Warping is a fairly common type of vinyl damage and it can occur for any number of reasons.
Warping massively detracts from the audio quality of the record and it can sometimes be so bad, that it makes your record totally unplayable.
This common problem leaves many vinyl lovers wondering exactly how to fix a warped record…
…or if the only solution is an expensive replacement!
How To Fix A Warped Record
Warped records never play well, and in extreme cases, may in fact not play at all.
This can be a massive issue for records that are expensive to replace…
…and even more so for those rare pieces of vinyl that have no known replacements available.
If you have found that some of your prized records are warped, what can you do?
The best way to fix warped records is to use a record flattening machine. If you cannot find this machine or if it is too expensive, find someone who has one and runs a record flattening service. This will ensure that the record is not damaged and will effectively flatten the record.
Vinyl records are known to warp when they become too warm or exposed to too much humidity.
Some records can also warp with age, if they are made from lesser-quality vinyl.
If this has occurred to some of your records, luckily, there are ways to fix it.
Flattening out a warped record can be dangerous…
…I mean, not to the extent that human life could be in danger, or anyone’s at risk of losing an eye…
…but it can cause further harm to your record, or even break it entirely.
But, there are a couple of safe ways to go about it.
And both of them are relatively gentle and pretty unlikely to cause any further damage.
Let’s explore the two best ways to fix a warped piece of vinyl.
#1. Use a Record Flattening Machine
The best way to fix a warped vinyl record is to use a high-quality record flattening machine.
These machines are specifically designed to fix warped records and are very good at it.
Using a machine like this does not damage the record and can return the record to nearly perfectly true.
These machines are essentially weighed flat presses with heating plates.
The record is placed between the flattening plates, which slowly heat up to a safe temperature…
…and the gentle weight of the machine applies just enough pressure to flatten the record without harming it.
The only problem is that these machines are outrageously expensive.
Record flattening machines can cost upwards of $2,000, which is a lot of cash!
The good news, however, is that many people own these machines and offer record flattening services for very reasonable fees.
Look them up online, and you will find someone with the right machine who will flatten your record for a small fee.
This is usually the best and safest way to flatten a warped record.
#2. Use Heat, Pressure…and Time
This method tends to be the go-to for many vinyl enthusiasts wondering how to fix a warped record.
If a record flattening machine is not an option for you, this is the next best thing.
Be very careful how you do this.
First, slightly and very carefully, heat the warped record with a gentle heat source, such as an iron (placing a towel over the record first obviously) or direct sunlight…
…and then place the record on a flat surface, and under something perfectly flat, and evenly weighted, like a book or two….
And then wait…for a very long time.
Realistically, you should allow at least a week to ensure that the record does not warp as soon as you remove it from under your book.
Just be sure that the book is not so heavy that it ends up flattening the record’s grooves.
Using a humidifier to heat the record and apply some moisture can help, but only in very small amounts.
Well, as is the case with almost everything, it’s not all pancakes and syrup…
…so here are some of the hazards associated with using heat or humidity to flatten a warped record:
- Melting or Softening the Vinyl:
- Vinyl records have a low melting point, typically between 130°F to 210°F (54°C to 98°C), depending on the specific composition of the vinyl.
- If excessive heat is applied, even for a short duration, the record’s grooves can become damaged or distorted. This not only affects playback but can render the record unplayable.
- Softening may also lead to further warping if the record cools in a non-flat position.
- Cracking or Breaking:
- Rapid temperature changes can cause the vinyl to expand and contract. If this happens unevenly or too quickly, the vinyl can crack.
- Records that have been stored in cool conditions and then suddenly exposed to heat or moisture are especially vulnerable to this kind of damage.
- Extended exposure to heat can cause discolouration of the vinyl, turning it yellow or brownish. This affects the visual appeal of the record, although it may not always impact the sound quality.
- Groove Damage:
- Excessive humidity can soften the grooves, leading to potential damage when played. The stylus may cut into the softened grooves, altering the sound or rendering parts of the record silent.
- Mold Growth:
- Using humidity to flatten a record might introduce moisture, creating an environment conducive to mould growth. Mould can damage the vinyl surface, causing audio distortions and potential health risks when the spores become airborne.
- Sticker or Label Damage:
- The labels at the centre of a vinyl record are typically made of paper and adhesive. Exposing the record to heat or moisture can cause these labels to bubble, peel, or discolour. In some cases, they might also transfer ink onto the vinyl surface.
- Residual Moisture:
- If a record is exposed to humidity or steam, it might retain some moisture even after it appears dry. Playing a damp record can damage both the vinyl and the equipment.
Alternatives to Repairing Your Warped Vinyl
Now that the risks have terrified you from trying to repair your warped records…
…here are a couple of alternative ways you might still be able to enjoy those precious pieces of vinyl:
- Playing the record with a counterweight: A turntable with a counterweight can help reduce the pressure on the stylus and prevent it from skipping or jumping on warped records. The counterweight balances the tonearm and applies the correct tracking force to the stylus, which can help it follow the grooves more accurately.
- Using a stylus with a high tracking force: A stylus with a high tracking force can also help reduce the impact of warps on the sound quality of records. The higher tracking force can help the stylus stay in contact with the grooves and prevent it from skipping or jumping.
Wrapping it Up!
Flattening a warped record is challenging, but if you use the right method, you can restore your record to very good condition quite easily.
Take your time when flattening a warped record to reduce the risk of damage, and you will be listening to your once-warped piece of vinyl again…
…sooner than you think.
Now all you need to do is ensure this doesn’t happen again…so go ahead and check that you’re storing your vinyl properly!