Troubleshooting Guide for Guitar Problems

By Mark Phillips, Jon Chappell

Guitars are surprisingly hardy creatures. You can subject them to a rigorous performing schedule, keep them up all night, bang on them relentlessly, and they don’t mind a bit. Generally speaking, guitars never wear out, although you may need to replace some parts and perform some tweaks along the way.

However, no matter how careful you are with your guitar, preventing a guitar from sustaining some injury or needing a few repairs along the way is virtually impossible. Fortunately, you can perform most simple repairs yourself. If you’re at all in doubt about your technical abilities, however — or if you’re just a plain klutz — consult a qualified repairperson.

Comsult this quick guide for some of the most common guitar repair and maintenance tasks you may be able to take care of on your own.

Guitar Problem Solution
Strings have lost luster, are difficult to play, or fret
sharp
Replace strings and wipe down new strings after every use to
prolong their life
Dull or dirty wood Wipe with cotton or chamois cloth, apply guitar polish
Dull or greasy-looking Wipe with cloth, apply jewelers’ polish
Guitar swells and cracks due to moisture absorption; or guitar
dries and cracks due to insufficient moisture
Keep in a humidity-controlled environment of 45–55
percent at room temperature (65–75° F)
Rattling or buzzing from hardware as you play Tighten loose hardware connection with screwdriver or
wrench
Difficulty fretting because strings are sitting too high; or
buzzing because strings sit too low
Lower or raise the string saddles at the bridge
Neck bows outward (away from strings) between seventh and
twelfth frets, causing strings to be too high and difficult to
fret
Tighten truss rod to make neck arch upward slightly
Neck bows inward (into strings) between seventh and twelfth
frets, causing strings to be too low and making strings buzz
Loosen truss rod to make neck sag slightly
Strings fret sharp; or strings fret flat Adjust intonation by moving saddles toward bridge or toward
nut
Tuning machine breaks or gears strip Purchase and install replacement, making sure that mounting
holes align exactly with holes already in headstock
Strap pin screw comes loose and doesn’t hold tight in
hole
Apply plastic wood or white glue and replace, allowing
substance to dry completely
Movable bridge has too much play or feels too loose; or bridge
feels stiff and doesn’t respond well to whammy bar
manipulations
Replace, tighten, or add springs to the tailpiece in the rear
cavity; or remove springs or loosen plate
Crackling volume or tone knob or pickup selector switch Vigorously turn the knob or switch back and forth to work out
the dirt or corrosion
Crackling pickup jack Solder loose or broken wire back to appropriate lug
Pickups break, wear out, or no longer give you desired
sound
Purchase compatible replacement set, follow included
directions, neatly solder all connections