How to replace an electric guitar potentiometer

Got a scratchy pot? Or you’re keen on trying a different value? Here’s an easy guide on how to do it yourself.

DIY potentiometer hero

You can reach the electronics on a Tele without removing the strings. They’re mounted under a control plate held on by a screw at each end

Why you need this

  • Pots get noisy and seize up
  • You wish to try a different value

What you need

  • Pliers
  • Soldering iron
  • Solder
  • Needle pliers
DIY Potentiometer contact cleaner
The extension tube helps direct the contact cleaner to exactly where you need it

Squirting cleaner into a potentiometer usually cures noise problems, but sometimes pots are beyond saving. As well as being noisy, they can develop dead spots or even seize up completely. Even if your controls are working properly, you may want to experiment with different potentiometer values or tapers to fine-tune your tone or achieve a specific response.

DIY Potentiometer wiring
Before you disconnect the potentiometer, draw a wiring diagram or take a photo. This will give you something to refer to when reconnecting the wires

Control pots can usually be found under pickguards or control cover plates. Identify the potentiometer you wish to change and make a note of the existing connections. You can do this by drawing a diagram or taking a snapshot using a digital camera or your phone.

DIY Potentiometer new pot
A new pot ready to be installed. Recessed grub screws secure Tele knobs to pot shafts, so we need solid shaft pots

Remove the control knob and take a hot soldering iron to the first solder tag on the pot. As soon as the solder has melted, pull the wire away from the pot using a pair of needle pliers. You can use your fingers instead, but sooner or later you’ll burn them.

Repeat the process until the potentiometer is disconnected completely from the circuit. Using larger pliers, unscrew the nut holding the potentiometer onto the body or the pickguard and remove the pot. Fix the new potentiometer in position and solder the wires onto the solder tags, ensuring that the original connections are maintained.

DIY Potentiometer solder tags
Single gang potentiometers have three solder tags. It’s also common practice to solder screed and ground wires to the pot casing

You may opt to wrap the exposed ends of the wires around the tags to achieve a secure mechanical fixing before soldering the joint. Once you’re done, reassemble, tune up and you should be good to go.

For more DIY projects you can do at home, check out this page.


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