Top 5 Preventable Guitar Repairs

We all fear a trip to the guitar tech. When you finally decide to go, it means that you have reached that uncomfortable reality that there is something wrong with your guitar that is beyond your level of expertise to fix. Not only is there the anxiety, but also the expense; the minimum bench check fee for a well-respected tech these days is not cheap.

Researching this topic, I interviewed my well respected local tech, Tracy Longo who gave me some priceless and surprising advice on preventable repairs and what to do to keep your stringed friends out of the shop.

1. The Frown Crack

Broken headstocks: this one is obvious, but the steps to prevent it are often ignored. Gig bags are convenient and cheap, but offer little more protection than a grocery bag. If you regularly play out, invest in a light, but hardshell case. This is especially true with guitars with angled headstocks, Tracy noted that he repairs 20 Gibson headstocks to one Fender. Drops and falls happen, a bit more money spent on a case will mean less spent on repairs.

2. Cracking and Poking

If you feel your fret ends poking out, you have a humidity issue. No matter how well built a guitar is, it is still (in most cases) a wood object, and subject to the ebbs and flows of moisture and heat. Your guitars are most comfortable where you are most comfortable, ideally at 47% humidity and 70 degrees. With acoustics humidity is a greater issue. These problems are surprisingly preventable. Tracy’s advice: Keep plants or even a small waterfall feature in the room where most of your guitars are kept, which will prevent the room from dying out. Wood floors and walls pull moisture out of your guitars, keep rugs on the floors. Finally, old wood cases will also pull moisture out of the instrument. Spend a little money on a hygrometer and know your guitars are safe.

3. It’s Getting Hot in Here

Just as humidity is bad, heat is also the enemy of guitars. Tracy says that in temperature over 80 degrees, the polyvinyl glue used in most modern guitars can begin to creep, at over 100 degrees the glue joints can come apart. These are very expensive and complicated repairs. Tracy suggests that having a hygrometer with a temperature gauge on it will keep you in the know about heat and humidity at the same time. Again, high quality cases will give your guitars another level of protection. Keeping you guitar in a gig bag at home is fine when you have a well regulated room.

4. Wiggle Your Knobs!

This one sounds silly, but will save you on expensive and really preventable repairs. We have all had guitars with crackly knobs, or have pots that will freeze up or short out. If you have more than a few guitars, we all have a few that we play much less than the rest. Sealed guitar pots have internal lubrication, but can dry out when they are not used. The advice is simple, once a month, turn the knobs on all of your guitars. Tracy does say you can use some of the electrical component cleaning supplies out there, but be careful, some will do more harm than good, and can damage your finish. If you do need the knobs lubed, taking it to a tech is the best option, and with good care and knob-wiggling, you should only need the knobs lubed once every few years.

5. Stripped and Left for Dead

The last of the repairs is the dreaded stripped-out strap button. Why this happens so often is that many companies use a drywall screw plug when installing strap buttons. This is done on production to allow the bodies to hang for painting, but really hampers long-term use. Tracy suggest an easy remedy- pull out the screw and using a tooth pick, coat the inside of the hole with a wood glue like Titebond, and insert a dowel or toothpicks and let them swell and grab into the wood. When it is still wet, insert the screw and strap. Once it is dry, the strap button will be more secure than when it was installed at the factory. You should so this even when you install strap locks. If you feel uncomfortable, have your tech do this.

Just a few small steps can save you literally thousands of dollars on repairs over the life of your instruments. With that money you can buy more gear! Please leave some sage advice on repairs in the comments.

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