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Strat truss rod is stuck

PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2018 6:03 pm
by Ryan Mazzocco
I had a guy come into the store today needing a set up on a 50th Anniversary Strat. This is the second place he took it to have it set up after getting a great deal on the guitar. The other place didn't get it where he wanted it. But the action is rather pretty high but there is still buzzing high up on the fretboard.
First thing I checked was the relief. It's about .040". But the truss rod nut is REALLY tight. I can't hardly turn it. I stripped my hex wrench trying to turn it. Fortunately I haven't broken the truss rod or the neck, but it's getting ridiculous.
I've clamped some back bow into the neck and am letting it sit right now. I was hoping though that with introducing the back bow it would free up the truss rod so I could turn it. But it's still as tight as ever. It's not exactly seized up, but it just turns really hard, loosening or tightening, and then just stops and I can't get anymore out of it. I don't know if I've run out of thread or what's going in there. And with it being a Strat neck I can't exactly just take the nut off and grease it.
I think I'm starting to understand why the guy who sold it let it go so cheap.
So, what's my next course of action?

Thanks

Re: Strat truss rod is stuck

PostPosted: Sat Sep 15, 2018 12:28 am
by Gordon Bellerose
You have the first step correct. Clamping the neck into a backbow is right. That should take the pressure off the rod.
I have in the past, put a few drops of light oil down the truss rod and let it penetrate for a day and then put a few more drops.
Or a quick spray of WD-40.
Work the rod slowly back and forth, it may start to loosen.
Do you know if it is a 2 way rod?

Re: Strat truss rod is stuck

PostPosted: Sat Sep 15, 2018 1:45 am
by Ryan Mazzocco
Gordon, thanks. I'll try putting some oil or something in it to try to loosen it up. I've also seen a lot of guys on the webs talk about putting heat on the nut with a soldering iron. I dont think that will work with this configuration. It would probably just melt the finish and burn the walnut plug.
I'm not sure if it's a 2 way rod or not.

Re: Strat truss rod is stuck

PostPosted: Sat Sep 15, 2018 10:46 am
by Steven Smith
I had one with a similar issue, it was the Fender hybrid two-way rod. I scored the finish around the plug then used a soldering iron to heat the plug up and pulled the walnut plug out. That allowed me to get heat on the nut and, in my case, I was able to get the nut out. Cleaned everything up, added another washer to make up for some wood compression, lubed the threads, put in a new truss rod nut and then put in a new walnut plug. After a quickie finish repair it was all done.

Re: Strat truss rod is stuck

PostPosted: Sat Sep 15, 2018 11:06 am
by Mark Wybierala
The walnut plug is available from Fender. I've needed to replace the trussrod nut twice in 20 years and replace a broken trussrod once. It comes as just a wooden dowel with a hole through it. You need to shape it to the contour of the slope once its in place. I carved much of the old ones out before I used a soldering iron and wet cotton cloth to steam the adhesive loose and get the trussrod nut to push the old one out. Its a seat-of-your-pants repair if you need to do it.

All that said, there are a few times including just this week when I have pronounced a Fender neck unfit to repair due to an excessive amount of relief in the neck when it is unstrung and the trussrod is not engaged. The necks were just too banana shaped for the trussrod to cope. The wood beneath the nut was collapsing under the stress. Replacement necks are available from Fender.

Re: Strat truss rod is stuck

PostPosted: Sat Sep 15, 2018 5:31 pm
by Ryan Mazzocco
update:

I put some oil in and got it to break loose. It's turning quite freely now but it seems the truss rod is maxed out. I get to a certain point and it just stops. Seems to be the same point where it was when I started.
I'm not sure at this point whether to pursue removing the plug and trying to get it worked out or pronouncing the neck dead.

Re: Strat truss rod is stuck

PostPosted: Sat Sep 15, 2018 8:20 pm
by Steven Smith
I would pull the walnut plug to investigate further before I trashed the neck. It may be repairable.

Re: Strat truss rod is stuck

PostPosted: Sat Sep 15, 2018 9:14 pm
by Mark Wybierala
How level is the neck when the trussrod is rotated to the zero compression position -- when it is not pushing or pulling? If its near flat, its worth repairing. I hate the biflex.

You can do a check on ebay to see what an American made neck is selling for and that'll tell you whether its worth the repair. Look for an average price because you never know what evil exists in a used neck until you get it.

Re: Strat truss rod is stuck

PostPosted: Sun Sep 16, 2018 11:14 am
by David King
Original owners are presumably eligible for a new replacement neck from Fender under warrantee. This is a pretty common and straightforward repair. I usually turn my own walnut tube to save some time. Get a stack of washers in there (also handy to make these in-house if you have a lathe).
As Mark says some of these necks need so much truss rod tension to get straightened that they may require heating or fret removal and sanding flat of the fingerboard followed by a refinish of a maple board and refretting so the hours can add up.

Re: Strat truss rod is stuck

PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2018 12:07 pm
by Steven Smith
The biflex rods are terrible IMO. If no warranty neck replacement is available I recommend that my customers save the original neck for vintage value, if any, and then put a Mexican neck on the guitar if they want to keep the costs down. Mexican necks play just as good as the American necks and are about 1/2 the price. Of course almost all of my clients are players and not collectors.

Re: Strat truss rod is stuck

PostPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2018 1:05 pm
by Mark Wybierala
I do not believe that a warranty or original owner situation is required anymore to acquire a neck from Fender. A phone call is all it takes. I have had a few situations where I got different answers and results via telephone conversations with a Fender parts person.

