There’s a certain amount of upkeep that an electric guitar requires in order to work at its best but one that is often neglected is that of scratchy potentiometers (also referred to as pots). Luckily, there’s a quick way to test and find out if your scratchy pots need to be replaced or simply cleaned.
First thing you have to do is plug you guitar in and turn the scratchy pot back and forth a few times. It works better if you do this quickly. Take a good listen; if your pots’ scratchiness starts to get quitter after a bit, good news – the pots simply need a good cleaning. Unfortunately, if the scratchy sound coming from your pots doesn’t lessen or go away, or if it sounds more like a click, then the pots need to be replaced.
In order to clean these dirty pots, you’re going to need a lubricant or spray cleaner – you can’t find these at most any electronics parts store. Make sure your guitar is unplugged and get the pots exposed. Now, give the pot you’re working on a good spray through the opening in the back of the cover that protects the pot. The access hole is pretty small but you should be able to get to it just fine by using the tube provided with the can. One good shot should be enough. Now, just let is set for at least 10 seconds then start rotating the pot back and forth quickly.
Once that is all done, you can plug the guitar back in and test out the results. If it worked, the scratchiness should be either completely gone or significantly reduced. If there’s still a bit of noise by this point, you should unplug your guitar and try the cleaning process all over again. If the noise doesn’t go away by the second time around, you more than likely have a bad pot which will have to be replaced.