed over the outside of the grounds and the side dividers of the notches. This is the thing that causes the “tick, tick, tick” you hear after a record has been damaged. The needle is catching these disfigurements and serenades you with its musical beat a little more than 30 times every minute.

On the off chance that there’s a littler scratch too, yet it likewise shows numerous scratches on the edges and sides of the sections. There’s a chance that when this collection was famous, tone arms and needles were heavier and larger. As they went through the grooves, the needle would develop heat which would begin to slightly melt the plastic. This would make the record easier to damage every time that it was played. 

A huge needle can’t fit right into the groove, so it rests to a limited extent, on the outside edges of the groove.

The edge is the most fragile piece of the groove, so when a needle vibrates to and fro, it hammers against the warm edge, eroding it, pushing and diverting some of the soft vinyl into little hills over the record surface. The vinyl that is pushed up and out, deserts a pocket, and the edge in the long run gets fixed with pits and heaps of vinyl. The edge starts to take on another shape as the needle erodes at it, distorting the sound. 

This is normally where the pops and crackles come from when you are listening to a record, the extra vinyl that is in the grooves and mounds on either side. 

Today, needles are smaller and lighter and go further into the groove where the vinyl of these old records hasn’t been touched. With a decent cleaning, the sound will normally be rich and pure. 

Fixing A Scratched Record

To fix a scratched or damaged record you will need to resurface the surface and remove those little piles of vinyl that cause the ticking by sanding them. Yes, I said “sanding”. To get a record playing again, we need to get all that gunk out of the grooves so the needle can stay in the right place. 

To get the grime off you will need to get a clean soft cloth and some soapy water and gently wipe down the record. This should help remove a lot of the junk from the grooves. 

Once you’ve done the steps above or have cleared the gunk out by some other method, here’s what you’ll need to go to the next step. Getting your record back to its original state. A clean, but  bad record with more clicks and pops than the actual content is no good to anyone. 

After completely washing, it’s time for the frightening stuff. We’ll be using a lot of water. Wet the sandpaper and wet the record. Keep the record on a hard, level surface and LIGHTLY sand each side, in the areas of the scratches. Be sure and use circular strokes corresponding with the grooves.You want to go with the grooves not against them. 

It is normally best to sand the entire surface of the record rather than just the places where there are scratches. When you sand the record it will remove some of the shine as well so sanding the whole surface ensures you’ve hit all the scratches and also gives the record a more uniform look again. 

You may see some incredibly tiny scratches on the outside of the vinyl as it’s being sanded.  In the event that you notice the smooth, shiny surfaces of the record getting extremely dull, you’re likely pushing too hard. Be very careful not to push down hard at all. 

You don’t need to stress out over putting too much or too little pressure. It is always better to be too light and have to make more passes than it is to go too hard and damage the record. 

If you are doing it right no sanding is occurring inside the grooves. If some places begin getting dull, simply go over them softly and they’ll start to lighten up once more. Try not to sand too long either. 4 to 5 times around is most likely enough to remove most scratches.  On the off chance that it turns out you didn’t sand enough, it’s not too hard to do it again. 

A great video that I always use when trying to fix some damaged records is this one below. 

The portion that talks about fixing the scratches begins at 4:20 into the video. 

Conclusion

After cleaning and carefully sanding your damaged record you should be able to play it without jumping or getting stuck. 

Your record should play clear and crisp just like the day that it was first pressed. The grooves will be a little bit more shallow since you sanded off the top but as you play the record the needle should cause the groove to  become deeper the more you play it.

After you finish sanding be sure and clean the record thoroughly so that any dust or gunk that is left after you sanded is removed before you try to play it. The last thing you want to do is have the record skip again because you didn’t make sure the grooves were clean before you tried to play it! 

Matt Robbs

There is nothing quite so enjoyable as bringing back memories from your childhood. We used to spend hours playing pinball in my friends basement and that really got me involved in everything retro!

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