Fixing Common Guitar Truss Rod Problems

Nothing ruins a beautiful electric guitar quicker than problems with a truss rod or neck. More often than not it could be the relief of the neck or the tightness of the truss rod itself that needs a fix. But sometimes, it could be other problems, some that you may have caused yourself, such as a stripped nut. In this article, we'll be taking a look at common truss rod problems and how to fix them.



Common Causes Of Truss Rod Problems

There are various kinds of truss rod nuts with emphasis on their placement. The truss rod nuts are fixed in different positions on various brands of guitars. Sometimes it may be placed at the headstock or at the heel of the fretboard or in case of some newer electric guitars the truss nut may be exposed and helps easy adjustment. Also, the tools used for truss rod adjustments are numerous such as flathead screwdriver, hex key, nut driver, screw extractor, metallic rod or small socket wrench etc. The major problems caused to truss rod nuts in an electric guitar can be narrowed down to three factors:

  1. Defective hardware. (though not common, a high volume production could be blamed)
  2. Worn out tool. (don’t use force to aggravate the damage)
  3. Previously failed adjustment using a wrong sized tool. (causes loose grip)


So, even before attempting to manipulate any parts of the electric guitar, we need to check our toolkit to ensure that we do we have the correct tools. The sharpness and precision of the tool are very important to avoid further harm if used forcibly. Use the correct type and size of tools to repair your electric guitar as it may turn out to be more expensive to salvage the damage caused by old incorrect tools.


Adjusting Truss Rod Relief

Fortunately, this is more of a setup problem than actual damage to the truss rod. If the action on your neck is so high that it makes playing a pain, or so low that strings constantly buzz, you probably need to adjust the relief. You can check out our Adjusting Your Truss Rod article for detailed info on how to get it done.


Tips To Remove A Stripped Truss Rod Nut

It is always best to try and remove the stripped nut using the correct specific tool. But if the nut seems to be too worn out you may have use another tool to fix it. Maybe, a pair of needle nose pliers or a flat head screwdriver could do the trick but proceed with caution to prevent further damage. If you try using a screw extractor, be careful to take your time and go slow. When you turn the extractor anti-clockwise with slight pressure, it might break the head off with the extractor digging deeper into the shaft.

truss rod A typical screw extractor with a T-wrench handle.


If you are wary of using the screw extractor and it does not work out as well, you may also try to fix it manually with a T-handle or try using extractors with vice-grips with a stable and gentle hand. Unless you are an expert it is best not to use the power drills as at high speeds more damage can be caused.On a special note, it is always recommended that before you attempt to remove the nut, you have to relax the electric guitar strings.


How To Fix The Back Of A Truss Rod Nut

It is way easier to fix the nut back into the truss rod than removing it. Put the nut slowly back into the threads and rotate it clockwise to fix it snugly and tight. You can now test the relief in the neck by tuning up the pitch of the electric guitar. The usual range of relief is around .010” to .012” unless you have a variant style.



truss rod

Cruztools GTTRS1 GrooveTech Standard Truss Rod Driver @ $11.95. Vintage-style truss rod nuts have very thin yet wide slots and are made of unhardened steel, so normal slotted screwdrivers will cause damage – as evidenced on many vintage guitars and basses. Cruztools developed two screwdrivers specifically for this application. Proper adjustment involves removal of the neck for full nut access, and our Standard Driver provides firm contact over the entire slot width for damage-free adjustment. Oversized handles with extra-long shafts for a firm grip and easy access

One Last Word

Also, please note that while trying to fix the truss rod nut you do not damage or alter the opposite end in the threads; the part that actually screws into the neck. This kind of damage cannot be fixed unless with the replacement of the truss rod or the neck itself. If that kind of damage happens, it is going to be heavy on the pockets. So, it is crucial to tighten the nut only to the desired level and not more as it may strip off the truss rod threads. To put it in simple terms, trying to adjustments with cheap worn out tools usually equals expensive damaged



Your Turn to Sound Off!

Have you ever stripped a truss rod? How did it happen?

Let us know in the comment section below!

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