Anyone have any experience with car cassette players?

Hey there everyone!

I'm making this post to see if i can get some help/advice on a small project.

TL;DR Car cassette player, broken belt on the winding mechanism, looking to bypass cassette winding logic and just use the reader with my cassette-to-3.5mm adapter.

The longer version:

My car has a cassette player which has been my best friend for playing music in the car via cassette adapter. Somewhat recently, some jackass kids broke into my car and riffled through my stuff. I know it was kids because they didn't find the cash, left all of the valuable tools in the back, and basically just made a mess and stole a lighter. Honestly, it just made me sad for our youth. They don't even know how to steal anymore -.-
I assume they tried to yank out the cassette adapter, because since then it has been jammed. It was warm enough recently that I decided to go and tear the center console apart to get at the unit and see what I could do. The trouble was simple enough: the little rubber belt used to drive the cassette reels was broken and got jammed in some of the gears. Getting it out was easy enough, but because it's a car stereo everything is super tight and overlapped. To actually get to the gears and pulleys (assuming I could even find a replacement belt) requires removing some rivet connections, de-soldering motor wiring and is just a general pain in the ass I don't really want to go through if i can avoid it. Now, granted, at this point many people would just go out and buy a modern head unit with a built in AUX connection for like a $100 and call it a day. But I don't really want to spend the money, I generally don't like how after-market head units look, and I like tinkering.
I looked into how people jerry-rig older units with AUX connections, but I really don't like what I found. They literally just wire up a 3.5mm connection on top of the CD outputs, and then burn a silent CD that has to permanently be playing. Works I guess, but doesn't sound super appealing to me.
My initial hope was that the cassette adapter would still function since it doesn't care about the reels spinning, but unfortunately the head unit does. With no belt on, the cassette player just keeps trying to spin the reels in different directions and play different 'sides' of the adapter. The adapter works fine at certain points during this process and audio comes through like always, but the player invariably keeps spazing and eventually spitting the adapter out.
So my question to you fine ladies and gentlemen with more knowledge of cassette players is this: Is there a way to bypass the logic which keeps checking the status of the cassette and trying to spin the reels? My assumption is that the logic checks for tape jams (i.e. the reel motor can spin, so just disconnecting it shouldn't work), and that it's likely based on some sort of voltage-based check of the motor, since the cassette also needs to spin at a particular speed. The ideal case would be that I successfully find a way to bypass this, and the player would accept the cassette adapter without even spinning the reels, thus leading to a working audio adapter without the plastic gear clicking I've grown so used to. If they do have to spin, fine, but then how do I get it to just stick with playing the correct 'side' of the cassette adapter so that the adapter works properly (again, this happens now as-is, except that the player only stays on one 'side' for a second or two before trying the other 'side' and eventually giving up and spitting the adapter out.)

Any and all help is appreciated. If something is unclear, please ask and I can attempt to clarify. Thanks all :)

It would be more useful to know a make and model. If you don't like the idea of replacing the head unit, what about using a small 4 channel amp? Head units are generally cheap on eBay now too if all you need is aux inputs. Nowhere near $100.

Didn't read the whole thing but:

the more important question is how the hell do you own a car with a cassette player?

I use one of these LINK and my smartphone streaming music or mp3's on the phone. Works for satnav, calls and texts so that's nice.

To answer the question of why cassette in this day and age. I looking into getting a new head unit and it's not too expensive. Well until you add the cost of all of the adapters for speakers and steering wheel controls. At that point I was going to be getting close to half the value of the car! If I'm going to spend money on my old car I would prefer to be able to take it with me.

Thanks to everyone for the replies!

@CrossCarbon Gonna be honest, didn't bother searching for the belt because I was curious to see if I could kill two birds with one stone (i.e get the adapter functionality working again, but also get rid of the plastic gear noise from the reels spinning). But since they seem to be super easy to get, maybe I will just go with a proper fix. Thanks for the link :)

It's a 2000 Honda CR-V. Here's a picture of the head unit, but I'd have look at unit model numbers or something next time I tear it apart (whenever we get a warm spell again).

And as for an amp, I just don't feel like it's worth the investment. Car's not exactly new, and as much as I love it, it's not going to be around too much longer. I realize I could likely find a head unit for less than $100, but I still don't like how they look and function compared with the factory head unit. Basically, it's just not a direction I want to go.

Appreciate the link nonetheless. That was indeed a problem with some of the older cassette adapters, but I personally never had an issue with this.

Up until about 2005/2006 you could still option cassette players, at least in Japanese-made cars :P

I'm glad those things work for you. The idea always seemed great, but in practice I can never find a clear FM channel. It always ends up being half what I'm trying to play, and half interference from radio stations. I'm sure if you're in an area with less radio noise those work great.

Thanks again to everyone for the replies. I'll keep an eye out to see if anyone comes up with more suggestions, but maybe I will just order a pack of new belts. Either way, I'm waiting until it warms up before getting back at it.

But you could take it then to your new car and run it there. A decent 4 channel can be very versitile but I get it, you just wanna fix what you have.

My google fu is not finding any information about what models they use for the stock system, only how to replace it. I'll keep digging but I doubt I'll be able to find a schematic of the logic board. We'll see.

EDIT: Yeah, it would be a lot easier if I knew anything at all about the stereo, part numbers, anything. One possibility is using something like a factory disk changer input as an aux. Which they make cables for the accord of the same year that might work if the decks are the same. I doubt very seriously without looking at it myself I could actually be of any help to just solder/desolder something to make the logic board think its playing just fine.