Nothing ruins an audiophile’s mood more than record skipping when grooving to a favorite vinyl record.  It ruins the quality of the music during playback, and it ruins the moment that you are trying to create by listening to records on a record player instead of a more modern system. When records skip, there is often a reason behind it that can easily be addressed. 


Causes of Record Skipping

Record skipping affects old records, but it can also come into play with brand new records, especially if the reason for the skipping is unrelated to the vinyl itself. The turntable could be too close to the speakers, causing the needle to bounce out of the record grooves. Let’s take a look at some other reasons for skipping issues to consider while you’re troubleshooting.


Dirty Records

Dust and dirt are often found in the record groves before buying the vinyl at a local record store. It can be found on new vinyl records, and even paper sleeves don’t provide enough protection against dust to keep the records spotless. In fact, even the oils found on your skin can be transferred to the vinyl and cause record skipping.


How to Fix it: Cleaning records effectively is a great way to bring life back into your vinyl records, and it can be done in several ways. Record cleaning using distilled water, a cleaning solution, and an anti-static brush will sweep the surface of the records clean and help keep it lint-free. When wiping your records, always make sure to move the brush or the rag in a circular motion without using too much pressure.


Wet cleaning your vinyl only needs to be done from time to time, but each time you play them, you should run a carbon fiber brush along the grooves to make sure the dust and particles on the records don’t disrupt the music. 


Tonearm Balance

If your record and stylus are clean, then the issue causing the record skipping could be the tonearm’s balance. To determine if the proper balance is being used, you will need to start by checking the weight of the tonearm to see if its balance is off. Too little tracking force on the records can cause the needle to jump, but too much will put added pressure on the records, which can damage the vinyl.


How to Fix it: To adjust a tonearm that’s out of balance, you will need to start by setting the anti-skate control to zero. Then, unlatch the yoke, a hook about halfway down the arm, and gently lower the arm until it rests by itself. This will help you to see if the tonearm is balanced or not. If it sits on the record, it needs to be adjusted. If the needle does not reach the vinyl well enough to play the records, it will also need some adjustment.


Move the counterweight, which is located on the back of the tonearm, until the arm is balanced in the air without any support. Once the arm is perfectly balanced, lock it in position at a tracking weight of 0 grams. Then, readjust the counterweight to make sure it is in the right position. This should be done until you feel resistance from the tracking force. 


Once the tonearm is balanced, secure the yoke and reset the anti-skate control.  This anti-skating safety should help protect the needle from wearing too quickly and keep it from scratching the surface of the records you are playing.


Worn or Dirty Stylus

Wear and tear will also make record skipping more common. Typically, most vinyl diamond styli provide about 700 to 800 hours of playback before you should replace them. If your player has a ruby stylus, expect to replace it after about 200 playback hours. When the tip of the stylus loses its keen edge, this will cause the stylus itself to skip over grooves that it would typically glide through. A dull stylus will also cause damage to the record itself, so replace it when needed.


If you play your records while they are dirty, your stylus will likely accumulate some of that dust as well. This happens because, as the stylus travels through the grooves, the needle itself will start to pick up particles that may be stuck there. Similar to how dust on the record’s surface causes skipping, dusk on the tip of the stylus will do the same.


How to Fix it: There are a few methods to keep the stylus in working order. Older styli will start to sound strange and pop, so this is something to look out for. If your stylus is beginning to wear down, it’s fairly easy to get a new one because most vinyl players have replaceable styli. Check out our guide on how to replace a record player needle for more detailed instructions. 


Cleaning is pretty simple if there’s little accumulation – you can use a stylus brush to wipe away any excess particles. Just be careful; as we mentioned in our guide on how to clean your record needle, it takes precious little force to damage the diamond tip or the headshell. Also, excess force applied to the cantilever could warp it, which will damage your records. When cleaning, be gentle and thorough so that all dust is cleared.


Uneven Turntable

Does your turntable seem to be unlevel in your home? This may not be something that you think about right away. Still, if the player is uneven, the speakers or movement near the turntable are likely to vibrate the needle and cause it to skip during playback, especially if the turntable is located on the floor.  


How to Fix it: The solution to this problem is simple. You will need to position your record player on sturdy furniture that does not move when you’re walking around or dancing. Another option to consider if you don’t have a sturdy table is placing the record player on a shelf that’s mounted on the wall. 


Damaged Records

Scratched or warped records become more noticeable as the vinyl ages, especially if they were not cleaned properly during their lifespan. The more damaged a record is, the more likely it will skip. If you are having issues with a new record, the quality of the vinyl may be subpar and need to be replaced.


How to Fix it: You can follow tutorials to repair scratches with a wooden toothpick, a magnifying glass, and a steady hand. Warped records can be clamped to help bring the vinyl back to its original shape. Most likely, if the record is too damaged, it will need to be replaced.


Reduce Record Skipping for Better Sound Qualityvinyl playback pro ject record player

Typically, if you find your records are skipping, the solution is a simple one that will not consume a lot of your time. Since the needle reads the grooves, anything that prevents a smooth interaction between the two will cause skipping and kill your audio experience. To maintain a perfect aural environment, you will occasionally need to replace a record, a stylus, or create a more stable home for your vinyl record player.