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Pickup screws too tight, help!


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I have recently acquired a lovely MIM Fender Mustang, however when I try and adjust the P pickup height the screws are really tight, I am nervous to try and adjust the pickup height as I dont want to strip the screw holes, any ideas on how I can loosen the pickup screws so I can adjust the pickup height? Thanks

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Yep that`s it, from experience of ruining screw-heads on many different things over the years, using the right one will stop this and enable you to use the amount of force needed to turn it no worries. It`s amazing how much difference it actually makes.

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Could be a number of things:  

 

Wrong sized hole drilled at factory or not deep enough (possible, so you'd be screwing into solid wood or possibly a knot), pickup rout not deep enough so pickup is bottoming out (also unlikely), if the pickups have springs to aid adjustment it's possible the springs might be fully compressed (I don't think Fender use conical shaped springs that compress to a flat spiral), too much foam (if at all) under the pickups.  It's unlikely you'll strip the screw or the wood content; people have been pulling pickups out of Fender basses for decades - the chances of damaging anything is minimal/zero.

 

Easiest thing would take the strings off and just pull the pickups out and investigate.  You can't really do damage, it's just four screws.

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Thanks for the replies, I have a screwdriver set arriving tomorrow as I think part of the problem is that my current screwdriver set has the correct size screw head but the screwdriver I am using is around 4" long plus the screw-head by about 1cm wide so I think it is hard with such a small screwdriver to get enough force to turn the screw so I will re try tomorrow when I have the bigger screwdriver set

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Apply a blow torch to the heads of the screws until they glow red hot.  Then, once extinguished, simply locate the screws in the molten, charred mess.

 

Or, maybe less drastic, touch the tip of a hot soldering iron carefully onto the screw to make the metal expand.  Possibly.  Never tried it, don't know if it would expand enough.

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On the subject of screwdrivers, my wife bought me this inexpensive set and I highly recommend it. It’s been great for just about everything other than neck and bridge screws. Loads of different head options, it’s magnetic and also has a rotating heel so you don’t have to keep releasing it in your palm.

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1 hour ago, Paul S said:

Apply a blow torch to the heads of the screws until they glow red hot.  Then, once extinguished, simply locate the screws in the molten, charred mess.

 

Or, maybe less drastic, touch the tip of a hot soldering iron carefully onto the screw to make the metal expand.  Possibly.  Never tried it, don't know if it would expand enough.

You left out the hammer and chisel part...

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41 minutes ago, LeftyJ said:

Shoutout to Warwick for fastening their pickups with machine screws that go into threaded inserts! They're brilliant. I recon they should be easy to install on other basses too: 

Pickup screws

Threaded inserts

I routed one of my Corvette basses to fit EMG TB size pickups, and made an adaptor plate with threaded inserts to mount the new pickups on(sorry, no pics)

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4 hours ago, NancyJohnson said:

Could be a number of things:  

 

Wrong sized hole drilled at factory or not deep enough (possible, so you'd be screwing into solid wood or possibly a knot)

I posted my query on another forum and got the following response so judging by this it looks like you are bang on the money 

"I have seen video of the factory mounting pickups. It appeared that they don’t predrill holes, or not deep enough, for the pup screws and just drive them into the body with a power driver.

So it is a matter of the screw holes not being deep enough and now when you try to lower the pickup, you are driving into solid wood and the screws don’t turn very easily."

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Mustang pickups usually are suspended below the pickguard with a spring between them and the pickguard and the screw go through and are threaded in the plastic cover of the pickup, and maybe factory adjusted and fixed with a little hot melt glue to stop them moving, easy enough to remove the plate and have a look at what is going on before adjusting anything.

On the Squier I have the threads in the covers soon stripped as I adjusted them to get a better tone and balance after I changed to flatwounds, so I made some metal backing plates for the pickups and the screws act on them now instead of the plastic, so maybe threadlock or glue has been used to 'repair' stripped threads in the covers hence they won't move

Edited by Aidan63
clarity
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14 minutes ago, Aidan63 said:

Mustang pickups usually are suspended below the pickguard with a spring between them and the pickguard and the screw go through and are threaded in the plastic cover of the pickup, and maybe factory adjusted and fixed with a little hot melt glue to stop them moving, easy enough to remove the plate and have a look at what is going on before adjusting anything.

 

I guess there's two derivatives; but the MIM models don't employ the suspended units (like the Justin Meldal model below), it'll be a regular P-unit.  @shoulderpet, care to elaborate?

 

fender-jmj-road-worn-mustang-bass_4.jpg

 

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probably just a Squier cheap and cheerful method then that I have seen and the pickups are slightly different size to most Mustang pickups; I fancy everything about the JM apart from the relic finish 

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39 minutes ago, NancyJohnson said:

 

I guess there's two derivatives; but the MIM models don't employ the suspended units (like the Justin Meldal model below), it'll be a regular P-unit.  @shoulderpet, care to elaborate?

 

fender-jmj-road-worn-mustang-bass_4.jpg

 

Sorry I should have been clearer, this is one of the MIM P/J Mustang basses that just use a standard size P bass pickup rather than the smaller traditional Mustang pickup

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Ok so I have managed to work the screw out, have tried different pickup screws from my toolbox but it seems the holes are not deep enough as they all get really tight, I could drill deeper holes but I really dont want to risk bodging it, if I could find some pickup screws that were a bit shorter (say 20-25mm length instead of 30-35mm) then I would be sorted....hmm off to Google  

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33 minutes ago, shoulderpet said:

Ok so I have managed to work the screw out, have tried different pickup screws from my toolbox but it seems the holes are not deep enough as they all get really tight, I could drill deeper holes but I really dont want to risk bodging it, if I could find some pickup screws that were a bit shorter (say 20-25mm length instead of 30-35mm) then I would be sorted....hmm off to Google  

https://www.guitarpartsfactory.us/index.php?route=product/category&path=1_230_241

 

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16 hours ago, shoulderpet said:

if I could find some pickup screws that were a bit shorter

If the heads of the screws are still ok you can snip the screws shorter with a pair of pliers if you don’t want to drill the holes deeper 

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Over the years, I've come across more than one screw made with the strength of cottage cheese, no fun when they shear off.

 

For the last few years, anytime I've needed to remove screws or saddle grub screws, I've replaced them with stainless steel ones for peace of mind. Haven't had to buy any for a year or so, but as I remember depending on size, a couple of quid would supply enough for 1-2 guitars. Large choice on eBay.

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