Have you recently used your record player, only to experience a burning or smokey smell?
There are 7 common reasons for why a record player smells like burning. If left unchecked, it can be a highly distressing and hazardous situation but fortunately, it can be resolved by simply following our 3 step process below!
So why is it suddenly smelling smokey?
The most common reason to smell burning is when dust on your record, or internal parts, is burnt due to the static electricity that is released when playing your record player. Fortunately, this is easy to diagnose and fix. In total, there are 7 common causes you need to know before you next use your record player, as they could be a fire hazard if left unchecked.
- Dust on your record or internal parts
- Using the wrong power adaptor
- A worn belt
- A broken or damaged bearing
- A short circuit
- A damaged motor
- A warped or dusty record
If you’re ready to find out why your record player smells like burning, follow the 3 step flowchart below!
The 3 Step Guide To Finding Your Record Player’s Burning Smell
The 7 Causes & Fixes For A Record Player’s Burning Smell
Now you know the most likely cause of your record player’s burning smell, it’s time to confirm and fix it!
Find the cause below to diagnose and fix to stop your record player smelling like burning any longer.
Caution MUST be taken during these steps as some involve electrical currents. Always consult a trained electrician or repair shop and make sure everything is unplugged first.
Why Does Dust Cause A Burning Smell?
Dust is highly flammable but is fortunately only usually found in very small quantities. Static electricity and heat is released when using a record player and can easily cause dust to burn.
As dust is highly flammable, it is vital that you clean your records and record players properly as it could become a fire hazard.
How To Diagnose Dust Build Up
It should be easy to spot dust on your record or on the top layer of your record player. If there is none at all, you should expose the inside and carefully inspect the internal parts and wirings for dust.
Parts like the motor for example, generate a lot of heat and can easily burn dust that is close by.
If you regularly clean your records, you might be wondering how dust build up could be the cause of the burning smell? Simply put, if you regularly blow or brush dust off of your record or the parts on the top of your record player, they could be falling down between the parts and into the interior instead.
How To Stop Dust Burning Your Record Player
Use a brush and microfiber cloth to carefully clean every part of your record player, ensuring you aren’t just moving dust from one part to another.
For hard to reach gaps, you can buy a can of compressed air to blow any dust caught in hard to reach spots too.
Prevention is always the best solution however. Make sure to use your record player’s dust cover every time it is not in use. Check out out guide on dust covers to know how to use them correctly, or make one if you don’t have one!
What Is A Record Player Belt?
A record player belt is a rubber ring attached to the motor and platter to make it spin. ‘Direct-drive’ record players don’t use belts however, instead relying on a motor to spin the platter directly.
How To Diagnose A Loose Belt
Firstly, check if you have a belt-drive or direct-drive record player by googling or manually checking to see if it has a belt attached to the platter. If you have a direct-drive record player then the burning smell is caused by something else.
Secondly, check if you can smell burning rubber or whether your spinning record keeps stopping or slowing. If so, it is highly likely your belt is the problem.
To check the belt, turn your record player over and unscrew the base if you need to to expose the parts. Check the belt for any signs of damage, especially wear and tear or if you can physically feel any inconsistencies. You should also check the belt is not too small for the platter. If so, then it will be too tight and hinder spinning which builds up friction and heat with too much use.
How To Fix A Record Player’s Loose Belt
It is very easy and cheap to fix a loose or damaged belt. You can purchase one for less than $10 and simply place it around the platter and motor so it is held in place but not too tight.
What Is A Record Player Bearing?
A record player bearing is a solid metal or plastic ring that the platter attaches to. This ensures your records spin firmly instead of wobbling.
When a faulty bearing causes a burning smell, it is because of the excess friction being caused when it spins. The outer edges may rub against other parts causing a heat build up.
Bearings can wear down over time or screws can become loose, making it wobble or move out of place which generates friction where it shouldn’t.
