Under extreme circumstances, can you fry guitar pickups when soldering? Everytime inexperienced guitarists try to repair their instrument’s electronic parts, the worry that heat can damage their guitar pickups is understandable. After all, we see what a soldering iron can do to solder (a.k.a lead solder/solder wire) and we begin to doubt if the pickup’s parts will be able to withstand the high temperature.
When it comes to heat damage however, a soldering iron is just one of the heat sources that you’ll have to worry about. For example, leaving your guitar inside a car that’s parked under the blistering sun, can create a harsh environment that can cause a lot of problems for your instrument.
Learning how to repair your guitar’s pickups is a vital skill to have especially when you are constantly on a tour or just don’t have a reliable guitar technician in your area. Small issues may arise anytime as a result of your guitar’s sustained usage and due to the lack of professional services, your only way is to take matters into your own hands.
Knowing how to handle soldering tasks is one of the abilities that even beginner guitarists can delve into early on, to solve simple gear defects. Melting lead wire with a soldering iron/gun may seem intimidating and hazardous at first but with the proper know-how, you can fix your guitar pickups without inflicting any damage on the instrument and yourself.
Can heat damage guitar pickups?
A guitar pickup may seem like a simple and diminutive device, but inside it are various components that work together to gather string vibration and translate them into electrical signals. Because a guitar pickup is made up of various materials, the parts are expected to respond to heat dissimilarly to one another.
Leaving your guitar under the sun will actually cause more damage on your instrument’s wooden parts and the finish, compared to your pickups. Prolonged exposure to heat can make your guitar’s neck warp, and the paint to crack. At a certain level of temperature, your pickups might be able to withstand the noontime sun, but it would still be better to store them at room temperature for maximum safety.
It would be hard to fry a guitar pickup, but if it is wax potted (a remedy for pickups with microphonic issues), the wax can melt under very high temperature. Fortunately, the pickups can be easily repotted by guitar technicians.
Guitar Pickup Parts
Let’s take a look at some of the parts of your guitar pickups and see how they respond to higher heat levels:
Heat can damage pickups, but it will take almost 1,600 degrees Celsius to melt magnets. However, if they are subjected to a certain temperature, they can also lose their magnetism. When magnets reach what scientists call the “Curie Point,” (which is around 480-550°C), their magnetic powers will be totally gone.
The coils wrapped around the pickup’s magnet are usually made out of copper, and these metals have a melting point of 1,085°C. Unlike lead solder, accidentally touching copper coils with a soldering gun won’t make these metals melt.
Bobbins consists of a top and a bottom plate that holds the magnets and the winding in place. They are usually made out of compressed paper fiber or molded plastic, materials that can be damaged if they come into contact with a very hot object, like the tip of a soldering iron.
The wires needed to hook up your pickup to the guitar are coated with insulators that are commonly made out of rubber or plastic. Pickup wires should be avoided when you are soldering parts as they could melt easily.
Just like printed circuit boards, resistors, capacitors and other electronic components, the parts of a potentiometer are designed to take the heat being emitted by the entire soldering process. Unless you throw these things into a bonfire or over a stove (don’t try that at home), you don’t need to worry about frying your guitar pickup’s pots.
Can you fry guitar pickups?
Although severe heat can damage your guitar pickups, most electronic parts should be able to tolerate the temperature of soldering iron. As long as you execute the soldering process properly and just with the right amount of heat, you don’t have to worry about frying your guitar pickups.
Electronic equipment may be sensitive to heat, but you don’t need too much of it to melt lead solder. Besides, the parts of a pickup, along with the potentiometers, require minimal soldering work, so setting your soldering iron to around 300 – 400°C may be enough to let you accomplish the job.
Get yourself a soldering iron with adjustable temperature settings, so you can control the amount of heat that you need. In case you are not comfortable with the procedure yet, you can practice soldering on broken electronic equipment to guarantee that your hands will be steady when you do the actual work. This will help you to avoid burning or damaging any parts of the pickups and the potentiometers, ensuring that the outcome of the installation will be tidy and error-free.
Never experiment on your instrument as this could only yield further problems and even affect your practice or gig schedule. If you still have worries that you might fry your guitar pickups or damage them with severe heat, then seek the help of a more experienced guitar technician instead.