Electric bass guitars have internal components like
- The pickups
- The batteries
- The volume, tone potentiometers and other controls
- The output jack
And they are mostly connected using electric wires and the use of solder. Though these wires are usually covered by some form of plastic when they deteriorate, it’s not uncommon to notice crackling and other interferences when plugged into an amp. In this article, we’ll talk about How to fix bass guitar wiring in a detailed manner.
What causes bass wires to stop working
The internal wires that connect all of the electrical components can lose their ability to transmit the signal effectively for a few reasons:
- Sometimes all it takes to rip the wire from an output jack is to pull the cable with a bit more force. This often happens by accident when the player or someone else steps on the cable.
- Output jacks have to stand a lot of connecting and disconnecting during their life cycle, and while in more serious cases the whole jack can be ripped of from the guitar, most times the abrupt movements will contribute to the connections being undone.
Be it at the exact point where the wire is soldered, or a rupture down the line, physical impact is one of the reasons why bass wirings will start to show problems like intermittent signal, unwanted noises, or downright not making any sounds when plugged in.
Improper storage in humid environments leads to rusting of the metal components. This can affect the electrical connections and result in an instrument that exhibits very characteristic symptoms like crackling and noises when turning the volume and tone knobs.
Though the problem itself may sometimes be in the potentiometers, it’s common for the rust to spread and contribute to worsening things along the length of the wires.
How to determine if your wires need replacement
This will need a bit of an investigation on your end, but here are a couple of tips to make the process easier:
1 – Do the noises occur only when turning the volume and tone knobs or are they present at all times when the volume is up?
If the problem only occurs when the knobs are in use, it might be that the potentiometers are faulty or rust has accumulated in them. Regular lubricant and rust converters like the WD-40 can do wonders to help with this. Simply remove the pots and apply some lubricant, turn it a few times, and check again.
2 – Have you checked all of the connections?
If you’re able to pinpoint the exact location where the wires are entirely or partially broken or disconnected, this will make everything much easier, and you can connect them temporarily by holding the extremity of the wire in the right spot (pots, jack, etc) and determine if that’s the cause of the issue.
In more severe cases, there will be more than one spot that you’ll have to reconnect to get the instrument to work again, and this would be a good opportunity to check all of the connections to ensure they’ll hold until the next scheduled maintenance. A multimeter can be a very good assistant to determine if the current is passing through.
What you need – How to fix bass guitar wiring
Repairing the connections in a bass guitar is not that complicated, though it will require the use of a soldering iron, which in turn will need the presence of an adult person in order to do things safely.
To fix connections/replace wires on any electric bass guitar, these are the tools needed:
- Phillips Screwdriver
- Soldering Iron
- Replacement Wires – Most people use 22AWG, but anything that fits your instrument will work, since the wire gauge won’t make much of a difference in the case, since they have to work with only a few microamperes current
As you can see the tools needed are very easy to source and they do not cost too much.
First things first
- Have your instrument laying on a flat surface like a mat for instrument repair.
- Removing the strings is a very good idea, though in some cases it’s not mandatory.
- You’ll need to turn the instrument on itself to access the wires in most models,
- Remove the pickguard and any other plastic/metal covers the instrument might have in order to expose the wires and connections.
- Insturments like the Jazz Bass have a separate compartment that holds the potentiometers and wires under it, so removing the whole pickguard isn’t necessary.
Once you’ve exposed all the components this is a good order to proceed:
- Visually check for any damaged/disconnected wires – If you spot a wire that is visibly bent/broken or disconnected, it becomes quite easy to simply replace it or solder it again in place.
- You can hold the tip of the wire against the surface of the component it has disconnected from and test if the instrument works (if you took the strings off prior to this, simply tap one of the pickup poles using a screwdriver and listen if the sound is coming from the amplifier). (Have your amp set at really low volumes otherwise you could damage the speakers)
- If this solves the problem, it’s time to secure the new/disconnected wire in place using the soldering iron by melting some solder around it and letting it harden.
If you can’t pinpoint the faulty wire simply by looking at it, a multimeter will be the right tool to guarantee that all connections are in place as they should be.
In case you’re unsure if a wire should or not be connected to any given spot:
A real quick search on the web for your model will come up with a comprehensive list of schematics.
These are fairly easy to understand and replicate. The example below shows a standard Jazz Bass electrical wiring diagram
As you can see, it’s not difficult to check each connection and compare to what you have in your instrument right now.
Test each component in doubt and double-check the wires’ ability to transmit signals using the multimeter.
In Conclusion – How to fix bass guitar wiring
Bass wires in good condition are vital to a good sound. Faulty connections will result in unwanted noises. To the point that the instrument either becomes unplayable or damages speakers and amplifiers.
How to fix bass guitar wiring will depend on the assessment of each individual situation for missing connections and damaged wires.
Internal bass guitar connections are somewhat fragile. They are subject to a lot of moving around. Especially when connecting and disconnecting cables or transporting the instrument.
It’s quite common that players on a budget get in a situation where they need to open the instrument up and try to fix things. (before considering taking it to the shop).
Fixing Bass Wires requires some troubleshooting, patience to pinpoint the root causes of the problem, and then some ability in order to fix things up.
The good news is that the skill level to fix most cases isn’t too high. Neither are the risks and costs involved.
The repair professional will need to redo all the connection points due to severe damage and ruptures in more serious cases.