The compact disc player, or CD player, was the first major entertainment appliance to used digital technology. This Fix-It Guide on CD player repair tells how a CD player works, what often goes wrong, how to identify a CD player problem, and what parts and tools you will need to fix it. It then gives instructions for how to clean a CD, how to clean the CD player lens, how to service the disc tray and belt of a single-play unit, and how to service the CD player tray motor. Some of these repairs also apply to CD burner repair.
How Does a CD Player Work?
A CD player is an electronic device powered by a universal motor that rotates a flat plastic disc that has been stamped with a digital code representing specific sounds. As the player rotates the CD at high speed the sound track–less than the width of a human hair–is read by a laser beam used to produce an electric stereo sound signal. This signal goes to an amplifier and speakers or earphones to reproduce the music represented on the CD.
What Can Go Wrong with a CD Player?
CD players either work or they don’t. The third option is that they work, but the sound skips–which typically is caused by a dirty or damaged disc rather than the player. CD players have few moving parts and are mostly trouble free. In fact, there is little you can do besides clean the CDs, clean the machine, or replace cords. Just about everything else should be turned over to an electronics technician.
You can use a CD repair kit, available where CDs are sold, to polish out scratches on the underside of the disc.
How Can I Identify a CD Player Problem?
CD player problems are usually obvious, though the solutions may not be.
- If a CD player does not work at all, make sure the power supply is on at the outlet. Check the electrical cord and replace it if necessary; remove the housing and test the fuse; test the on-off switch and replace it if needed.
- If a CD player works but produces no sound, check the connections to the stereo system and clean the clear plastic reading lens.
- If a CD player skips, check to be sure the CD itself is not scratched or dirty.
- If a CD player tray won’t open or close properly, check the belt for dirt or wear and check the tray for misalignment (remove, clean, lubricate, and reinstall).
- If the sound from a CD player is distorted, check and clean dirty output jacks.
CD players and other electronic devices are dust magnets. Every month, carefully clean the interior of these devices with canned air or a vacuum.
What Do I Need for CD Player Repair?
You can find CD cleaners, canned air, and other tools and parts at electronic stores, or even at larger discount stores. Replacement parts need to come from the manufacturer or aftermarket supplier. Here are some of the tools and materials you may need:
- Canned air or soft brush
- Foam swab or camera-lens tissue
- Lens cleaner fluid
- Clean, dust-free cloth
- White lithium grease
- Cotton gloves
- CD cleaning fluid or denatured alcohol
What Are the Steps to CD Player Repair?
The four primary fixes you can do to a CD player include cleaning a CD, cleaning the lens, cleaning the tray, and replacing the tray motor. Let’s take a look at each:
Clean a CD:
- Hold the disc by its hub and outside edges. (The music data is located on the back or bottom side of the disc.)
- Blow dust from the bottom surface with a can of compressed air.
- Clean dirt and fingerprints with a lint-free cloth dampened with CD-cleaning fluid or denatured alcohol, all available at electronic stores. Wipe from the center outward (not a circular motion).
Clean the CD player lens:
- To access the lens in a single-play unit, remove the housing and carefully lift up the hold-down clamp to expose the lens. To remove the lens in a carousel player, remove the player housing and unscrew the bracket secured to the top of carousel, then lift off the bracket.
- Remove dust with canned air or a soft brush. If needed, use a foam swab or camera-lens tissue (not eyeglass tissue) dampened with lens fluid.
Service the disc tray and belt of a single-play CD unit:
- Open the housing by removing the screws on the outside of the housing and remove anything blocking the tray. Press the open-close control to extend tray, and unplug the unit. To remove the clip-on tray front, brace the tray and slide the panel to one side.
- Unplug any cables connecting the front panel to the interior. Remove the screws securing the front panel and gently tilt it off. If the panel won’t move, check beneath it for clips or additional screws.
- Lift off the hold-down clamp, screw, or spring on top of the disc tray. Gently pull the tray out of the player. Clean the travel rail and guides with a swab dampened with denatured alcohol. Lubricate the tray sparingly with white lithium grease.
- Remove the belt to inspect for dirt, water, or damage. Avoid touching the belt with your fingers. Use tweezers or wear cotton gloves. Clean the belt with a lint-free cloth moistened with denatured alcohol. Replace the belt if it is damaged.
Service the CD player tray motor:
- Unplug the player and test the motor.
- A dirty motor plug can make the tray work intermittently. To clean the motor plug, unplug it and spray it with electrical contact cleaner. Then repeatedly plug and unplug the unit to verify contact.
- To remove the motor, depress the end of each clip or bale with a finger and lift it up.
- To replace the motor, carefully remove the drive belt with tweezers or gloved hand, then lift the motor out of its mount.
Most CD players are built with thin plastics–especially the tray or cover–that can be damaged. Be careful not to force them.