A guide to replacing your pickups - easy!

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As I run a Custom Guitar Shop (Morton Guitars on FB) I have been working with guitars for many years and know a thing or two about electric guitars and replacing many different types single coil and humbucker pickups. 

Are you R=rewiring or replacing your pickups?

Have you ever thought about replacing your guitar's pickups but have been worried about making a bit of a mess of it? Well that was absolutely me a few years ago.....The very first time I tried to replace a set of pickups I found it really hard to figure out how to do it, however I eventually managed to figure it out.

Almost all inexpensive guitars will benefit from fitting a set of replacement after market quality pickups.  Upgrading pickups can totally transform an otherwise dull sounding and rather uninspiring guitar into a fantastic tone machine that sounds utterly amazing.  

I have fitted a set of Bare Knuckle Pickups (Top of the range, hand made) into a fender Mexican Stratocaster and the resulting tone and playability was outstanding - it sounded like a Custom Shop Fender costing £1500.

What you will need to start the task is an electrical soldering iron (check wattage that it is for electrical use) and a pack of electrical solder which you can get on eBay or any electrical DIY shop including Maplins or even B&Q etc.  You will need appropriate screwdrivers and thin-nosed pliers or clippers to clip the wires.

First of all take off off the old strings and bin them.  New pickups always sound better with a new set of strings and this gives you a chance to clean the fretboard and check all screws and nuts on the headstock are tightened but not too firmly.  Remove the pickguard with the pickups on it if it is a Strat or remove the control access panels on the back.  It should be obvious how to get into the "guts" of the guitar.

It is a good idea, before you start, to draw a plan of where the wires are currently soldered on the guitar so you can rewire it back to original 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 diagrams 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.

Finally, did you find this guide useful?   If so, please vote "Yes" below.  Thank you kindly.



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