Changing a guitar toggle switch is straightforward---but there are some things you need to know. There are two switches used more often than any others. They work the same, but install differently. Most guitar toggle switches are patterned after the Gibson and Fender styles. Gibson-type toggle switches are held on by a retaining nut and jack plate, and are mounted to the guitar body. Fender style switches are held in place by screws and mounted to the pick guard.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Three-way toggle switch
- Soldering iron
- Phillips small tip screwdriver
- Coffee cup
- Cardboard, 6-inch by 6-inch
- Scratch paper
Lay the guitar on its back. Locate the toggle switch. Using your fingers, loosen the mounting washer at the base of the toggle switch. If it's too tight, use a small pair of needle nose pliers. Take the mounting nut and washer off and put them in a small coffee cup.
Turn the guitar over and lay it on a towel. Find the cavity that holds switches and knobs. Using a fine tipped Phillips screwdriver, remove all the screws holding on the plastic cover and put them in the cup. After the screws are removed, gently pry up the plastic cover with the tip of a knife, being very careful not to scratch anything. When it comes loose set it aside.
Reach in with your fingers and jiggle the toggle switch until it comes loose, then lift it out. It will have wires on it, but there will be just enough slack wire to lift the switch out of the cavity. When it's clear, turn it over facing up. Get your new switch and lay it beside the cavity. Draw a picture of the wiring so you can remember what goes where.
Place a piece of cardboard under the switch. With a hot soldering iron melt the solder on the old switch and pull loose the wires one at a time. When the switch is loose, slip the new one under the wires and solder them in place using your drawing to get them in the correct location. Turn the switch back over and put it back into the hole. Holding it in place with one hand, reach under and put the retaining nut and washer back on with the other hand, finger-tight only. Then put the plastic cavity cover back on. Turn the guitar over and finish tightening the retaining nut.
Gibson Style Switches
Locate the toggle switch and remove two mounting screws---one on each side of the switch. Now locate all the pick guard screws and remove all of them. Carefully lift off the large pick guard, then turn it over, being careful not to pull too tightly on the wiring.
Melt the solder, take off the old switch from the back of the pick guard and replace it with the new one. Then turn over the pick guard and put in the two mounting screws that go in from the front.
Turn the pick guard back over, then solder the wires to the new switch. Turn it back over, fit the guard back into place, and replace all the screws.
Fender Style Switches
Tips and warnings
- Always pad the guitar when laying it down to prevent scratches.
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