I ran into many problems with my turntable, but they were all somewhat manageable. The one that always forces me to take serious action is when the record player stops spinning.
I was in your shoes once when I fired up the trusty Google and typed: Why isn’t my record player spinning?
Record players stop spinning for various reasons like drive, belt, electricity, and weight issues. The most common causes, however, are belt and drive issues.
But why is the spinning factor so important to begin with?
Record players must spin for the music to be produced. Generally, a turntable works by spinning a vinyl around while stabbing it with a needle. So how does that make music?
Each vinyl has grooves or ‘tracks’ that the turn table’s needle follows. Using those grooves, the needle generates an electric impulse which is transferred through the tonearm to the amplifier. The amplifier reads those signals and turns them into audible music.
So the spinning of the record is the core process for the music to come out. If the record spins too fast, you hear faster music and vice versa.
But when if the spinning platter refuses to spin altogether, the too slow/too fast music becomes no music at all. So, why does that happen?
1. Tonearm Reset
You won’t face this problem if you have an automatic turntable. An automatic turntable will move its tonearm on its own to reach the vinyl once you hit that play button.
However, that’s not the case with manual turntables. I was very skeptical when I got my first turntable because I wasn’t sure it was a good idea to spend money on it.
That’s why when I figured out that automatic turntables are more expensive, I got myself a manual one. A manual turn table requires you to move the tone arm and place it on the record yourself. I had no problem with that.
Soon after, the record player stopped spinning. It was brand new, and I hardly used it. So I quickly suspected an internal issue and took it back where I bought it.
The walk of shame I had that day was unlike anything else I’ve experienced. The man simply plugged in the turntable, held the tone arm, and placed it back in place. Then, I heard a simple ‘tick,’ and the platter started spinning again.
Apparently, manual turntables require the tonearm to be placed in its designated place before the spinning starts. This was intended to be a safety feature, but I think they’re doing it on purpose to confuse people.
2. Direct Drive Issues
There are two turntable spinning mechanisms; direct drive and belt drive.
Without dwelling too much into details, belt drive record players utilize a rotational mechanism located away from your vinyl. A belt is placed around that rotating shaft and is connected to the rotating spindle of the rotation platter.
Once the rotational mechanism activates, the belt transmits that rotation from that distant motor to your rotation platter and starts rotating accordingly.
Belt-driven turntables are favorable among those who prefer sound quality; I’ll elaborate on this point in a second.
Instead of having an external rotational mechanism, direct drive record players have their motors directly under the rotating platter.
That way, you benefit from better torque and rotation speed consistency. On the other hand, the motor’s vibrations are sometimes audible enough to disturb the sound quality of picky listeners. I’m totally not including myself here.
That’s why belt drive turntables have a better audio quality than direct drive record players despite their less torque and consistency.
Okay, I did dwell into details a bit too much, but it should be much clearer now.
Direct drive motors are more susceptible to damage than distant motors. This is because you give your direct drive motor a little pat on the head every time you take off or place a record. With time, your motor may throw a tantrum and stop spinning altogether.
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do at home here. So, unless you have a good experience in motor mechanics, I recommend having an expert look at your turntable.
3. Belt Issues
No need to explain the whole thing again; you know by now that belt-driven turntables use belts to transmit the rotation from the motor to your record.
However, you’ll still have some issues despite the better sound quality.
First of all, your belt will wear out with time. Any belt in any rotational mechanism will wear out with time. You can certainly slow that down by cleaning it, but the inevitable will happen.
If your belt wears out, you have to change it or have someone change it for you; unlike fidgeting with motors, changing the belt is a simple procedure that you can easily do yourself.
Belts of turntables need to be always tensed to maintain the rotation. If your belt is too loose, you’ll have one of two issues.
First, the rotation speed will be slow or inconsistent. That will reflect as hiccups or slowed-down music.
Second, the belt might be so loose that it no longer transmits the rotation of the motor among the spindles. Again, if that happens, you’ll need to change the belt.
Sometimes the belt is so tight that a simple bump on the turntable might tear it off. The belt could also be just fine but magically decides to get cut for no reason. It happens.
The moral of the story is that your belt might just snap. When that happens, you’ll need to replace it.
To replace your belt, follow these steps:
- Buy a new belt (duh!)