Re: Strat truss rod is stuck

PostPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2018 2:10 pm
by David King
They do seem to want the old neck back however and if it came with a 50th anniversary logo I doubt the replacement will have the same, it will just be a stock neck off the assembly line.

Re: Strat truss rod is stuck

PostPosted: Thu Sep 20, 2018 9:18 am
by Ryan Mazzocco
Thanks everyone for your input on this. I did not realize Fender might still be able to do something about this since he is not the original owner. A phone call to my Fender rep couldn't hurt anyway. He's a nice guy. In the mean time I've explained everything to the owner who has since picked the guitar up and is now considering his options.

Mark, to answer your question: with no tension on the neck there is still about .020" relief. That's with it tightened as much as I can get it. I didn't check it centered.

Re: Strat truss rod is stuck

PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2018 10:28 am
by Mark Wybierala
It really sounds like you've reached the end of the threads on the trussrod. In my experience with Fender necks, both biflex and traditional trussrods, this happens because the neck is warped into relief. ...more from a natural urge of that particular plank of maple just wanting to assume that shape as it gets older. It doesn't happen often but although Fender trussrods are fairly well designed to deal with compensating for string tension and counteracting the forward pull of the strings, at some point, when the neck itself decides to warp, the trussrod just can't cope and the strength of the wood under the trussrod nut begins to collapse. This can also happen to the anchor point under the first fret on heel adjust necks.

When I started building my own necks years ago, I was really over thinking the whole trussrod issue and some wonderful person here on this forum told me to "Just build the neck flat to begin with". This has been my rule since and I've also found that when I'm doing fret leveling or refrets, having an end result of a flat neck with no trussrod influence serves well to get a good result when string tension is applied requiring just a moderate gentle amount of trussrod influence to yield a perfect setup. This is why I usually like to look at the neck with no trussrod tension. Checking the zero trussrod influence just gives a preview of what the trussrod is going to need to deal with. I've found that most guitars can cope with fair extremes of natural forward bow but in each and every instance of a Fender trussrod reaching its maximum adjustment and running out of threads, there was a fairly large amount of forward bow at the zero trussrod setting.

Look at the neck with the heel in a vise and the trussrod adjusted to zero. The measured amount of relief is exactly twice the amount of material that will need to be removed from each end of the fretboard to achieve a flat neck. Sometimes this can be accomplished by removing fret meat. .020 is my general limit on how low a fret can be among the first five frets and I might consider going a little lower among the last four frets. If I can't do this by removing fret meat, it then moves into a decision to pull the frets and level the fretboard. Certainly this is an option but on a biflex you need to also consider the labor cost of dealing with putting the trussrod nut back into a functioning position by installing washers/shims under the nut.

Remove the walnut plug, remove the trussrod nut, install washers, replace the nut, reinstall the walnut plug and then deal with the cosmetics and get a professional result. Its really straight forward but it can be very time consuming. Cost of a new neck VS cost of the operation to repair the original.

Shimming the trussrod nut requires a little bit of strategy. (By the way, I once found flat steel washers or shims available from McMasterCarr that were the perfect size.) Always use a new trussrod nut when you're getting this deep into a biflex repair. I apply a thin coating of marine grade wheel bearing grease to the internal threads of a new trussrod nut. I verify that the nut is properly manufactured by testing with a clean 10-32 machine screw and I count the number of full turns it takes to bottom out the machine screw -- I seem to remember that 18 to 21 is typical. This also coats all of the internal threads with the grease. Understand that any leveling work on the neck has been completed before doing this. With a flat neck and the trussrod nut removed, I count the number of full turns required to minimally engage trussrod compression. I want to shim the trussrod with washers or spacers so there are five to seven full turns before the nut engages compression and when installing washers, its a good idea to tighten up a bit to make sure that the washers are seated and then recheck the number of turns. This may seem like overkill but if you've gone through all of this work it just makes sense to do this tedious operation. When you get the trussrod shimmed properly, you might consider actually string up the guitar and tuning to pitch to make sure everything works properly -- its ten minutes well spent before installing the new walnut plug.

The walnut plug gets installed with the nut adjusted to 1/2 turn of compression from zero. Use Titebond for the plug. Tap it in so it comes in contact with the nut. You should use some sort of depth measurement to the face of the nut and mark the plug so you have a rough idea of where it should end up. Shaping the external exposed parts of the plug is up to you. "ALWAYS" clean out the inside of the nut's allen hole as well as you can of excess glue - don't forget to do this. Sometimes Fender forgets.

Re: Strat truss rod is stuck

PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2018 10:18 pm
by Ryan Mazzocco
Mark, Even if I never see that neck again, Love the post. Thanks for sharing!

Re: Strat truss rod is stuck

PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2018 4:50 pm
by Steve Sawyer
Mark - I note you mentioning grease to lube the truss rod threads. I've only done one build (#2 is on the bench now) but when I installed the truss rod I lubed the threads with anti-seize compound. I don't know what is in it, but I use it anywhere I'm concerned about galling or seizing of threaded parts. Back in the day we used it on lug nuts. I can't think of a much more hostile environment than Michigan's winter roads, but lug nuts lubed with anti-seize compound come loose like they were just tightened yesterday.

I think it's graphited grease (it's silver colored) is made by Permatex and can be found in small tubes in hardware and automotive stores.