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intermittent pickup switch

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by Whiskeyrebel, May 23, 2011.

  1. Whiskeyrebel

    Whiskeyrebel Supporting Member

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    My LP copy has the box-style pickup selector. The neck pickup cuts in and out and I suspect the switch is the culprit. If I can confirm this is the source of the problem, is there any way to fix this style switch or is a swap the only remedy?
     
  2. mark norwine

    mark norwine Member

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    those "box" switches suck. Just replace it.
     
  3. Whiskeyrebel

    Whiskeyrebel Supporting Member

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    So the type of switch is failure-prone? I was sort of afraid of that. Thanks for the tip.
     
  4. Joe Naylor

    Joe Naylor Supporting Member

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    Open up the box and run a piece of folded 600 grit sandpaper a few times between the contacts, then spray with electronic cleaner/lube. This fix works with box or open style switches.

    There's good and bad quality box switches. The general quality has improved over the last 5 years or so.
     
  5. mark norwine

    mark norwine Member

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    NO NO NO!!! never sandpaper!

    Sandpaper = silica = an insulator!

    You do not ever want to embed an electrical contact....any electrical contact....with an insulator, especially one that's switching very low voltage and [more importantly] very, very, very low current.
     
  6. Whiskeyrebel

    Whiskeyrebel Supporting Member

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    Joe - this is from an import guitar from the mid 80s that looks like it was made by the same factory that made Hondo II at the time. Pre-improvement in that case.

    Mark, that is a good point. Chances are either there is no wiping motion in the contact and it fails to self-clean, or the plating on the contact surface was low cost & quality, or the contact surface has worn down to base metal which recoats with oxide more quickly now. Or all of the above.

    If the switch is a goner anyway, there is no harm in giving one last try to to burnish the contact. What is good to clear the surface without shedding nonconductive particles or chewing the plating off all the way?
     
  7. mark norwine

    mark norwine Member

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    contact cleaner for metal contacts. Caig D5 works well
     
  8. Mandy

    Mandy Member

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    I'd replace it. Usually this kind of problems come back after a while. A new switch will be a long lasting solution.
     
  9. Joe Naylor

    Joe Naylor Supporting Member

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    It doesn't embed, a few swipes simply cleans the surface. Trust me, I've done this hundreds of times for over 20 years.
     
  10. Joe Naylor

    Joe Naylor Supporting Member

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    Another thing to check:

    Some of the older box switches have poor mechanical connections between the internal "blades" and the external solder lugs. Sometimes just soldering the area where the blades are fastened to the lug points is the fix.

    And yes, I understand replacement is sometimes the only fix. But the OP's question was "is there any way to fix this style switch".
     
  11. mark norwine

    mark norwine Member

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    I spent 10 years in the electrical contact industry; we designed & manufactured for virtually every switch maker in the world. There's no aspect of the chemical, metalurgicall, physical or electrical engineering that I'm not intimately familiar with.

    Silica does not belong anywhere near any electrical contact. Ever.

    I'll stand by my "don't do it" comments, and I suppose we can agree to disagree.
     
  12. Joe Naylor

    Joe Naylor Supporting Member

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    Well maybe this is an exception to the rule, because I have done it many times to every type of 3-way toggle with success. That's simply my real world experience.
     
  13. Julia343

    Julia343 Member

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    Aren't the switches pretty cheap?
     
  14. Whiskeyrebel

    Whiskeyrebel Supporting Member

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    Not that they are pricey, but while there's a clear remedy for an unselaed pot or for the open type switch like Gibson uses, I did not know whether there is for the type of switch on mine.

    The switch just had two thin brass or bronze leaves staked to solder lugs, and a central common log that they switched against. No plating of any sort, and downright grubby. Swipe marks where the toggle lifts the leaves, but to rub marks on the point of contact so probably no self-cleaning action.

    I lifted out the common lug to allow cleaning the inner surfaces of the leaves and rebending them to restore preload force against the lug. I did wet some solder between the lugs and the leaves, just in case that was a poor contact, but I wasn't able to get the common lug to seat back into the substrate. It's a goner and no way do I get another one of the same now that I see how it is built.

    Joe and Mark, you both are right. It's a matter of odds. You could probably clean hundreds of switches that way and never have a problem, or maybe get a dropout that clears itself up when the guitar is moved around. But if you are making 3 or 4 thousand switches a week, you can't leave even a slender possibilty. The law of averages will bite your ass, and then you're getting angry phonecalls, driving hours or hopping in a plane and spending a dozen hours out in a factory parking lot under hoods or stooped down by the floormats plugging things into test boxes - just for starters.
     

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