The pinch roller is a rubberized, free-spinning wheel typically used to press the magnetic tape against a capstan shaft in order to create the friction necessary to drive the tape along with the magnetic heads (erase, write, read).
Most magnetic tape recorders use one capstan motor and one pinch roller located after the magnetic heads in the direction of the moving tape. However multiple pinch rollers may also be employed in association with one or more capstans. An example of the application of multiple pinch rollers is the Technics RS-1520 tape recorder, which utilizes two pinch rollers located on opposite sides of a single capstan shaft, providing a more stable transport across two sets of magnetic heads. Dual pinch rollers are also used (along with dual capstans) in auto-reverse cassette decks to drive the tape in both directions as needed. In this case, only one pinch roller is pressed against its corresponding capstan at a time.