How To Diagnose A Failed Bearing
Expose the inside so you can see the bearing and remove the belt (if you have a belt-drive record player).
The best way to identify a faulty bearing is to move it very slowly, assessing whether it moves freely. If it jolts or comes to a stop quickly then it is highly like your bearing is the cause of the burning smell.
A faulty bearing will usually exude the smell of plastic or squeak as the outer edges are heated up due to friction when being spun.
You should also check for any loose screws, uneven edges and obstruction.
How To Fix A Record Player’s Bearing
If the bearing has a loose screw, start by tightening it and testing the difference in how well it spins.
Next, feel the outer edges for any unevenness, wear and tear or bumps. If there are obvious markings then you will need to replace the bearing.
Fortunately, bearings are cheap from less than $20 to buy and easy to replace. Typically, you can just take off the platter, belt and other parts and carefully place the new bearing on. If your record player is hard to take apart or you are unsure in any way, it is always best to check the manual or speak with a professional.
A Damaged Motor
What Is A Record Player Motor?
A record player motor is a small device designed to rapidly spin causing the platter to rotate at specific speeds. Belt-drive record players have a rubber belt around the motor and the platter which cause the platter to move. Direct-drive record players use a motor to spin the platter by itself.
How To Diagnose A Damaged Motor
If you have a damaged motor, it is highly likely your records will skip or behave oddly such as by slowing and speeding up.
Firstly, remove the belt if you have a belt-drive record player, and manually turn the motor by hand. It should spin easily without friction so do this slowly and feel for any hinderance.
The motor should not wobble or feel loose. If it does, then the problem is likely inside of it instead. Unscrew the outer case and check the inside wirings and parts for damage or obstruction.
How To Fix A Record Player’s Damaged Motor
If you can’t see any signs of damage, but it feels stiff when spinning by hand, you can use a lubricant which should fix the problem. It is good practice to lubricate your record player parts every few months to keep it playing smoothly.
If the motor has clear signs of damage or just stops working entirely, then the easiest and cheapest option will be to simply replace the motor. You can purchase record player motors for less than $20 and attach them relatively easily. However, some record players will require more electrical knowledge if the internal wiring is complex and should be replaced by a trained professional if so.
What Is A Record Player Short Circuit?
A short circuit is when an electrical current travels along a path it was not designed for, with little or no electrical impedance. Record players have several different electrical parts and wires and if one fails, it can affect the whole record player or other functions from LED lights to the motor spinning.
This often happens due to damp, water damage, wear and tear over time or improper handling such as when dropping your record player on the floor.
How To Diagnose A Record Player Short Circuiting
Most of the time, you will experience function loss such as a button not working, or an LED behaving oddly. If this is the case with your record player, remove it from all power, open it up and identify the wiring that connects to that part. Check for damage, fraying or whether it is securely connected at both ends.
Occasionally, you may have a short circuit without any noticeable function loss. If you have exhausted all other options as outlined in our flowchart, then expose all wiring and carefully inspect every single wire and electrical part for signs of damage or missing connectivity.
How To Fix A Short Circuit In Your Record Player
If a wire or other connection is loose, you can attempt to solder it if you have a soldering iron. If it is connected to a device by screws, you may just be able to hold it back in place and tighten the screws.
If there is noticeable damage to the wiring, the wire will need to be replaced immediately. Only use a trained professional to do this to avoid damage to your record player or yourself.
A Dodgy Record
Can A Record Cause A Burning Smell?
PVC Records are not considered flammable as they are resistant to ignition, with an ignition temperature of 734 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a far higher temperature than your record player could produce. However, a typical vinyl record can warp due to heat at a temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit and melt at 212 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you leave your records in a very hot room, or in direct sunlight, you could notice a burning smell when the record is played as the PVC material has weakened.
How To Diagnose A ‘Burning’ Record
Play other records to see if the burning smell comes from any of your records. If so, it is highly unlikely that your record is the cause.
