10 Common Record Player Tonearm Problems (With Quick Fixes) - Vita Audio

10 Common Record Player Tonearm Problems (With Quick Fixes)

Record players are very stylish, fashionable, and trendy.

They transport you back to simpler times and allow you to listen to your favorite albums on repeat with slight cracking that warms our hearts and if anything, adds to the beauty of your favorite record.

As with almost anything, you can expect to run into a variety of problems.

10 Common Record Player Tonearm Problems (With Quick Fixes)

Parts of your record player can begin to wear down or break, but one part of the record player is very important and can have several different problems that can affect your use. 

The tonearm is a vital part of the record player as, without it, you would be unable to play your records.

Making sure that the tonearm is perfect is very significant in making sure that your record player has great sound quality and that your records are protected. 

In this article, we will take you through 10 of the most common problems that your tonearm can experience and ways to fix them. That way, you can get back to playing your records back to back for as long as you want!

What Does The Tonearm Do?

If you are unfamiliar with the tonearm, it is a very important piece of the record player that ensures that you can listen to your favorite records with excellent quality.

The needle that slides into the grooves of your records is supported by the tonearm. 

To place the needle on your record, you will need to activate the tonearm.

The tonearm makes sure that the cartridge is in the right position with the height and angle, and it makes sure that there isn’t too much pressure applied to the record when it is being played. 

When your record is being played, the needle needs to remain in the correct position to avoid it sliding and scratching your record.

Your needle remains unscratched thanks to the tonearm as it keeps the needle in position and stops it from skating across the record. 

The tonearm also contains the wiring that helps to transport the signal from the needle, carried across the cartridge, and through to the output so that the sound quality is of the highest level. 

The Precision Of The Tonearm 

Despite the tonearm being a physically small part of the record player, it plays a huge role in making sure that you can listen to your favorite records without any problems.

Although the tonearm is very important, it can run into a few issues. 

As the tonearm needs the exact precision to make sure that the record is played correctly, any little change in the function of the tonearm can affect how it works. It can affect the sound quality of the record and even damage it. 

This is why it is very important to fix any issues that you come across with your tonearm.

The precision of the tonearm is extremely important, so any small changes must be looked at to avoid any further damage being done to your record player and your records. 

10 Most Common Tonearm Problems

When you are checking your tonearms for any sign of damage, the problems will either be physically visible or projected through the sound quality.

This should help you to identify the problem so that you can look towards getting it sorted. 

A record player will always let you know if there is a problem with the tonearm as it will be easy to spot either with your eyes or your ears.

Just make sure that you keep an eye on your tonearm and act quickly on any small changes.

Here are the 10 most common tonearm problems and how to fix them if they happen to you!

  1. The Tonearm Keeps Going Back To The Resting Position 

With modern record players, the tonearm can automatically go back to the resting position once the record has finished playing.

This makes it very safe for both the record and the tonearm as this automatic feature prevents any damage. 

There can sometimes be an issue where the tonearm keeps going back to the resting position instead of playing the record. This makes it difficult to play your records, so it is important to get them fixed.

If this issue arises with your tonearm, there is a quick way of fixing it. If you take the record off the platter, you can rotate the platter with your hand around a few times.

While doing this, you should hear a clicking sound. The click indicates that the auto-return feature has reset so your tonearm can work properly again. 

  1. The Tonearm Isn’t Lowering 

For your records to play properly, the needle needs to make precise contact with the record so the signal can be transferred through the wiring so your record can play.

However, if your tonearm is not lowering, the needle cannot make contact with the record. 

This is a case of the tonearm sitting too high, so you will need to adjust the tonearm to make sure that the needle reaches the record.

By making sure that the tonearm lowers properly, you will be able to play your records as normal. 

To fix this problem, there is an adjustment screw on the base where the tonearm sits. You can adjust this screw with a tiny screwdriver to make sure that the height of the tonearm is solved so that it can lower the needle to the record. 

  1. The Tonearm Is Swinging

As it is important to make sure that your records are safe, if you notice any swinging of the tonearm, you will need to make sure that you can fix it to stop your record from becoming scratched. 

The tonearm is a very sensitive part of the record player, so one of the reasons why it might be swinging is due to the platter being uneven.

Make sure that the platter is even as this could be causing the tonearm to swing instead of keeping it stable. 

A rare cause to why the tonearm is swinging can be due to the wiring inside the tonearm. If there is tension in the wiring, this could cause the tonearm to become unstable.

However, it is more likely to be an uneven platter that is causing the tonearm to swing. 

  1. The Tonearm Is Dropping Fast

Another problem that can affect your tonearm is that it is lowering too quickly.

This can cause problems with your tonearm as it becomes unstable and can scratch your record. You don’t want the tonearm to lower too fast or too slow, so you want a happy medium. 

One of the main causes of the tonearm dropping fast is that the cueing lever fluid has become dry.

The lubricant on the cueing lever helps to control the speed that the tonearm drops at, so making sure that you apply more damping oil to the lever will solve the problem.

Although it can be a tricky job, once you apply the oil, you should see the tonearm return to dropping at the normal speed. This can happen more than once, so keep the oil handy just in case you need to apply more. 

