Luthier Shop: Swapping A Pickup

Sometimes your pickup’s current weakens. Sometimes you want to tailor the tune to your needs. Whatever your reasoning is, swapping a pickup is easier than you may think. Let’s look at step-by-step instructions on how to change out your pickup: 

Getting the guitar ready

  1. Unstring your guitar with a peg winder. You can also trash the strings altogether if you prefer.
  2. Unscrew the screws on your pickguard. You can use a drill to do this, but we recommend using a screwdriver to avoid accidentally stripping the holes.
  3. Remove the pickguard and cut the wires connected to the output jack. These wires are different in every guitar, so we suggest looking at the specs of your model before cutting anything.

Under the hood

  1. Unscrew the pickups using a screwdriver (NOT a drill). Make sure to keep your screws in one place to not lose any. 
  2. Keep moving down the pickup configuration all the way down to the humbucker. 

Prepping the pickups

  1. Look online for a general wiring pattern to follow.
  2. Strip the wire ends and trim the tips.
  3. Heat shrink tubing over electrical tape on your north and south end wires to keep them looking fresh. Do NOT do this with the live wire.
  4. Catch the threading on the pickup with a screwdriver. 
  5. While screwing the pickup back onto the pickboard, pull the spring back and use your available hand to hold everything in place.
  6. Repeat the process going upwards on the configuration for the single coils.

High voltage wiring

  1. Connect your wires to the rest of the controls using the 5-way switch. There should be visible paths to connect the wires behind the switch. If there isn’t, follow these steps:
    1. Put the switch in the bridge position.
    2. A straight line from the bar’s direction will make the first terminal closest to the humbucker being your bridge position on terminal 1.
    3. The 2 preceding will be for the middle and neck pickups, and the 2 after that will be your common output terminals.
  2. Solder all the ground wires from the pickups to the volume pot. Do NOT shift connections or blow on the hot solder. This will prevent bad solder connections.
  3. After the solder has hardened, test the wire strength with a few tugs.
  4. Tie the wires together to screw the guard down easier later. (optional)
  5. The last connection will be the first wires we cut leading from the output jack to the volume pot and the ground wire that connects to the tremolo claw.

Reassembling the pickups 

  1. Tuck the wires underneath the pickguard so that the guard lays flat.
  2. Put the screws back where the controls are.
  3. If the strings have enough length, begin restringing to pitch. If the strings no longer stretch up to the tuning pegs, you will need to replace the strings.
Although swapping a pickup can be daunting, it saves you the labor cost of hiring a luthier and allows you to perfect the tune of your guitar. Visit our website to see our full collection of pickups and other luthier parts you may need.
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