How To Tune Your Victrola Motor

By Peter Fraser

Purple Line

Lots of folks new to the phono hobby want to learn how to get their old wind up phono to run better. The most typical complaint is how to make it run fast and/or long enough to play a record.

Well, this is typically from decades of lubrication and decades of dust and dirt and encrustation finally gunking things up so much that they can't do their job. So I wrote a little degunking guide. The thing is directed at the typical internal horn Victor machine, but should be appropriate for just about any similar machine. Have fun!

  1. Remove the tone arm - three or four screws around the perimeter of the mounting base-plate. Lift the whole assembly (base/pivot "hood" plus tone arm plus soundbox) up and out very carefully - the "hood" is fragile pot metal and can crack.

  2. Remove the crank - just unscrews counterclockwise.

  3. Remove 4 screws around perimeter of the "motor board" - the rectangular board upon which the turntable and motor are mounted.

  4. Remove the turntable - just pull upward.

  5. Move the automatic brake lever (if so equipped) to a position where it isn't projecting over the edge of the motor board.

  6. Grasp the motor board knob(s) (if so equipped) and tilt the front end of the motor board upward, then lift the whole thing out, front edge first. There's often little brackets and braces and such to disengage underneath, so go slow. When you set it down, be very careful not to let it rest on any moving parts - especially the governor! - best on the rear edge. Here's where a helper is useful.

  7. Using spray-on carburetor or brake cleaner and maybe an old toothbrush or Q-tips, de-gunk the thing. Feel free to clean everything, EXCEPT the metal cylinder containing the spring - if you degrease it, your spring will break pretty quickly, and it's hard to re-grease without disassembly. If your spring used to thump as it played, try submerging the spring barrel (and the rest of the motor, but not the motor board!) in kerosene overnight, then letting it drain for a week before continuing. Apply fresh grease (or motor oil) into the holes in the spring barrel as you see fit - note that using motor oil will require a drip catcher under the installed barrel. Caution: under NO circumstances should you attempt to open the spring barrel or repair or replace the spring. This is a highly hazardous activity, best left to professionals.

  8. Lubricate the moving parts with light machine oil. Motor oil or 3-in-1 works fine. You want to make sure you get all bearings (the points where shafts turn in "holes"), and put a light few drops on each gear's teeth - maybe just a couple of drops on each gear, which will work its way around the perimeter with use. Also put motor oil on the leather rubbing surfaces in the governor - the little pads that act upon a quick-spinning disk. On slow-moving parts, like the big gear associated with the spring, put a little Vaseline or grease on the teeth. Finally, also work a drop or two of motor oil into the turntable brake pad (on the above board side of the motor board). Rough it up with the tip of a screwdriver to help it absorb the oil.

  9. Run the motor a bit to ensure it's running smoothly and at good speed. If not, see if you need more degunking and do so. Run the speed control up and down to make sure it's working, too.

  10. Go wash your hands, then carefully slip the thing back into place in your machine. Reassemble in reverse order. When replacing the tone arm assembly, put a ring of grease or Vaseline around the perimeter of the mounting plate where it mates with the hole in the machine, to help make a good air seal. Place the turntable back on, making sure to hold the brake pad inward as the turntable comes down. Rotate the turntable slightly to ensure the locking pin is seated.

  11. Put in a new needle, put on a great record, crank it up, and ROCK.

Good Luck!

- Peter Fraser
Purple Line

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