Knowing how to Install guitar pickups is one of the most cost-effective, easy, and often overlooked ways of finding the ideal sound that all guitar players strive for. Installing a new pickup in your guitar is the perfect way to bring a lifeless "axe" back from the dead, and by learning how to install guitar pickups yourself, you can save loads of cash in the process.
To install a guitar pickup, you will need:
- The new pickups (With wiring diagram)
- A screwdriver
- A hex wrench or Allen wrench (depending on the guitar)
- Wire cutters
- Soldering Gun (20-45 watt)
- Solder (Thin Rosin Core)
- Protective Eyewear
- Remove the old strings. Loosen the old strings using the tuning pegs on the guitars head stock, and pull them through the guitars bridge. You will need open access to the pickups to remove them. If you plan an re-using the old strings, coil them and set them aside.
- Remove the guitars backplate. Unscrew the back plate to reveal the guitars electronics. Inside you will find the input, volume and tone pots (knobs), pickups, and pickup selector (unless it is mounted on the body). Locate all of these components on the wiring diagram for the new pickup. Make note of where, and how, all components are arranged and soldered. Try sketching a diagram of the old pickups connection to reference in case of wiring discrepancies between the two pickups.
- Unscrew the pickup from the pickup ring or pickguard. If the pickup is connected to a mounting ring, unscrew the mounting ring from the guitar, and then unscrew the pickup from the mounting ring. For guitars with pickguards, simply unscrew the pickguard, and then the pickup from the pickguard. The pickup should come out of the guitar fairly easily. For pickups mounted to a mounting ring, thred the connecting wires through the vacant pickup hole to make connecting the new pickup easier.
- Disconnect the old pickup. Use your soldering gun to remove all wires connected to the pickup. If the pickup is wired without solder, cut the wire, leaving enough wire to work with if you decide to re-install the pickup in the future. (Note: When working with solder, always wear protective eyewear and work in a well ventilated environment.)
- Connect the new pickup. Consult your wiring diagram before soldering. Make sure there are not going to be any lose wires, or connections not made. Solder the wires to the new pickup. Make sure all wires are connected, including the ground wires. If you are replacing like pickups (humbucker to humbucker) then the circuit is complete. (Note: This tutorial is for swapping passive pickups, not for replacing active or switching to active pickups. Active pickups require a nine-volt battery to power an onboard preamp, thus requiring different wiring schematics to accommodate the battery).
- Mount the new pickup. Fasten the new pickup into the guitars mounting ring or pickguard, and then screw the mounting surface back onto the guitar. The new pickup should fit the mounting surface like the old pickup. If the new pickup doesn't fit, you may need to file the pickguard or purchase a new mounting ring.
- Close it up. Once all connections have been made, and are secure, screw the backplate back onto the guitar.
- Test the pickup. Plug the guitar into an amp to test the connection. Tap the new pickup with a pick. The pickup should be quiet, with the exception of the pick tapping.
With your new guitar pickup installed, all you have left to do is re-string, plug in, and enjoy the new life that you've given your favorite guitar.