Do Guitar Pickups Wear Out? | How Long Do They Last?

While many manufacturers are selling new pickups for electric guitars, the main reason for this is to find a better tone. But have you ever wondered, do guitar pickups wear out and then need to be replaced?

No, guitar pickups do not wear out with normal use. Because they do not have moving parts, there is no way for them to break down aside from demagnetization. They can be damaged, however, by rust, water, and broken wires

In this article, we’ll look at factors that can shorten a guitar pickups lifespan and how to prevent them.

Do Guitar Pickups Wear Out

Do Guitar Pickups Wear Out?

Guitar pickups are often thought to last forever because they don’t have any moving parts. Most pickups are so simple they only consist of a magnet, pole pieces, and copper coil wire, all held in place by wax.

And if treated correctly, they will provide you with a lifetime of service, just as the pickup manufacturer has designed them to.

The magnet can weaken over time, but this is not easily detectable and isn’t worth worrying about in most cases. However, there are a few things that can damage or shorten their lifespan quickly, including:

  1. Moisture
  2. Loose Parts
  3. Demagnetization
  4. Impact
  5. Improper Handling
  6. Cleaning Solutions

Moisture

Moisture is the number one enemy of guitar pickups. It can cause rust, which will eat away at the metal and eventually break the copper wires.

If you live in a humid climate, be sure to keep your guitar in its case when you’re not playing it. You can also buy a dehumidifier to help protect your instrument.

Loose Parts

If parts on your guitar like the tone or volume control come loose, it is possible that the wires can break. When a potentiometer is loose, it can pull on pickup wires, eventually leading to them breaking.

Proper guitar maintenance is crucial to preventing any electronics or wiring from breaking.

Demagnetization

Proper storage is important for preventing demagnetization, which is when the magnet in the pickup loses its strength. This can happen if the magnet is stored next to another one, or if it’s placed in a very strong magnetic field.

To prevent this, simply keep your pickups away from other magnets. For example, speakers have powerful magnets that can hurt your pickups. It’s best not to lean your guitar up against your speaker cabinet.

Impact

If you drop your guitar or hit it against something hard, it’s possible that the pickups could be damaged. The impact can cause the magnet to break or the wires to come loose. In some accidents, the pole pieces could be hit hard enough to come loose.

While it’s impossible to avoid all accidents, being careful with your instrument will help prevent any unnecessary damage. This is why proper storage is crucial to prevent any kind of pickup damage.

If you store your guitars hanging from the wall, make sure you will never hit them with anything by storing them in an area with low traffic. If they can be bumped, then it’s best to move them before something worse happens, like being dropped!

Improper Handling

One of the most common ways that people damage their pickups is by mishandling them. This can happen when you’re removing the pickups from your guitar or when you’re installing new ones.

For example, if you don’t install the wires correctly, it’s possible that they can be pinched and broken. It’s also possible that the magnet can be demagnetized, depending on where it’s stored before being installed in the guitar.

To avoid damaging your pickups, be sure to follow the instructions that come with them. If you’re not sure how to install or remove them, it’s best to take your guitar to a professional.

Cleaning Solutions

Certain cleaning solutions can damage guitar pickups, so it’s important to be careful when cleaning your instrument. For example, many window cleaners contain chemicals that can eat away at the metal and insulation on pickups.

Over time as the solutions work their way into the pickups, they can corrode the copper magnet wire causing premature failure.

To clean your guitar safely, use products made specifically for your instrument. Avoid using any kind of harsh chemicals or cleaning solutions.

By following these simple tips, you can help extend the lifespan of your guitar pickups. Remember, proper storage and care are crucial to keeping them in good condition. With a bit of effort, you can enjoy their sound for many years to come.

Pickup Magnetization And Age

How do guitar pickups wear out? While the average player might not notice any deterioration in their sound over years of use, a working musician will notice a loss of highs, more noise, and generally a lower overall quality.

