As I run a Custom Guitar Shop (Morton Guitars) I have been working with guitars for many years and know a thing or two about electric guitars and replacing pickups.
Rewiring or replacing your pickups?
If you have ever thought about replacing your pickups but have been worried about making a bit of a mess of it? Well that was me a few years ago! At least first time round I found it hard as I just figured it out from scratch, but it is actually quite easy once you know how to do it.
Almost all low cost guitars will benefit from new after market pickups and upgrading pickups in your guitar can really transform an otherwise dull sounding uninspiring guitar into a tone machine that sounds amazing.
What you will need is a soldering iron (for electrical wiring soldering) and a tube of electrical solder from any DIY shop such as B&Q etc. You will need screwdrivers and pilers or clippers to clip the wire.
Take off off the old strings and bin them. New pickups deserve a new set of strings and they will sound even better with a fresh set of shiny strings. Remove the pickguard with the pickups on it if it is a Strat or remove the control or access panels in teh rear if it is any other type of guitar.
Before you start, draw a plan of where the wires are currently soldered on the guitar so you can rewire it back to standard if you get totally lost.
Seymour Duncan is a leading pickup manufacturer and if you go to their web site at Seymour Duncan and click on the 'Support' tab and then 'Wiring Diagrams' you will find many easy to follow wiring diagams of just about every combination of pickups for every type of guitar on the market. These are very useful to follow and I use these all the time no matter what brand of pickup I am fitting.
Just remember that all manufacturers use different wiring colour codes but that isn't a problem if you translate the colour codes before you start. So one manufacturer may say Red is the HOT wire and Green is the GROUND wire, whereas another manufacturer may code their wires as Black is the HOT wire and White is the Ground wire. What I do is to get colour pens to recolour the wiring diagram appropriate for the manufacturer's colour codes before I start. It is really that easy! You can get the manufacturers colour codes usually on the box that the pickup comes in or colour codes are printed on a sheet inside the box or you can find their colour codes on the manufacturer's web sites.
So all you do is simply use the soldering iron to melt the solder from the connections and remove the pickups and then solder the new ones in their place. Solder hardens in 2 seconds so it is quick. if you need to do it again, just melt the solder again in 2 seconds and do it again, no problem. Remember to ensure that everything is earthed as it shows on the wiring diagram, including the bridge and the volume and tone pots. Also, cover the guitar with a cloth or newspaper in case you drip hot solder onto the finish. Watch out as soldering irons have extremely hot tips.
If you are changing the Volume and tone Pots then usually Strats and Teles and most single coil guitars have 250k pots whilst Les Pauls, SGs and most humbucker type guitars usually have 500k pots.
That is about it...simple really. Just be sure that the pickup heights are adjusted after you fit new strings and away you go.
For a review of different types of pickups available and other guitar subjects please see my other guides.
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