Audio CDs distorted and skipping?

I am the proud owner of an LG 8080B CD Writer, which I’ve had for 2 or 3 years. It’s installed on a P2 with 128MB of ram and Windows 98.

Recently I’ve started to experience problems with most of the discs I burn - the sound is very staticcy and the discs skip chronically. It tends to be towards the end of the disc, though it doesn’t seem to matter what length the disc is - I’ve had some crap out at 35 minutes and others at 72 minutes. Often the disc will play fine the first few times too. Once I became aware of the problem I made a point of listening to discs several times before considering them ‘safe’, yet even after listening to some of them every day for a week, they’d still suddenly become unlistenable.
I’ve tried them on different players (two PCs, a home stereo, and a car CD player) and have experienced the same problems, though not at the same times or in the same places on the disc.

I have upgraded the firmware to v1.07, and changed my burning software from Easy CD Creator 4 to NTI and then again to a recent version (5.0 I think) of Nero, but the same problem occurs.

I figure the Writing Head (or whatever it’s called) on the burner itself is poked, but I wanted to run it past this group before I go out and buy a new burner.

What do you all think?