Saturday, July 20, 2013

8-track Repair 1001: Sensing Foil

A piece of sensing foil from a vintage, early 70's 8-track tape
Whenever I buy an 8-track (used or new) my first task is to see if the thing even plays. If the tape does indeed play, I'll let it play out to the end of a track, making sure to pull the cartridge out of the player before the sensing foil passes over the tape head. This sensing foil is what tells your 8-track machine to switch to the next track, but more importantly it serves as the adhesive that holds the whole tape together. 8-tracks are now decades old, and over time the adhesive on the sensing foil dries up, much like the Scotch tape was once used to hold photographs onto pages of old photo albums. The purpose of locating the sensing foil on a newly acquired 8-track is to either replace or reinforce it (which I do by adhering a second piece of foil to the backside of the tape).

This may sound complicated or confusing, but it's actually very simple. The risk in not replacing sensing foil is that the tape comes apart, resulting in half of the tape disappearing into the tape cartridge. The sensing foil pictured above (actual size is a little less than an inch in length) fell off of an 8-track I was playing just this morning. I then had to perform "surgery" on the tape to carefully re-connect the two ends of tape with new sensing foil (which, in case you're wondering, can be purchased relatively cheaply on eBay). 8-track surgery can be complicated and frustrating, hence why it's best to proactively replace the foil upon first play.

Thus concludes today's lesson in keeping your 8-tracks happy and healthy. I hope you found this helpful. Class dismissed!

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