You should also look to see if your records are dusty.
How To Fix A Record’s Burning Smell
The best fix is to thoroughly clean your record for any dust or obstruction.
Once you have cleaned your record, look closer for any bumps in the grooves. Bumps could be caused by the PVC material having warped which can smell like burning due to heat from the needle repeatedly sliding along it.
Unfortunately, a warped record is almost impossible to fix and your best solution is to replace the broken record. Repeated plays could cause more damage to the record, as well as other parts which could become a hazard.
Wrong Power Adaptor Or Convertor
Why Would An Adaptor Cause A Burning Smell?
Almost all record players rely on mains power to run via a power adaptor. Adaptors are country-specific to the voltage used in that area and it is vital that the voltage released from the mains socket matches the voltage of the adaptor you are given.
If you use the wrong adaptor, or are using an international convertor with the wrong voltage, too much power could be released. This will cause excess heat to build and your wirings and other parts may burn, melt or decay quickly.
How To Check You Have The Correct Adaptor For Your Record Player
Check that your adaptors are the correct type and voltage for your record player by reading your record player manual and googling your countries maximum mains power levels.
If you are using a convertor make sure it is appropriate to your record player and mains socket too.
You can also easily test if this is the fault by using a different mains socket as well as different adaptors.
If you find a mismatch in the maximum power yields between your adaptors and your mains then this is the likely cause of the burning smell.
How To Fix An Adaptor With The Wrong Power
Purchase the correct power adaptor or international convertor if you use one and use a different mains socket to be safe when first testing.
It is best practice not to use a convertor so try to ensure the record player you purchase comes with your countries power adaptor on arrival.
Prevention and Costs
Should I Repair My Record Player If It Smells Like Burning?
If your record player smells like burning you should take immediate action to prevent a potential fire.
Turn it off and unplug all electrics from the mains for 10 minutes before diagnosing and attempting a repair as outlined above. If your repair involves electrical circuits and parts, we recommend taking it to a repair shop with a trained electrician. Improper care when attempting to fix it could cause damage to your record player, or yourself.
Are Record Player Repairs Expensive?
Usually, repairing record players that smell like burning is inexpensive, especially compared to the cost of replacing one. By properly diagnosing the root of the problem, you will often find it is just one small part that needs replacing or repairing.
How Common Is It To Smell Burning When Playing A Record?
Smelling burning is quite common because it is easy for dust to build up when a record player hasn’t been properly cleaned in a while. Even people who regularly clean their record player can experience this as parts degrade over time.
It is also more likely that parts will wear out on cheap record players, like ‘suitcase’ record players, and cause a burning smell.
Check out our guide on using dust covers to prevent this!
Are Older Record Players More Likely To Have Issues?
Record players with old parts that haven’t been replaced or looked after regularly are more likely to cause a burning smell than more modern record players. This is because they have had a long time to wear down. The exception to this is on cheap, modern record players, like ‘suitcase record players’ as they use very cheap and poorly made parts which are far more susceptible to damage.
How Do You Prevent a Record Player From Smelling Like Burning?
You can prevent your record player from smelling like burning by doing the following;
- Use A Dust Cover (check out our blog on everything you need to know about dust covers here)
- Regularly clean your record player, and all it’s parts
- Check your internal parts for wear and tear semi-regularly
- Check your internal wiring for fray
Can A Burning Smell Cause Damage To Your Records?
Yes especially if the problem is caused by a faulty bearing as this can wobble your records, causing your needle to scratch the surface when spun.
There are 7 main reasons why you smell burning from your record player. They are all easy and cheap to diagnose and fix but as they can become fire hazards, it is vital that you stop using your record player immediately and fix the problem.
Using our 3 step visual guide, you can instantly find out the cause of your record players burning smell, and how to fix it for less than $20 in most cases.
When in doubt, always consult a trained electrical professional or your local repair store.