Here's how to fix a lost leader in a Quantum 4000 DLT drive. If you came here seeking more in depth repairs, please node them after you figure it out, of if you have a driver problem, call Microsoft.

Here's the story:
One day my roomie came home with an Adic tape changer who's drive had thrown the leader. His company had bought a replacement, so if we could fix it, it was ours.
A lost leader is a more common DLT problem, caused by a tape not being put in right, a problem with the tape, a problem with the drive, or a slip-up in the elaborate process the the drive goes thru in loading a tape. It's typically represented by a pretty double row of blinking lights on your Quantum indicating there is something Very Wrong.

The easiest way to fix a lost leader is to....

Figure it out. It really isn't that hard, my friend and I had it done in about 15 minutes and we had no clue what to do. But since this is a how to, I'll try to remember what we did. These instructions assume you are of medium tinkering caliber and understand the ramifications of messing about in drives worth more then many cars. And we did this on a Quantum 4000, but it should be pretty similar to most other drives (since all DLT's are Quantum anyway). And this is all from memory so give me a bit of a break.
1. Carefully open the drive (or remove it from your changer). Be ready to take anything else apart that gets in your way.
2. Take the clear (hopefully empty) tape housing and spool apart. Remember which way is up!!
3. Examing the leader. I'd ascii art but for some reason it kept coming out looking like barf. The end of the leader basically thins to a slim bit 1/2" or so long, then flares into a flat knob at the end (like a arrow with the point sanded off). If one of the flares on the end is missing, or if the whole thing is severed at the thin point, you are screwed. Your drive had a particularly nasty unmount at one point, or it simply broke. You might be able to rig something out of tape and thin-ass plastic, but your milage may vary.
4. If your leader is good, then you get to thread it back thru the rollers and feeder/loader. This is best done with the spool out. There is a plastic barrier that needs to come out/off of the chunk of rollers behind the spool. Then, try to spool it. It will only fit one way. If memory serves, it just take a minute of thought until you go "duh" and fit it through.
5. Once you get the leader past the roller and are coming up to the front of the drive (front being the lights, if any. Where the tape goes) you'll meet a complex little mechanism whose job is to reach into the opened tape, stab the tape leader with the drive leader, then get out of the way so the drive can start spooling (and do the whole thing backwards when unloading). It does this by holding the drive leader on a little hook on it's underside. This hook goes thru a hole a inch or two away from the end of the leader. Stick it on.
6. Replace the plastic roller shield, spool, spool housing, and any other bits you took out. (You did neatly lay the bits out and label them, right?)
7. Power the bitch up and see what happens. I think we were somehow able to put the drive through it's paces without powering it up, but the process escapes me.
8. Hopefully you have a external power supply so you can play with the drive w/o it being in a computer case or loader. Shove a tape you don't care about in there and see if it loads. If it's still lights galore on the front or it doesn't start to load, you might need to put the drive back into the computer/loader and try again, or it's just screwed. If it works, you get to see the intricate gyrations of a DLT drive loading a tape.
Have fun!

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