While my Panasonics have been in heavy and frequent use, only two DVD drives have actually experienced a laser assembly failures. The first after eleven months of heavy use of my first DMR-ES30V. That drive made intermittent screeching and grinding noises and then reported “no read.” The noise became more frequent and resulted in finalization failures. Panasonic replaced the drive under the one year warranty. That was in August 2006. Perhaps all that DVD Drive really needed was a lens and hub/spindle cleaning. At the time I was unaware of that procedure.
I should admit that within the first month of my ownership I mistakenly purchased a spindle of HP DVD+RW discs (not realizing that the DMR-ES30V does not support this format). Several of these discs would not even load. I believe the display reported “unsupported.” Two grudgingly recorded but during the burn there was constant loud screeching. I took the remaining HP discs back to the store thinking that they were defective. I exchanged the HPs for a spindle of Verbatim DVD-R that worked perfectly. Don't attempt to burn DVD+RW discs in 2005 model year Panasonic recorders.
After switching to DVD-R discs the DMR-ES30V functioned well for another nine months or so. The other DVD Drive laser assemblly failure followed nine months of heavy use after having been swapped from a DMR-ES35V parts machine into a DMR-ES15, a model without a cooling fan.
In early 2006 one spindle of CompUsa DVD-R discs had many failures so I stopped using no-name brands. Somewhat later I purchased one spindle of cheap DVD+R discs that also produced many failures. Following that I limited my purchases to "name-brand" DVD-R discs but that didn't always prevent problems. In late 2006 I purchased some Memorex DVD-R discs. I used these among my Panasonic recorders. I began experiencing frequent failures--one in every six Memorex discs failed. I switched back to some older TDK discs that I still had on hand and the problems disappeared. Since that time TDK has "farmed out" production of their discs to CMC, the same maker as Memorex discs. I stopped purchasing Memorex and TDK discs.
For a time I purchased Verbatim, Maxell and Sony discs. Of these I preferred the Verbatim and Maxell discs. I no longer purchase retail brand 16x discs. My prefered discs for archival use are Taiyo Yuden Premium Line 8x DVD-R media found here:http://www.supermediastore.com/produ...ax=15&offset=0
In 2007 I purchased two used DMR-ES15 machines that were advertised as “does not read DVDs” or “will not play discs” because I had two DMR-ES35V parts machines that had good DVD drives for swapping. (The DMR-ES15 and DMR-ES35V use similar model DVD drive.) The ES35 parts machines, purchased at very little cost, had a variety of problems unrelated to DVD drives.
While I know nothing of the history of the Panasonics purchased used, nor do I know why both DMR-ES15 machines had bad DVD drives, I speculate that:
1-Perhaps these machines might have been shut up in a cabinet without proper ventilation.
2-The DMR-ES15 does not have an internal cooling fan. There is a ventilation port reserved for a fan, and a motherboard location for a power connector but without a fan. For these reasons a DMR-ES15 may be more prone to run hotter than fan-equipped Panasonics.More advice for Panasonic owners, be sure your machines are well ventilated, especially with heavy or frequent use.
One used DMR-ES35V and one used DMR-ES15 were found to have defective tuners. Both machines had some damage to or near the tuner. On the DMR-ES35V the remedy involved swapping the left chassis motherboard with a good tuner from another parts machine. Tuners may not be interchanged between the ES35 and ES15 Panasonic models. The ES35 has a switchable unmodulated/modulated RF output and the ES15 RF output only passes through the unmodulated signal from the RF input.There are three other problems worth mentioning here:
1-Front panel button failure on combo recorders due to misalignment of front panel circuit board contacts with chassis motherboard contacts. The fix is to remove the front panel, realign it, and reinstall it. If the contacts are still misaligned check the Panasonic case as it may need to be straightened if it has suffered some trauma.
2-Front panel button failure due to failure of circuit board mini-switches behind the front panel buttons. If the front panel button doesn’t click when pressed the switch may have failed. The fix is to replace the defective mini-switch with that from a parts machine or swap out the front panel circuit board. I found one DMR-ES35V where the previous user had pressed the VHS EJECT button so forcefully that the left front panel circuit board broke. I swapped that front panel circuit board with one from a parts machine.
Note: On a combo recorder hold the VHS door open when fitting the front panel back to the case. This will correctly align the VHS door lifting mechanism.
3-Electrolytic Capacitor leakage. This leakage, in varying degrees, was present on a few of my Panasonics. This capacitor is designated as C1143 on a DMR-ES15 and as C11108 on a DMR-ES35V. This tall (30mm) electrolytic capacitor is located in the power supply section of the right chassis motherboard on a DMR-ES35V or on the main chassis motherboard on a DMR-ES15. These capacitors are of different specification, the DMR-ES35V uses 220uF 250V 105 degrees; the DMR-ES15 uses 100uF 350V 105 degrees. (On a DMR-ES30V the power supply is located on a partially covered platform at the rear center.) One non-functional DMR-ES35V parts machine evidenced the most severe leakage. At some point this capacitor leakage may cause operational failures and, perhaps, lead to other component failures. If this capacitor is leaking your Panasonic is operating on borrowed time.
If the power supply is found on the chassis motherboard replacement requires extensive disassembly to remove the chassis motherboard from the machine. Capacitor replacement is described in this thread:http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1055111