The Record Scratch
If you are a vinyl collector and an avid listener then a scratched record is something your are going to encounter at some point. Knowing how to fix scratched records is an important skill could save you money! Vinyl records are great but as an old technology it is fragile and prone to scratches. When it’s a terrible scratch on a common and less expensive record, it might make the most sense to simply buy a new copy. But if it’s a smaller more manageable scratch (think a small skip ahead in a song) and maybe a harder to find album you can always try to fix it.
NOTE : This method is for EPs and LPs not 78s, also practice this method on a less expensive and common albums first!
Repairing Vinyl Records
There are a few methods to fix a scratched record but we’re going to focus on the one method that we’ve seen the most success with. It’s sometimes referred to as the toothpick method, however you can use other small pointed tools such as a dull needle.
This method requires a few things :
- A toothpick
- A knife (to sharpen the toothpick)
- A steady hand
First, place your record on a safe area, such as a table with a cloth. Make sure that the vinyl is safe from slipping around while you attempt to fix it. Locate the scratch that you are trying to fix. If you look closely you should be able to see how the scratch is affecting the playback and the stylus as it moves through the grooves. A magnifying lens may help if you’re not seeing it but basically a skip occurs because the walls of the groove in your record have been compromised or “scratched” down. This allows the stylus an alternate route rather than following the groove.
Our goal is to make the groove a better route to take than the scratch. We’re not adding depth to the groove. What we’re going to be attempting is to fix the scratched broken down walls of the groove by pushing them back up as best as we can. With that in mind, try to sharpen your toothpick enough to fit nicely into a groove.
Next, take your toothpick and angle it as close as you can to parallel with the flat record. Again, we don’t want to gouge into the groove, but simply glide through it smoothly and push up the groove walls. Go back and forth through the scratched area several times, following the grooves. Be sure to change direction as well as if your toothpick is playing through the groove in reverse as well as forward.
Once you’ve gone through the entire groove the next step is to play the record and see if you’ve fixed the skip. If you have you’re all done! If not, repeat the process with the toothpick again through the scratched grooves. Fixing a scratched record can sometimes require multiple passes through the area with this method so don’t be upset if you don’t fix it the first time.
Unfortunately, if you’re unable to fix the scratch and remedy the skip after several passes, you may have an unrepairable scratch. If this is the case, you may have to replace the vinyl entirely but at least you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you did all you could to save it. If you’re new to vinyl records its a good idea to learn some basic care so you can prevent scratches. If this is you, take a look at our guide on how to care for your vinyls.