dead pickup. why?

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MKR
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dead pickup. why?

Post by MKR » Tue Aug 16, 2022 1:29 am

Have any of you ever have a pickup randomly die?

It happened to my telecaster yesterday. I was swapping out a pickguard and neck and when i went to tune it up i noticed my bridge pickup sounded extremely thin and quiet. Tone knob basically acted like a volume knob - turning down the tone resulted in a complete loss of volume.

I tested it with my multimeter and it failed. :( no reading. (the neck pickup on the other hand had a normal reading of 9.2).

This begs the question. what went wrong? Why do pickups suddenly die like that? I did a google dive yesterday and it seems like a few other people in the worldwide web have had a similar experience.

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Re: dead pickup. why?

Post by øøøøøøø » Tue Aug 16, 2022 2:54 am

You may have inadvertently damaged the pickup while doing the work.

In particular the spot where the coil attaches to the lead-out wire is very vulnerable and often exposed.

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Re: dead pickup. why?

Post by johnnysomersett » Tue Aug 16, 2022 9:50 am

Yeah, Brad's right, these things don't just 'die'... something has to happen to them and it's usually operator error.

Occasionally a solder joint might go cold and then a bump of the guitar can dislodge it, but then if the guitar wasn't handled at all, it'd be fine. The constant in all these situations is human interaction.

The most 'random' I've had is when sweat finally killed one off
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Re: dead pickup. why?

Post by øøøøøøø » Wed Aug 17, 2022 7:40 am

I’ve seen corrosion get to a pickup, but only after four or five decades.

The most common causes of dead coils I’ve seen are:
  • Break by the lead-out wire due to handling
  • break on the inside of the coil due to someone trying to “adjust” the stagger of polepieces
  • Manufacturing defect rendering something marginal and it finally shakes loose

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Re: dead pickup. why?

Post by MKR » Wed Aug 17, 2022 1:38 pm

øøøøøøø wrote:
Wed Aug 17, 2022 7:40 am
I’ve seen corrosion get to a pickup, but only after four or five decades.

The most common causes of dead coils I’ve seen are:
  • Break by the lead-out wire due to handling
  • break on the inside of the coil due to someone trying to “adjust” the stagger of polepieces
  • Manufacturing defect rendering something marginal and it finally shakes loose
Yeah i gotta think my case is #3 on your list. Makes me wonder how common an occurence that is? My pickup were fender noiseless n3's and i figure It's probably way more common with massive companies who churn out product at a large volume.

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Re: dead pickup. why?

Post by johnnysomersett » Wed Aug 17, 2022 9:38 pm

øøøøøøø wrote:
Wed Aug 17, 2022 7:40 am
I’ve seen corrosion get to a pickup, but only after four or five decades.
Indeed, it takes a lot. I repaired a bass guitar from an old work colleague who was probably the sweatiest man I've ever known and the bridge pickup was basically melted in caustic acidic, yet salty, sweat from 30 years of playing. That pickup wanted to die I think, to end it's suffering.
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Re: dead pickup. why?

Post by øøøøøøø » Thu Aug 18, 2022 5:50 am

MKR wrote:
Wed Aug 17, 2022 1:38 pm
øøøøøøø wrote:
Wed Aug 17, 2022 7:40 am
I’ve seen corrosion get to a pickup, but only after four or five decades.

The most common causes of dead coils I’ve seen are:
  • Break by the lead-out wire due to handling
  • break on the inside of the coil due to someone trying to “adjust” the stagger of polepieces
  • Manufacturing defect rendering something marginal and it finally shakes loose
Yeah i gotta think my case is #3 on your list. Makes me wonder how common an occurence that is? My pickup were fender noiseless n3's and i figure It's probably way more common with massive companies who churn out product at a large volume.
Extremely uncommon with modern pickups. Counterintuitively, the mass-produced pickups seem less likely to have defects than the expensive handmade stuff.

The coil wires are in the neighborhood of 50 microns, or about the thickness of a human hair. Breaking them on accident is unfortunately easier than we’d like it to be

Just to verify—when you say it has “no reading” you mean it shows open circuit, and not short circuit—right?

In other words, “infinite” (or “OL”) on your meter, not nominally-zero ohms?

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Re: dead pickup. why?

Post by Shorty Medlock 5151 » Thu Aug 18, 2022 8:04 pm

I have a dead pickup in my Squire Strat… haven’t had the pickguard off in nearly 10 years.

But I have a nearly new sss-1 that I an old Cort that I sold in the 90’s… I hope that works.

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Re: dead pickup. why?

Post by jvin248 » Fri Aug 19, 2022 4:29 am

.

My experience in guitar repairs, order of frequency for 'bad pickups':

70% -Bad switch
10% -Wires shorting to cavity ground shielding
10% -Bad soldering at the switch
5% -Corrosion/break at the pickup lead wire to bobbin wire connection (magnet wire has a coating that interferes with soldering and can have a marginal connection). Reheat and add new solder to the connection to fix.
3% -Steel wool particles getting into the pickup from someone polishing the frets, or having the dust about the work bench.
2% -Broken bobbin wire. If outer coil then unwind until the break is found, usually first wind or two or maybe 10% in, then scrape magnet wire coating off and re-solder to the the lead wire, if inner wire end then a re-wind is in order. This can happen from players 'pick stabbing' their open humbuckers/single coil pickups by accident. There is a mile of wire on a pickup bobbin so removing a dozen feet of it or more won't 'change the tone'.

.

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Re: dead pickup. why?

Post by MKR » Fri Aug 19, 2022 5:18 am

øøøøøøø wrote:
Thu Aug 18, 2022 5:50 am

Just to verify—when you say it has “no reading” you mean it shows open circuit, and not short circuit—right?

