Occasionally, the spring on an auto-retracting tape measure, will become a bit sprung or stretched so that the tape will not fully retract into the case on it's own.
Well, no more trying to stuff it back in (this only makes matters worse anyways) there is a solution, especially if the case is held together with screws, like my Illinois Industrial Tool (IIT) tape.
Step 1: Assess How to Disassemble
Mine had 3 screws to remove.
The one holding the clip in, also held the center spring in place.
A careful examination revealed that there were only 3 screws in the back of the case.
Step 2: Dismantling....
Be careful....although I picture the tape measure just lying there it is REALLY best not to let go of the side with the roll and spring in it. One false move and BOING, you will have worse problems then you started with.
So, take out the screws holding it together, and keep a grip on the case, keeping it from coming apart.
once all the screws are out, CAREFULLY work the case haves apart. Try to determine which half will contain the roll of tape and spring (it will feel heaviest), and place that side in the palm of one hand and work the other side off, like taking off a lid; again, carefully.
As SOON AS YOU CAN, slip your thumb or other digit in and over the roll to keep it from springing forth.
Another caution: if your measure is a different brand or model, it may be constructed a bit differently; so take note of how the guard, lock, strap, etc. are fitted in and positioned, or you will be doing a lot of "testing on how it actually DOES go together, later. There is nothing like putting something together and then saying, "Hey! Where did THIS come from!"
Once you have everything into one half or the other, while holding the roll firmly, grasp the end of the tape and gingerly tug on it. It should come outwards (as if you were unwinding the tape, but since you have your thumb over the roll, so it doesn't turn, it isn't unwinding).
After a few inches are out, rewind the roll, again carefully. Keep hold of the end, if you can, to make it roll in tighter.
Repeat this step a few times, and eventually, you will not be able to pull it out without becoming heavy handed and that is where you need to stop and put the pieces back together. BTW: if anyone has ever fixed a "sprung" roller shade, this is a very similar methodology.
The spring should begin to feel tighter and feel like it wants to pull the tape back in on it's own after a few times.
Carefully put the whole thing back together, and you have a revitalized tape you thought you were going to have to pitch (or use as a paperweight).
Step 3: Problems, Solutions.
In each case below, the case needed to be reopened. BE CAREFUL not to let the spring mechanism unspring (or let the roll of metal tape come off it's pin).
Make sure you get the strap on the post before closing the case or you will end up opening it all back up again. There is nothing more frustrating than having to realign everything because the strap was forgotten (first picture).
Another thing, in the second picture, where the end of the tape measure SHOULD be, it appears as if there is a gap there. The guard was not properly placed before the halves were snapped together, so the end of the tape slipped into the body of the mechanism. Once again, the case needed to be opened up, and everything realigned (a side effect to this misalignment was that the locking mechanism didn't function properly either).
One more caution: unless your measure is an older one, with a metal case, it is probably chromed plastic. That center screw will also, most likely, go into a plastic center pin....caution is needed when tightening this screw as it is WAY too easy to strip out those plastic threads.
Enjoy your revitalized tape measure :-)
Step 4: The Lufkin PeeWee Repair Starts Here
As can be seen in the first picture, some one was a bit rough with this little tape measure and not one stretched it out too far so it no longer retracts, but has also bent the first couple of inches of the tape up a bit.
This is a very cheap tape measure, the kind they gave away as promotional items. The tape itself acts as a spring, so this is not as easy as the other measure was, in some ways, however, it is constructed much more simply.
Step 5: Remove the Face Plate....
as they say, gingerly (carefully), by first removing the tiny screw in the center. Then, press lightly on a corner, and it should pop up so you can take it all (see photos).
This one will not be remedied by JUST tightening the tape, since the tape and spring are one and the same. The tape will have to be carefully taken from the case, and wound tight.
This is painstakingly hard on the hands (well, on my old fingers anyways ;-) . I cramped up several times in the process. Once wound tight the whole thing is READY to replace. Don't do that just yet.
Step 6: Finish and Close
Just as you are about to put the tape in, and place the center portion in the slot that holds the one end, carefully place it in, but then, before letting it all settle, give the whole tape reel one full clockwise turn, then push the tape into the case the whole way, including the end that protrudes with the tip on it.
This will insure a tight tape and more forceful return.
Next, carefully flatten out the bends and such in the tape itself, and warn the user of the tape that further bending will result in breakage.
That's it ! Put the face plate back on and tighten the screw and you are through. :-)