The first question is how does this happen?

The permanent magnets in pickups slowly lose their strength over time. This happens when the pickup is continually subjected to small amounts of heat and opposing magnetic fields, which over time will cause the magnetism in the pickups to slowly diminish.

The other main reason for a loss in magnetization is simply aging. As time goes on, the magnets will slowly lose their strength.

There are a few things that you can do to help prevent this from happening.

One is to store your pickups in a cool, dry place when you’re not using them. This will help to keep the magnetism from diminishing.

Another thing that you can do is to regularly re-magnetize your pickups. This can be done with a special tool, or by taking your pickups to a guitar shop to have them professionally re-magnetized.

Doing this will help to keep your pickups sounding like new for much longer.

In general, though, it’s inevitable that over time the magnets in your pickups will slowly lose their strength and the quality of your sound will degrade.

Learn how to identify guitar pickups here!

How To Recognize Problems With Guitar Pickups

If you’re starting to notice that your guitar doesn’t sound as good as it used to, there’s a chance that the problem could be with the pickups.

There are a few things to look out for that can indicate that your pickups might be going bad.

  1. If you notice a loss of highs in your sound. This is a common problem as the magnets in the pickups slowly lose their strength. This is more noticeable in humbuckers than single-coils.
  2. Another thing to watch for is an increase in noise. This can be caused by several things, but if you notice that your guitar is starting to sound buzzy or fuzzy, it’s a good indication that something is wrong with the pickups.
  3. If you notice a general deterioration in the quality of your sound, it’s likely that the pickups are to blame.
  4. Complete loss of output could also indicate a problem with the pickups. If your guitar has active pickups, make sure the battery is not dead first.

If you’re experiencing any of these problems, it’s a good idea to take your guitar to a professional to have the pickups checked out.

In most cases, they can repair or adjust the pickups to improve the sound.

Prolonging The Life of A Guitar Pickup

There are a few things that you can do to prolong the life of your guitar pickups.

Storage

When you’re not using your guitar, make sure to store it in a cool, dry place.

Avoid exposing your guitar to extreme temperatures or humidity, as this can damage the pickups.

Cleanliness

Keeping your guitar clean is important for several reasons.

Not only will it help to keep your guitar looking its best, but it will also help to prevent dirt and grime from building up on the pickups and causing damage.

Use a soft cloth to wipe down your guitar after each use, and make sure to clean the pickups regularly with a mild cleaning solution.

If you sweat a lot, then you will want to do this more often to keep salt out of the guitar parts, in general.

Re-magnetize

As we mentioned earlier, one of the main causes of deterioration in pickups is a loss of magnetization.

You can help to prevent this by regularly re-magnetizing your pickups if you feel you are losing frequency response. Keep in mind, however, that some pickups sound better once they age.

Some vintage guitar pickups are sought after because of the loss of magnetization and the way they sound. So if the guitar sounds fine, then there is no need for this service.

Conclusion

In conclusion, guitar and bass pickups do wear out over time. But not like strings would, and will probably not need to be replaced in your lifetime. But if you feel that there is just something not right about your sound, it’s always best to visit a technician.

FAQs

How long do guitar pickups last?

This depends on how often you play and how well you take care of your guitar. Generally speaking, though, most pickups will last decades without needing to be replaced.

Can I replace my guitar pickups?

Yes, you can replace your guitar pickups if you are comfortable doing so. Just be sure to follow the instructions carefully and take your time, so you don’t damage your guitar.

How often should you replace guitar pickups?

Guitar pickups should only be replaced if they have broken completely or if the sound they produce isn’t quite what you want.

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Don East

My name is Don East, I'm the editor for Killer Rig. I've been playing guitar for over 20 years and have designed and manufactured products like guitar amps, effects pedals, and more. Over the years I have played in many bands and have a deep love for quality gear. I am an electrical engineer and have a passion for music gear, and now want to share what I know with the community!