In other words, “infinite” (or “OL”) on your meter, not nominally-zero ohms?
ok so i am not that technically savvy and am not familiar with the terminology, but when i hook up the multimeter to the pickup in question it reads "1".

The multimeter always reads "1" when it is not hooked up to anything.
When i connect it to another (normal working) pickup, the reading changes from 1 to whatever value it goes to i.e. 9.2.

I have a couple of spare pickups in a parts bin and they all register some sort of normal reading, but the broken telecaster pickup just stays at "1." nothing registers on the multimeter.

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Re: dead pickup. why?

Post by øøøøøøø » Fri Aug 19, 2022 6:36 am

Yep, that's an open pickup. Where exactly are you measuring? Are you measuring right at the pickup leads themselves? Did you remove the pickup before testing?

If you're just plugging a cable into the jack and measuring that with the pickup selector on the bridge position, your pickup may be fine... it may be the switch or some other connection that's broken

Even if you're measuring an open coil on the pickup itself, this isn't necessarily fatal for the coil.

Examine this area:

Image

So there's the big solder blob on the baseplate, but look at the two small solder blobs on the fiberboard bobbin material. See the two tiny bits of copper wire that are just barely visible? They actually loop around the outside of the black pickup bobbin.

These are the start and finish of the coil, and this wire is extremely fragile... about as thin as a human hair. These are the wires that are most likely to get severed when someone is inside the guitar. This is where the coil connects to the insulated wires that solder to the pickup selector. The wire is so fragile you could easily snap it with your hand, or cut it by brushing against something.

So inspect this area for something amiss.

it's also possible the solder joint itself has cracked and just needs to be reflowed.

Sometimes if the coil wire gets severed near the start or finish of the coil (usually at the above-mentioned spot), a good technician can simply unwind one turn of the coil and re-attach. This is usually about the same price as rewinding the pickup, because it's not that much less labor-intensive, but if you're feeling brave (and the pickup isn't a vintage one worth protecting), you could always try it yourself... though if you're new to using a multimeter I suspect this isn't the best project for a beginner.

Hope it's something simple!

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Re: dead pickup. why?

Post by MKR » Fri Aug 19, 2022 6:57 am

øøøøøøø wrote:
Fri Aug 19, 2022 6:36 am
Yep, that's an open pickup. Where exactly are you measuring? Are you measuring right at the pickup leads themselves? Did you remove the pickup before testing?

If you're just plugging a cable into the jack and measuring that with the pickup selector on the bridge position, your pickup may be fine... it may be the switch or some other connection that's broken

Even if you're measuring an open coil on the pickup itself, this isn't necessarily fatal for the coil.

Examine this area:

Image

So there's the big solder blob on the baseplate, but look at the two small solder blobs on the fiberboard bobbin material. See the two tiny bits of copper wire that are just barely visible? They actually loop around the outside of the black pickup bobbin.

These are the start and finish of the coil, and this wire is extremely fragile... about as thin as a human hair. These are the wires that are most likely to get severed when someone is inside the guitar. This is where the coil connects to the insulated wires that solder to the pickup selector. The wire is so fragile you could easily snap it with your hand, or cut it by brushing against something.

So inspect this area for something amiss.

it's also possible the solder joint itself has cracked and just needs to be reflowed.

Sometimes if the coil wire gets severed near the start or finish of the coil (usually at the above-mentioned spot), a good technician can simply unwind one turn of the coil and re-attach. This is usually about the same price as rewinding the pickup, because it's not that much less labor-intensive, but if you're feeling brave (and the pickup isn't a vintage one worth protecting), you could always try it yourself... though if you're new to using a multimeter I suspect this isn't the best project for a beginner.

Hope it's something simple!
FIrst off thank you for the detailed replies! very informative and helpful.

Yes i have the pickup removed and have tested it via the leads as well as the solder points on the pickup themselves.

this is what my pickup looks like:
Image

Image

So i do not see the little thin copper wire that conncets to the solder points. I guess the design of this pickup has it hidden somewhere within the plastic casing? In any case i don't know if there is any way take it apart to inspect further. Doesn't really look like it.

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Re: dead pickup. why?

Post by øøøøøøø » Fri Aug 19, 2022 7:00 am

Aha! Yes, that looks different from what I remember.

What are those faint horizontal stripes in that second picture--bottom of the pickup, bottom of the photo frame, between those little eyelets and the solder pads?

In the photo they look *almost* like they could be coil wires, but that could be an illusion I suppose

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Re: dead pickup. why?

Post by MKR » Fri Aug 19, 2022 7:20 am

øøøøøøø wrote:
Fri Aug 19, 2022 7:00 am
Aha! Yes, that looks different from what I remember.

What are those faint horizontal stripes in that second picture--bottom of the pickup, bottom of the photo frame, between those little eyelets and the solder pads?

In the photo they look *almost* like they could be coil wires, but that could be an illusion I suppose
no that's a variation in the plastic and in the case of this photo it's the way the light is hitting it. .

suppose there could be some sort of wire/conductor within there somewhere but there's no wire on the outside of this pickup anywhere.
Last edited by MKR on Fri Aug 19, 2022 7:23 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: dead pickup. why?

Post by øøøøøøø » Fri Aug 19, 2022 7:38 am

Aha, one more spot to check:

the two rectangular solder pads on the far edges of the pickup bobbin, on the same plane as the six polepieces.

If you look at the top (coil side) of the pickup (your first photo), you can just barely make out a coil wire going over the edge of the black bobbin down to the solder pad.

Check the integrity of that wire (assuming there's something similar on the other side), probe those two solder points with your multimeter, maybe reflow those two solder joints if it's still showing open circuit

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