Picture of a lightly soiled CD music disc, showing the play side.

How to Fix a Skipping CD Audio Disc

We’ve played compact discs (CDs) for over thirty three years now. We listen to them daily.  So they have become a mainstay of our music listening regimen.  Since we always look for deals, especially on used CDs, we find our share of CDs that skip.  So, learning how to fix a skipping CD allowed us to “save” many a CD from the garbage can.  Plus, after fixing, most of them never skipped again while playing.

So we’ve experienced and stopped many CDs from skipping and repeating while playing.  No CD player, and no CD disc in fact, is forever immune from this problem.  Whether a home or car CD player.  Whether a cheap portable CD player.  Or whether a most high-end home CD stereo unit.  All players eventually skip during CD playback.

No kind of CD is exempt either.  All optical discs, including compact discs (CDs) will eventually skip, no matter who makes them or what content they carry.  So it’s useful for music fans to know how to deal with this.  Sp for that, we’re here to help.

How to Fix a Skipping CD

Don’t Assume that the CD is Faulty

When you notice a CD skipping, don’t pitch it right away.  It may in fact be repairable.  When choosing the best method for how to fix a skipping CD, start off in the right place.  Keep in mind that the skipping might not be the CD at all.  Often, even CDs without any visible scratches on them can start to skipping galore. Sometimes, the players themselves are the culprits.  So with skipping CDs, it’s important to determine the source of the skipping.

The CD Could be Damaged, True

Yes, the CD itself may suffer from manufacturing defects, or be  scratched or dirty.  It may be aging beyond its useful life (estimated to be approximately thirty five years).  Or the CD may have been damaged by improper cleaning techniques previously.

The CD Player Could be Broken

Or, the CD player itself may be faulty.  Perhaps the laser that reads the digital data from those silvery, rainbow colored discs, has weakened.  Lasers lose their light intensity due to either age or heavy use.  Or, perhaps dust has built up on the player’s laser lens.  Or, maybe the player’s servos or the motor that spins the CD are wearing out.  Like CDs, the CD players themselves age and gradually develop defects over time. In fact, they fail at a faster rate than the CD media itself.

How to Fix a Skipping CD, Continued

Player and CD Disc Incompatibilities

Finally, not every CD player can play every CD disc well, even if nothing is the matter with either.  One manufacturer’s discs may not play well in a certain CD player.  Why?  Because neither CDs no CD players precisely follow the same manufacturing standards in every detail.  With these variances, it’s no wonder that certain CDs just won’t play in certain CD players.

How to fix a skipping CD. Picture of a lightly soiled CD audio disc, showing the play side.
How to fix a skipping CD. Lightly soiled CD audio disc, showing the play side.

Don’t Jump to Quick Conclusions

In any case, there are many reasons why a CD may skip while playing.  So don’t be too quick to throw away that skipping CD or the skipping CD player; at least, not until you’ve definitively figured out which one is your real problem.

Try the Skipping CD in a Different CD Player

If it plays fine there, then the player might just be too old to bother with further.  If the skipping player is more than a few years old, then it’s time to replace it.  As mentioned, these units do indeed grow old.  Their laser light output falls off.  This eventually impairs the CD player’s ability to read the optical data on the CDs.  With decent sub hundred dollar players available these days, replace that skipper!  It makes little sense to put up with an annoying skipping CD player that’s more than a few years old.

Perhaps the skipping CD player is simply outdated.  Now this may be the only disc that this player skips on.  But the disc plays well in other machines. So, this could simply mean that that particular player just won’t properly play that CD.  In that case, just don’t play that CD in the player where it tends to skip.  Remember that some players are better at reading accurately through dirt and scratches than others.  Recently manufactured CD players contain more advanced error correcting circuits than generations before them.  True.  Your 2001 vintage CD player may still work as designed.  But due to technical advances since those times, the newer players play better.  Those older units just don’t play discs as well as today’s players do either.  Thus, a player upgrade is definitely in order.

How to Fix a Skipping CD?  Try Cleaning It!

We detail how to do this in our   How to Clean a CD Disc  post.  Essentially, you need to avoid any chemicals more harsh than dish soap, along with water.  Wet the CD with a filtered water and soap solution.  Then, gently rub the data side of the CD with smooth fingers.  Trim off any jagged fingernails first though. Next, rinse with more filtered water. Finally, dry with a lint-free lens cleaning cloth.  This washing technique removes fingerprints, oils, and loose dirt.   Then, the wiping dry with the cloth removes the water from the CD.   But this also polishes out the very small scratches that often cause CD skipping during play.

Try Cleaning the CD player Too

The CD player may become dusty inside, depending on the environment in which it is being operated.  They sell a laser lens cleaning CD.  We’ve never had any good luck with these. But they may work for you. Indeed, they could potentially save you the cost of buying a new CD player.

The cleaning disc has a small brush affixed to the play side.  You put this disc into your CD player.  When the player spins this disc to read it, the attached brush brushes across the laser lens.  This presumably removes dust and dirt from that lens.

But if the laser lens cleaner does not solve the skipping, clean the CD player.  If you feel confident enough to take your CD player apart, then remove the top cover. Then, blow out any dirt and lint; particularly from the rails upon which the laser assembly moves back and forth.  Avoid too much air pressure though, which can hurt the components inside the player.  A can of residue free air such as pictured next, works well for this.

How to fix a skipping CD. Picture of the Maxell CD laser lens cleaner disc, original package, front view.
How to fix a skipping CD. Maxell CD laser lens cleaner disc, original package, front view.

How to Prevent CDs from Skipping in the First Place

Keep CDs Clean to Start With

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when maintaining these delicate audio discs. To preserve  peak performance, avoid ever dirtying the CDs to begin with.  Always store CDs in their cases when not listening, and avoid exposing to weather and direct sunshine.

Never Touch the CD Play Surface

Avoid touching the play side of the CD more than absolutely necessary in order to play them. Instead, grasp them by edges. Do not grab them via their flat surfaces. This limits the need to ever clean up handprints.

Keep your CD Player Clean and Cool

Avoid permanently setting up the CD player in dusty locations, and keep it away from direct sunlight.  Preventing CD player overheating often stops audio CD skipping for good.  It offers a permanent solution to the problem of how to fix a skipping CD audio disc.

Related Posts to How to Fix a Skipping CD

  1. How to Fix a DVD that Skips and Freezes
  2. Bose Radio CD Player Review
  3. Fixing Loud Window Air Conditioners, How To
  4. How to Clean a Blu Ray Disc
  5. Clean a CD Disc Tips and Directions  

References for How to Fix a Skipping CD

  1. Buyer beware: to fix a CD that skips, first try good old soap and water  from The Telegraph
  2. How to Fix a CD Player That Skips   from Techwalla
  3. How to Fix a Scratched CD   from WikiHow

Revision History

  • 2020-07-14: Optimized the text and updated the tags list.
  • 2019-03-12: Added tags and removed stop words from post URL.
  • 2017-02-18: Originally published.