  1. The Tonearm Keeps Bouncing 

You may find that your tonearm keeps bouncing when you lift it, and you may not think anything of it until now.

However, if your tonearm keeps bouncing, it can be due to you not using the cueing lever. The cueing lever lifts the tonearm, so you shouldn’t do it manually. 

As the tonearm is very sensitive to movement, lifting it manually instead of using the cueing lever can cause it to bounce as it isn’t supposed to be lifted. If you continue to manually lift it, this could result in long-term damage. 

Lifting the tonearm instead of using the cueing lever can cause the tonearm to bounce, but it can also be due to the tonearm lubricant becoming too dry.

By applying the damping oil to the cueing lever, you may find that this stops the tonearm from bouncing. 

  1. No Sound During Playback

It can be very worrying when playing your records and finding that no sound is being produced.

You might be worried that there is a fault with your record player or that your record is too scratched, but it is more than likely that it is your tonearm.

The needle will not be able to hit the record properly if the correct amount of weight isn’t applied to it from the tonearm. If this vertical tracking force is light, then no sound will be able to be produced from the record playing. 

At the base of the tonearm, you will find the setting for the vertical tracking force.

You can select the correct weight, but you will need to find out the correct weight from your handbook as it can be different for each tonearm based on the manufacturer. 

  1. Skipping Songs Or Parts Of Songs

One extremely common problem with record players can be that they skip parts of your record.

This can be an annoying problem, but it is easy to fix as it is often due to the vertical tracking force of the tonearm. 

If the vertical tracking force is too light, it will not only prevent the needle from touching the record but will allow it to jump off the record when it hits the grooves.

This is what causes the record to skip, so you need to adjust the setting.

It may also be a fault of the anti-skate control which you can find next to the cueing lever.

You can adjust the settings by using the settings next to the cueing lever, and the correct anti-skating control setting will be in the handbook by the manufacturer. 

  1. Only One Channel Playing Sound 

Although the tonearm isn’t the first part of the record player that you would check for this problem, you might be able to solve the problem by checking it over.

The balance of the tonearm and the vertical tracking force could be causing the issue. 

If you have tried these areas, then it could be due to dirt. If you disconnect the tonearm and the headshell, you can access the connecting contacts and clean them with a suitable cleaning solution. 

Making sure that they are clean could solve the problem and limit any interference with how the signal is being transmitted. Ensure that they are clean before putting the headshell and the tonearm back together. 

  1. Humming Noise When Playing Records

The tonearm isn’t usually the first place you would look when there is a problem with humming when playing your records, but a lot of the starting points lead to the tonearm. You will be saving time by checking here first. 

You need to make sure that the tonearm ground wire is connected to the ground terminal properly to make sure that any humming is cut out. Making sure that the wire is firmly connected should stop the humming. 

If that doesn’t stop it, then you can investigate the cartridge. If the cartridge isn’t properly connected to the tonearm, this can cause the humming sound.

The cartridge is very delicate, so make sure that you handle it with care and reattach it with caution. 

  1. Moving The Tonearm Causes Interference 

When you move or touch the tonearm, you may notice that you can hear some interference. The interference can sometimes be caused by the wires inside the tonearm hitting against the tube. 

As the wiring is very important, it isn’t advised that you try and get inside the tonearm to play around with the wires.

It is recommended that you leave this to a professional who is confident with dealing with the wires that are found inside the tonearm.

If you live in a warm and dry environment, this could be the reason why the wires are hitting against the tonearm walls.

By hitting the tonearm, the wires are creating static, which can lead to them producing a current. This is how the interference is formed. 

Things To Remember

Now that you are aware of how to solve a variety of common problems with your tonearm, there are a few things to remember when you go to repair them. 

It is important that you deal with any tonearm problems to make sure that your records are protected and that your record player doesn’t become damaged. 

Be Careful!

Record players are very delicate pieces of equipment and their parts are even more fragile. When you are looking closer at the tonearm, remember that it contains wires that are very delicate and cannot be interfered with.

The cartridge of a very delicate piece of the record player, so you need to make sure that you handle it with care. If you handle the tonearm or the cartridge carelessly, this could create new problems for your record player. 

Don’t Force The Tonearm

If after reading this guide you are still unsure of how to solve any of these problems, don’t try and force the tonearm to be fixed. If you don’t feel confident or comfortable with handling the parts, leave it to a professional. 

Trying to force the tonearm into positions that it isn’t comfortable with will be doing more harm than good.

It is always recommended that you seek professional advice if you are uncertain about whether or not you are further damaging the record player. 

Final Thoughts

To conclude, the tonearm is a very delicate piece of the record player that needs a lot of care and attention.

If you notice a slight change in the movement or form of your tonearm, you will need to get it checked as it could cause damage to your records. 

If the tonearm is left for too long, it could begin to affect your record player as you won’t be able to use it as often.

Making sure that you carefully take a look at the tonearm will ensure that any problems can be solved and not affect the long-term use of the record player. 

Remember that you can always call a professional for help, but problems that do not involve touching the wiring inside the tonearm should be relatively easy to solve.

Make sure that you handle the tonearm with care as you do not want to damage any of the wirings inside. 

Jacob Stable
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