- Remove the rubber mat from your metal platter
- Carefully remove the platter to avoid damaging the spindle underneath
- Place the new belt around the inner circle of the lower surface of the metal platter.
- Place the metal platter down with a hand, and use your other hand to grab the belt and place it around the other spindle.
- Once you do that, rest the platter back in place, then place the rubber mat, and enjoy.
4. Heavy Record Clamps
This problem is unlikely to happen to most people since most clamps have relatively similar weights. That’s what I thought, at least.
One day, I purchased a couple of record weights for a bit of an extra price. The guy said that they’re made from premium materials that I didn’t bother asking about at the time.
A record clamp or weight is a metal object you place on your record to hold it securely. It provides a better sound consistency and allows the needle to move in the grooves better.
Back to the story, those premium materials started to express their premium nature to me while walking home. I thought it was my imagination at first, but the clamps were actually heavier than usual.
I still took them home and used them. It didn’t seem like a problem at first. However, two hours into the music night, my picky ears started to notice the slower music.
As time went by, the music got slower and slower. My belt-driven turntable was beginning to tap out under the weight. So, I didn’t wait for the music to stop completely. Instead, I took off the clamp, and the music returned to normal within a few seconds.
Like I said earlier, most people won’t run into that issue since most clamps have a reasonable weight. However, if your weight is extra heavy or your turntable’s torque or belt is faulty, the spinning may slow down or completely stop.
5. Uneven Surface
An uneven surface is less likely to stop your turntable from spinning completely. However, you may experience some rotation speed inconsistency, especially in low torque motors or belt drive turntables.
An uneven surface is an uneven distribution of gravity. For example, imagine that you’re walking on a circular track where half the way is going up while the other is going down. It’d be near impossible to keep a uniform walking speed.
You won’t experience such a problem if it’s just a little inclination. However, the rotation speed will hinder if the turntable is leaning down headfirst and you’re using one of those heavy-weight clamps.
6. Power Issues
Power issues can show themselves in various forms on all electronic devices; record players aren’t an exception. These issues could be related to:
Power buttons are notorious for breaking suddenly when you least expect it. The worst part about it is how they fake that they’re still working.
The power button would have its light indicator working along with its clicky feedback. But once you click it, nothing happens.
If you exclude most of the other issues, checking your power button could be worth the try. Sometimes the power button may fake that it’s working when it’s not even connecting the circuit.
Outlets are responsible for many question marks inside people’s heads. There are times when literally everything is in perfect order except for the outlet or the converter you use.
Before getting all technical with your turntable, consider changing the outlet/converter you use. This is especially important if you’re trying to start your turntable in a new room or at a friend’s house. The whole problem could just be with the new outlet.
7. Dust and Dirt
Dust and dirt are the eternal enemies of all that is electronic. Dust can accumulate in both reachable and unreachable places inside your turntable and clog up with time.
This clogging could lead to short circuits, slow spinning, and various other problems. So, a good, clean record is in order.
It’s not about completely dismantling your record player for a deep clean. It’s more like a throughout clean-up on all surfaces at least once a week.
It’s a lot easier to prevent dust and dirt than to deal with the problems they cause.
Much like dust and dirt, heat is another environmental factor that can strike your turntable right where it hurts.
Any device with a motor is susceptible to overheating. Normally, since turntables don’t spin at high speeds, you shouldn’t bother much with the overheating problem.
However, constant exposure to sunlight, living in generally hot areas, and using your turntable for extended periods will increase the risk of overheating.
Excessive heat may cause problems ranging from a simple wiring malfunction to motor burnout.
This problem is more common with direct drive turntables because they require a bit more torque, use more electricity, and generate more heat. Pair that with toasty weather and extended playtimes, and you get a good recipe for trouble.
Additionally, storing your turntable in an already hot place will give you heat issues even before you begin listening to music. As a rule of thumb, if it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your turntable as well.
Make sure to keep the internals of the record player clean, as dust accumulation increases the risk of overheating.
9. Jammed Platter
While cleaning your record player, make sure that your metal platter is correctly put in place. Sometimes, a faulty belt changing process or an excessively loose belt may jam your platter in place and prevent it from spinning.
It’s always worth checking the belt and platter components before moving on to more advanced solutions. The problem might just be a simple jamming of parts.