JAMES COLLINS
Before tackling this course, you should be comfortable with all the material from Fretboard Maintenance

In this mini series James Collins walks us through how to maintain the electrics in your guitars. There are some basic principles to learn which you can then apply to a range of guitar styles, as James walks us through.

Summary: Why clean electrics?

One of the most common problems to encounter with an electric guitar is crackling pots. This simply means that when you are turning your volume or tone knobs you hear a crackle. This is almost certainly dirt getting into the pots (the knobs). The good news is this is a very easy fix and is precisely the reason we want to regularly clean the electrics of our guitar.

Equipment: What tools do you need?

There are two main tools you will need to clean up the electrics in your guitar, and both are easy to come by and very cheap.

1. Precision screwdriver



Almost any small phillips screwdriver will do, but a precision screwdriver will just help ensure that the screws don't slip and you accidentally hit the scratch plate of the guitar.

2. Switch Cleaner


Switch cleaner is very cheap and can be obtained from most electrical stores. One can of switch cleaner will last you a very long time, even with liberal use.

Checklist: Cleaning the electrics

Ok, so as we now go through the process, remember that the wires are connected to the guitar body, so don't rush it and rip off the scratch plate as you may pull out the wires. Here is the full walkthrough:

  • 1. Use your screwdriver to remove the screws around the edge of the scratch plate
  • 2. Gently lift up the scratch plate and rest it on its side
  • 3. Identify the pots (where the tone and volume knobs are)
  • 4. Take your switch cleaner, insert it into the pot, and spray. One or two sprays should be fine
  • 5. Twist the knobs as you do it to work in the cleaner and make sure it removes all the dust
  • 6. If your pickup selector is a bit crackly, you can also spray that whilst flicking it back and fourth
  • 7. Carefully return the scratch plate and put the screws back in.

Summary: Getting access!

Your first job is to get into the guitar, and that is done via one or two sections at the back of the guitar. As the electrics are not attached to the plate on solid body guitars, you don't have to be as cautious when opening up the back of the guitar.



Checklist: Cleaning the electrics

Once you've located and opened up the back plate, the process is identical to the Fender style guitars. Here is the walkthrough guide:

  • 1. Use your screwdriver to remove the screws around the edge of the back plate
  • 2. Fully remove the back plate
  • 3. Identify the pots (where the tone and volume knobs are)
  • 4. Take your switch cleaner, insert it into the pot, and spray. One or two sprays should be fine
  • 5. Twist the knobs as you do it to work in the cleaner and make sure it removes all the dust
  • 6. Put the back plate back on and move onto the pick selector plate and follow the same process.

Summary: Getting access!

On hollow body style guitars, you will typically have a 'f' whole where you can, in theory, gain access to the electrics to clean them. However, this is a fair bit of guesswork as you can't fully see what you are doing. Instead, you simply pull the volume and tone knobs off and apply the cleaner directly to the guitar, as shown in the picture below:



As you spray the switch cleaner, don't forget to twist the part to work in the fluid. You then repeat the same process for all the knobs, as well as the pickup selector. Simple as that!

Summary: Getting access!

To access the electrics on the Tele, we simply need to lift up the control panel. This is the metal plate with the volume and tone knobs on it. You should see two screws that you need to remove. Once removed, you need to be a little careful not to pull out the panel too quickly, as it is attached to the body. Use a piece of blue towel to cover the body and ensure the panel doesn't scratch it. You can then apply the same process using switch cleaner as we have thus far.



As you spray the switch cleaner, don't forget to twist the knob to work in the fluid. You then repeat the same process for all the knobs, as well as the pickup selector. Simple as that!

Ready to move on – remember to check out every lesson in this unit first – then try the next unit...

General Guitar Cleaning

Keeping your guitar looking and sounding great by keeping it clean! It seems like an obvious thing, but there are some important tips to remember when cleaning different types of wood and paints.