After 5 years, even the premium expensive DVD/VHS machines are usually worn out: the typical lifespan of a DVD recorder burner before it starts in with "no disc" issues is about 3 years. This is one of the things most consumers didn't count on that made DVD recorders very unpopular very quickly: they simply do not hold up for 10-15 years the way VCRs once did. They need expensive servicing or complete replacement much more often. The RCA was a very cheaply made bargain recorder in its time. Nothing wrong with that, we need recorders at all different price points and feature offerings. But it wasn't meant to last more than a couple years: if your daughter burned as little as 100 DVDs with it, that would have been enough to kill it. It may or may not be salvageable.
As pacofortacos asked earlier, exactly what DVDs did your RCA reject? Pre-recorded Hollywood movie DVDs, or blank DVDs? You need to try both, then tell us exactly what they were. If the machine is rejecting all Hollywood discs (try several different DVDs, not just one), it is most likely dead and you will need a new recorder. If it plays Hollywood movies, but won't accept blank discs, tell us exactly which blanks you are trying (Brand? DVD-RW? DVD+RW? DVD-R DVD+R?). Older and dying recorders generally reject the typical 16x-speed DVD+R and DVD-R blanks sold in retail chain stores.
An aging or dying recorder will often accept some brands and types of media but not others, permitting partial functionality if you can live with the limited range of discs it will tolerate (i.e., it might work with slow speed [2.4x rating] DVD+RW but nothing else). The fallback, "works every time with every recorder" blank discs are JVC/TY 8x Silver Premium DVD-R
. Only you can decide whether it would be worth buying some of these to test your recorder: they are sold only as paks of 100 at a cost of about $30 including delivery to your home. If you don't expect to record a lot of DVDs, that $30 would be better put toward buying a newer better recorder, preferably one with a hard drive
that lets you avoid using the burner for daily "watch-and-erase" shows.
If you enjoy tinkering, theres a small
chance you might be able to replace the dying burner in your recorder with a new generic burner sold for PC use. The vast majority of DVD recorders cannot be repaired by the owner: they use dedicated proprietary burners sold only to service centers, which charge $150 or more (much
more) to fix an old DVD recorder. But a few of the RCA models used ordinary standard burners. To see if yours is one of those models, you'd need to open the cabinet and look at the DVD drive. If it looks "skeletal" (no casing around the tray) or has thin ribbon cables going directly into it, you can't fix it yourself. If it is a sealed box, with standard-looking plugs (white power, black or grey or red bracket for the data), you could try removing the drive and replacing it with a cheap PC burner.
But here again, it depends on your budget and tinkering expertise. A new burner will cost about $30, and you would need to know (by the plug design) which type the recorder requires: EIDE or SATA. If the burner swap trick doesn't work, you'd have wasted $30 for nothing. Unless you're handy at installing computer drives and just happen to have a spare drive in the house, or are comfortable removing the burner from your computer to try it temporarily in the recorder, you shouldn't bother. On the whole, it usually isn't worth the time, money or effort to repair a DVD/VHS machine. You're better off buying a new one, and if you don't have any real need for the VHS you're MUCH better off with the Magnavox MDR513 DVD/HDD recorder
these days. The HDD lets you avoid using blank DVDs except when you want a permanent copy of something, and its DVD drive is one of the more durable reliable ones. Very popular unit with AVS members.