Video Camera Repair

This Fix-It Guide on video camera repair tells how video film and digital cameras works, what often goes wrong, how to identify a video camera problem, and what parts and tools you will need to fix it. It then gives simple step-by-step instructions for how to disassemble a video camera, how to replace a band brake, how to replace a belt, and how to release a stuck tape. This guide also refers to other Fix-It Guides for specific repairs.

How Does a Video Camera Work?

Video Camera Repair

Components of a typical video camera.

A video camera, also called a camcorder, is a portable television camera combined with a video recorder. The camera section has a lens and special charge-coupled device or CCD (a microchip with thousands of tiny light-sensitive elements containing photodiodes). The CCD separates the picture into three color images using red, green, and blue color filters over adjacent light-sensitive elements. In the recorder section, the video signal from the CCD and sound signal from the video camera’s microphone are recorded on tape in the same way that a video recorder records sound. The signal is either analog (older) or digital (newer). The tape format may be VHS, VHS-C or 8 millimeter, but otherwise video cameras are very similar in function, maintenance, and repair.

Fix-It Tip

Some so-called problems are caused by built-in safety devices. For example, many video cameras will refuse to work if an internal sensor says that the air is too moist or dusty. In fact, a warning image may show up on the viewfinder or screen. If so, change conditions (if possible) before attempting to video. Canned air can assist the process.

What Can Go Wrong with a Video Camera?

Many problems with a video camera are actually caused by incorrect operation, so check your owner’s manual thoroughly before attempting any repairs. However, contacts may be dirty, batteries may fail, fuses may fail, heads may become dirty or worn, and the pinch roller or capstan may be dirty. The tape-loading belt may be broken or damaged, the audio heads may be dirty, or the microphone may be damaged or defective.

How Can I Identify a Video Camera Problem?

  • If the video camera doesn’t work, make sure the battery is charged (see the Battery Recharger Fix-It Guide) or replace a battery that won’t hold a charge. Make sure the AC adapter is connected properly. Clean any dirty contacts on the battery, charger, and AC adapter with a cotton swab dipped in denatured alcohol. Remove corrosion with a clean pencil eraser, then wipe the area with an artist’s brush to remove any debris. Find and test the fuse, if any.
  • If the power goes off soon after starting, recharge a low battery. Also, turn the video camera power off, then turn it back on and eject the tape. If the problem persists, check the fuse.
  • If the battery won’t charge, clean the contacts and fully discharge the battery, then recharge it. If the problem persists, replace the battery (see the Battery Recharger Fix-It Guide).
  • If the video camera works intermittently, remove and re-seat the  to establish good contact. If necessary replace the fuse.
  • If the picture quality is poor, clean the video heads with a head-cleaning tape. If the problem persists, have the video camera professionally serviced.
  • If the tape doesn’t run, clean the camera with a head-cleaning tape or wipe areas that touch the tape with a lint-free cloth (available from electronics stores) moistened with denatured alcohol.
  • If the tape won’t load or eject, inspect and replace a broken or damaged belt (see below). If the belt is not faulty, the tape transport system may be damaged and need professional service.
  • If there is no audio, clean the heads with a head-cleaning tape. If the problem persists, have the video camera professionally service.
  • If the video camera damages tapes, remove the carriage door and use tweezers and canned air to remove any debris from the tape transport area. Clean the area with a head-cleaning tape. Replace a broken or worn capstan belt (see below).
  • If the picture pulls to the right in playback mode, remove the tape carriage door and remove any debris blocking the brake. If the brake is broken, replace it or have it replaced professionally.

Fix-It Tip

Video cameras are so expensive, fragile, and difficult for owners to work on that you should consider purchasing an extended service warranty, especially if the manufacturer’s warranty is for less than one year.

What Do I Need for Video Camera Repair?

Replacement parts are available from the manufacturer and aftermarket suppliers. Cleaning aids and some replacement parts may be available from local electronic stores. The tools you will need to fix a video camera include these:

  • Cotton swabs
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Pencil eraser
  • Artist’s brush
  • Head-cleaning tape
  • Screwdrivers
  • Tweezers
  • Canned air

What Are the Steps to Video Camera Repair?

 Video Camera Repair

Carefully disassemble the video camera and keep track of parts.

Disassemble a video camera:

  1. Disconnect the power source.
  2. Remove the tape carriage door by first removing any screws securing the door cover. Slide the cover upward, then pull it off.
  3. Turn over the unit. Remove all screws holding the housing together, then lift off the housing. If wires link the housing to the rest of the video camera, disconnect and mark them for easier reassembly.
  4. Remove any screws securing the main circuit board, then carefully remove the circuit board.

Replace a video camera band brake:

  1. Disconnect the power source.
  2. Remove the tape carriage door and release the carriage.
  3. Remove clips or screws to free the brake and belt. If they are otherwise secured, have the unit serviced.
  4. Install a new brake with the felt side around the supply spool.
  5. Reassemble in reverse order.

Replace a video camera belt:

  1. Disconnect the power source.
  2. Turn over the unit. Remove all screws holding the housing together, then lift off the housing. If wires link the housing to the rest of video camera, disconnect and mark them for easier reassembly.
  3. Remove the belt if it is either worn or damaged.
  4. Wipe the new belt with denatured alcohol to remove any protective coating; let the belt dry.
  5. Thread the belt around the pulleys.
  6. Reassemble in reverse order.

Release a stuck video camera tape:

  1. Disconnect the power source.
  2. If the eject button fails, remove the housing and the main circuit board (see above).
  3. Remove screws or un-clip retainer clips securing the small circuit board and lift it out.
  4. Press the tape-carriage release lever near the top of the camera with a screwdriver and carefully remove the tape from the carriage.
  5. Use tweezers and an artist’s brush or canned air to remove any debris.
  6. Reassemble the video camera.

Fix-It Tip

For every few tapes you run through the video camera, use a head-cleaning tape to remove build-up on the record and playback heads. You can purchase a head-cleaning tape at an electronics store or wherever video cameras and video tapes are sold.