what's causing a SME 3 to stick after a few spins?

I just bought a Rega Planar 3 with an SME series III tonearm. When I drop the stylus at any place on the LP it starts to skip after about five seconds. It's as if there is some resistance to the arm moving horizontally. I've tried to adjust the anti-skating and it seemed to work for a while and then the problem returned? Is there maybe some damping silicone in the leaking into the bearing?
It sounds like the arm lift isn't retracting quite far enough.
Check that the arm is not touching the arm lifter bar during playback. If the arm is not horizontal but sloping up from the cartridge to the pivot point, this can happen during playback
That sounds right but when I lower the arm in the space between the arm rest and the platter it drops a few mm below the lp surface. Thanks anyway
How hard is it to push the arm across the platter in the raised position? Or does this "locking" only occur when the arm is down at the record surface level?
> Does this occur with the AS turned all the way off?
> When it 'skips', does it skip toward the center or outside edge of the record? Or rather, by 'skip', do you mean it won't track (keeps playing the same groove over and over again?)
> What Sutherk asked -- does it resist horizontal travel when the stylus is slightly above the record. You can check this by looping some thread under the TA wand near the headshell, and with the lifter down, AS off, stylus guard in place, hold the thread in one hand suspending the cartridge end of the tonearm just above the platter, and holding the thread, try gently moving the arm across the platter in both directions. If the horizontal bearing is seizing, you'll know right away. Are you the original owner?
> As far as I know, the only silicone damping in that arm is in the lifter mechanism, and the swiveling DIN plug. So I can't see how any would get into the horizontal bearing?
The problem occurred when I first hooked up the turntable after arriving from Fed Ex. It eventually improved and then returned after I adjusted the overhang. This mis-tracking went away also and now seems to be working just fine.
By skipping I mean it gets stuck in the same groove. When I raised the arm and and gently pushed it towards the spindle I did feel a little bit of resistance.
I'm not the first owner and the person I bought it from wasn't either but says it was set up professionally.
I'm going to change the cartridge and see if the problem returns.
Leisual, you're getting warm, but please try the string technique as it's the more sensitive then the "gently pushed" method ;--) I think changing the cart is a good idea just to eliminate that possibility (leave no turn un-stoned ;--) however I'm not optimistic :--(

Then post your findings and I can at least give you my advice for what it's worth ;--)

"Luckily" after playing through 3 sides without incident this morning I got stuck in a groove on the first track of the 4th side. I found some thread, looped it around the arm like you said, lifted it up off the lp and tried to move it toward the spindle. I definitely felt some resistance where it was stuck and once I moved it past that point it was moving fine.
The cartridge, by the way, is a nearly new Rega Bias 2 tracking at 1.75g.
Leisual -- Did you change the cartridge too? I wasn't betting on the cartridge, but it's worth taking the time to rule it out. That said, (and for what it's worth ;--) here's what I think (and I truly hope I'm wrong) but I believe there's a problem with the horizontal bearing. If so, it could be (hopefully, just one of) several possible things.

OK. I could go on. I know a hell of a lot about SME arms. But as an end user, not as a repair specialist. So even though there are a couple of more things I would try if it were MY arm, it's NOT my arm, and if I were right (about what I think the problem actually is) neither of us would be able to fix it anyway! Instead I'm going to give you info for the TWO BEST PLACES someone with a Series III should contact. I recommend you contact them both simultaneously. But because you have a Series III you'll probably wind up working with the folks in Canada, rather than the factory in the UK:

1.) Brian Laker in the service dept. at SME service@sme.ltd.uk Put 'attn: Brian Laker' in the subject line and explain what you tried/know so far. I've had extensive experiences with him from arm rewires to help with parts purchases and setup recommendations. He's been very accomodating.

2.) SME3009 Tonearms: http://www.smetonearms.com/ These people are great! In some respects better than the factory -- not in quality, but because they restore older arms, do upgrades, etc. If you send your arm in for a rewire, for example, you'll get it back completely refurbished and tested, with all original factory accessories including a new Owner's Manual! Browse their entire site but start with the 'About Us' page and you'll see what I mean. Again email (or better yet call) them and explain where you are at ths point.

I'd appreciate your getting in touch with me or adding to this thread when you find out what the trouble is.

The only response I got was from SME simply stating that they don't support the series III anymore. No one else responded including a couple of other companies I came across.

The only thing I have to add is that while working on the motor of the Rega I had it turned upside down. When I flipped it back over the arm would get stuck immediately as opposed to after a few revolutions. I moved it back to the work bench and suddenly it felt free with no resistance. I reconnected the table to the amp and now it seems to work just fine.
Leisual, I'm happy that things seemed to resolve on their own. If it were me, I probably couldn't just let it go at that, and I'd still want to know what caused the symptoms in the first place, but that's me ;--)

In any case, should the problem return, I would suggest you get in touch with the other people I mentioned http://www.smetonearms.com (or maybe you already have?) because they do service, and even restore those earlier models.