Needle Care 101: Tips to increase turntable stylus lifespan

If you ask me who is the hardest worker out of all the components in a turntable, my answer will always be the needle/stylus. The constant work to track the grooves and bring out the best music is just commendable. Let’s take a moment to appreciate the little thing. CLAP TOGETHER FELLAS!

As said, when you work a lot, the chances of burnout increase. The same goes for the case of our little diamond stylus. All work and no proper care can make it wear out pretty soon. And I know you don’t want that to happen. Right?

So here is what you need to do to increase the turntable stylus lifespan: clean it once or twice a week; also, don’t forget to clean your vinyl for those dirt and dust particles, enable the auto-stop function, set a proper tracking force and anti-skate setting and use the stylus guard when the turntable is not in use. 

Let’s get into the detailed steps that can help extend its lifespan without wasting any more seconds.

Increase turntable stylus lifespan

Clean your turntable stylus once every week to increase its lifespan.

How would you feel if you didn’t take a bath for a week? Dirty. Right?

When you don’t clean the needle once or twice a week, the dust and dirt particles stick to it. As a result, the tracking force may increase, and the stylus and record may have to go through unnecessary friction. The excess friction can damage the needle tip in the long run.

Here are a few ways that you can use to clean the pile of dirt and dust on it.

Magic Eraser

If you have any of these under your kitchen sink or around the house, you can use it. All you have to do is cut and place a small piece on the turntable platter. Lift the tonearm using the cueing lever and gently lower it on the magic eraser. When you lift the needle again, the magic eraser holds on to the dust and dirt that was there, and the stylus comes out clean. You need to repeat a couple of times to completely clean the needle. It’s the most economical method to clean your stylus.

Record and stylus cleaning kit

Record and stylus cleaning kit

A complete record cleaning kit is one of the best ways to clean your stylus from grim dirt. Most cleaning kits include a soft brush and cleaning solution for your record as well as the stylus.

Now, the cleaning is pretty easy to do. You just have to brush in the same direction as the record spins, from the tip of the needle, then backward to forward. Don’t brush sideways, as it can damage the stylus.

Zerodust

Zerodust is an amazing stylus cleaner made from gelatin plastic, that frees your turntable needle from dirt. The cleaning process is so simple that anyone can perform it.

Gently lower the tonearm and let the stylus touch the zerodust surface, and it will clean all the dust and dirt. It’s simple, but I still won’t recommend you to let your kids clean it. We don’t want any expensive mistakes!

Keep your records clean

Keep your records clean

I know, I know. You would think this should be an article on increasing needle life span. And why am I talking about keeping your records clean? Well, my friend, keeping your vinyls clean is as important as keeping your stylus clean. Anything that causes extra friction, like dust, dirt, or debris stuck in the record grooves, can damage the stylus. 

Hence, it’s a good idea to keep your record collection clean. You can buy carbon fiber brushes, rollers, and cleaning kits designed to remove dust, dirt, and static electricity (that attracts dust and dirt) from the record.

Tip: Always store your vinyl records vertically in a dry environment away from the heat.

Use the stylus guard or protector

Use the stylus guard or protector

A Stylus guard or protector is somewhat similar to your pen cap, which works the same way as the pen cap protects the nib. It’s made of plastic and protects the turntable’s stylus from accidental damage or wear when it is not in use.

You can simply install it by sliding it on and off without touching the needle.

Enable the auto-stop /auto-shutoff function

Enable the auto-stop or auto-shutoff function

Auto-stop, also known as the auto-shut function, is a blessing for your turntable. It stops the record from spinning once it has finished playing and the stylus reaches the blank lock groove at the end of the LP (Long Play).

Enabling the auto-stop function can protect both your stylus and vinyl record from spinning needlessly and getting damaged eventually.

Use the cueing lever to lift the tonearm

Use the cueing lever to lift the tonearm

If I were you, I would always use the cueing lever to lift and lower the tonearm. It’s an underrated way to protect the tonearm from accidentally falling on the record surface and damaging the record and the stylus.

Set proper tracking force 

Set proper tracking force

Tracking force, in general terms, is the amount of pressure the stylus applies on the record groves. Too much tracking force can cause excessive wear on the stylus and the record grooves, while too little can cause the stylus to skip the details. I recommend you read the manufacturer manual to set proper tracking force for your turntable.

Don’t worry if your turntable does not display the tracking force. Use a stylus force scale gauge to set the right pressure.

Set anti-skate

Anti-skate simply stops the tonearm from skating towards the center of the record. Its main objective is to help the stylus track the grooves properly while keeping the tonearm away from the center. If you don’t want your turntable needle to wear down from one side, set the anti-skate properly.

While some turntables provide an anti-skate dial to adjust the setting, others adjust it by weighing the back of the tonearm.

Final beat 

It’s quite simple to extend the lifespan of your turntable stylus. You must clean your needle and records, use a stylus guard, and set the right tracking force with anti-skate. By practicing these steps, you can avoid unnecessary stylus wear and keep the tunes spinning longer.

So, let’s groove responsibly, extend the life of our turntable needles, and keep the music playing smoothly. Happy listening!

Russel Hawkins - About the author

About the author

Russ Hawkins is a passionate audiophile who loves to collect vinyl records. In his leisure time, you will find him either listening to his favorite music albums or playing with his dog Max. He loves writing about vinyl, turntables, record players, and everything music!

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