Got a cheap fender-like guitar I’ve had a while and it doesn’t always work, I plug it and then it crackles and cuts out frequently and if I turn the dials it also crackles. A friend wanted to use it so I’ve got motivated and I’ve gotten round to fixing it.
These steps apply to most modern guitars – if it’s a vintage you may not want to follow the steps.
It’s very simple to fix the electrics for the average guitar nothing really that concerning and removing the crackle from the pots/ dials is as easy as just buying some cleaner. It really is that easy.
To test the connections/ circuitry as well as a multimeter I found it really useful to use a mini amp and headphones so I could listen for changes and improvements as I reproduced the fault.
First things first start with the jack and remove this from the guitar to inspect the connections. Should be a couple of screws holding the jack plate in and you’ll need to remove this and then unscrew the jack from the plate – there should be a couple of nuts holding it in place.
Next have a look for something obvious – in my case the joint just wasn’t soldered properly. I cut the wires, stripped the ends, then resoldered the connections after removing the previous solder (or lack of in this case).
Moving the jack with the amp and headphones connected, listening now I can see the connection is fixed but turning the pots/ dials I hear the crackling still. The jack is the first place to start for a loose connection but if the problem is not the jack or still persists with an intermittent connection after you’ve fixed the jack then you have a loose connection elsewhere. Next obvious place to check is the grounding/ earth wire – normally attached in the back of the guitar, there is a plate to remove to access this and the truss rod. Basically you’re looking for a wire that is connected to the guitar itself by way of a plate or something similar.
If that connection looks fine, next check the connections on each pickup, in cheap guitars these joints can be poorly soldered so check and repair. Lastly check the connections on the switches the wiring isn’t too tricky to check just be methodical.
Hopefully you’ve found your loose connection(s) and fixed them, if not you’ll need to go through each connection with the multimeter. If however you’re now left with a crackle/ static sound anytime you turn a dial or use the pickup selector switch read on.
Removing the crackle
So to remove the crackle when turning the dials etc… Just take the pickguard off, if you haven’t already, by removing the screws around the outside. You’ll need some electrical contact cleaner in a spray can with a straw. You need to have a cleaner that is solvent based but also include lubricant since potentiometers and switches should be greased and not left dry as that will make things worse. I found a can down in my local motor store and any decent electronics store should sell it. Again make sure the spray is a lubricant!
On each switch or pot spray the cleaner between the back of the pickgaurd and the dial. Keep you face away as it’s likely to spray back a bit and you dont want this in your eyes! You don’t need much spray just a couple of squirts, when done turn the dials back and forth to work in the cleaner, you should feel an improvement and the dial should feel smoother to turn. Repeat for each pot/ dial. For the pickup selector switch spray into the top of the switch from the front of the pickguard and work the cleaner in by flicking the switch back and forth.
So now plug in the amp and headphones and listen for the crackle – it should be gone now – good way to test as put a string on the guitar and play it.
Hopefully that’s fixed your issues.