How to Fix Common Electric Guitar Problems - dummies

How to Fix Common Electric Guitar Problems

By Mark Phillips, Jon Chappell

An electric guitar can last many lifetimes; however, they have a variety of electrical parts and connections that, over time, can wear out. When that happens, you need to know how to fix or replace those electronics. The following are the parts that are most likely to wear out or break and need replacing. You can perform any of these fixes yourself without doing damage to the electric guitar — even if you screw up.

Crackling controls

If your volume and tone knobs start to make crackling or popping noises through your speaker whenever you’re plugged in, or if the signal is weak, inconsistent, or cuts out altogether in certain positions on your controls, some foreign matter (however minute) has probably lodged itself in your controls. Dust and rust pose the greatest potential threat to any electronic connection.

Vigorously turn the knobs back and forth around the trouble spot to work out the dust or rub off the little bit of corrosion that may be causing the problem. You may need to perform this action several times on each knob, in different places in the knob’s travel.

If turning the knobs doesn’t do the trick, you may need a repairperson to give your pots (short for potentiometer, the variable resistors on your volume and tone controls) a thorough cleaning.

Loose jacks

On electric guitars, you do a lot of plugging and unplugging of your cable, and these actions can eventually loosen the output jack, causing a crackling sound through the speaker. This crackling indicates a disconnected ground wire. To fix this problem, you first need to take off the jack plate or pick guard and locate the detached wire causing the problem.

  • If you’re handy with a soldering iron, attach the broken wire back to its original lug, and you’re done. You may even feel like a real electrician.

  • If you’re not handy, have a friend who is do the job or take the instrument in to the shop.

Replacement pickups

Replacing your pickups can seem like a daunting task, but it’s really a very simple one. Often, the best way to change your sound (assuming that you like the way your guitar plays and looks) is to replace the original pickups — especially if the originals weren’t too good to begin with.

  1. Purchase pickups of the same size and type as the originals.

    Doing so ensures that they fit into the existing holes and hook up the same way electrically.

  2. Connect and solder two or three wires.

    Clear directions come with the new pickups.

  3. Seat the pickups in the cavities.

    You’re not dealing with high-voltage electricity either, so you can’t hurt yourself or the electronics if you wire something backward.

Changing your pickups is like changing your car’s oil. You can do the job yourself and save money, but you may choose not to because of the hassle.