6 Bad Things that Can Happen to Your VHS Tape

It is no secret that VHS/VCR tapes have passed their prime in the audio-video timeline, but you might still be holding on to the nostalgia or just have been too busy to transfer your home videos over to DVD. After all, it isn’t like a VHS tape has an expiration date, right?

Wrong. VHS Tapes do have a shelf life. Here are six bad things that can happen to your vhs tapes.

VHS Tape mold1. Mold
Very few families would suspect that what looks like a chunk of plastic could be a breeding ground for mold. Spots with white powder or dust could be destroying your cherished memories and videos as you are reading! A touch of mold powdering can be cleaned from VHS tapes, but if not caught soon enough it becomes thick white confectioners-sugar-like coating on your magnetic tape ribbon. If that happens, you will not find a video transfer lab that would be willing to risk their equipment to run your tapes to convert them to DVD.

2. Tape Warping
Extreme temperature changes over time can cause serious damage and warping to the magnetic ribbon in the video tapes. Warping causes image disruption and static noise. Beyond a point, the tape ribbon is too warped to run smoothly in the tape player.

3. Sticking
Along with extreme temperature changes air quality can be a major factor in your VHS memories’ shelf lives! Humidity can be the kiss of death for your recorded wedding vows, causing the tape in VHS housing to stick together. Over the years, we have received a couple of hockey pucks that were once loose reel of tape.

4. Tape Detaches from Housing
Tapes become fragile with time. Over the years, the multiple rewinding takes a toll on the tape and its housing case! There is a chance that the tape could detach from the housing making it impossible to rewind and watch your favorite family memories and firsts. This one is actually easily reparable. Most video transfer lab has knowledgeable technician that has the fine tools to unscrew the housing, re-attach the tape the the mechanism and screw it back again. Once repaired, transfer it immediately.

5. Housing Cracks or Housing Mechanism Jams
If you had children or were a young child in the VHS era, you might remember the beating your old VHS tapes have taken over the years. They have been dropped, thrown, and stepped on – ok, your family home videos probably didn’t receive the same treatment as the kids’ favorite Disney movies. Still, simply watching, rewatching, and rewinding puts wear and tear on the housing case of your VHS tapes. It’s not indestructible. A cracked case could jam the housing mechanism, causing it to jam in the player.

6. Shredded Tape

VHS video tape is fragile and with temperature changes, humidity, and wear and tear the tape can tear. Needless to say, once your video tape is shredded it is beyond the point of repair and your recorded memories have “gone with the wind”.

Even though your VHS has no expiration date printed on it, you can see how it definitely has a shelf life. Your cherished memories could be lost due to a number of reasons. So what is that shelf life? 10 years? 20 years? VHS tapes stopped being used in the 90s. Time flies when you are not watching it. This is the year 2013, which makes your tapes are likely to be 15-20 years old. And the best time to transfer your VHS/VCR tapes to DVD or to other digital format? Yesterday. Don’t wait any longer, your kids and their kids are counting on you to safe their family home movies.

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  1. Hello, I’m just wondeing if when a tape warps, what exactly does it look like on the TV screen? is there a strange line that keeps going up the screen? Thanks.


    • Dear Chad, when a tape warps, do NOT put it into the machine. There’s a good likelihood the tape will get stuck in the machine, if you’re lucky, you’ll still be able to get it out. If your’re not lucky, your machine will jam and not eject the tape. Either way, damage to your tape is quite certain. –Myrtha

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