If you live in a climate that gets frigid during the winter and play gigs regularly, then you may have wondered what temperature is too cold for a guitar. Any guitarist who has ever transported a guitar to a performance knows that it doesn’t perform right until acclimatized.
Acoustic guitars will be damaged much quicker when exposed to extreme cold. The wood is thinner and holds moisture within it that can expand and crack. An electric guitar with a solid body is much different and can handle more exposure without damage. In either case, the guitar should be taken inside if you are not comfortable in the cold.
In this article, we will look at temperatures that you should avoid, and how to transport your guitar when it’s very cold.
What Temperature is too Cold for a Guitar?
Acoustic guitars are especially vulnerable to cold temperatures because their wood can crack and warp if exposed to prolonged periods of extreme freezing. Generally speaking, it’s best not to take your acoustic guitar outside without a case when the temperature dips below 5 degrees Fahrenheit (-15°C). For electric guitars, on the other hand, the temperature can get as low as -13 degrees Fahrenheit (-25°C) before you start to see a significant effect on the instrument’s performance.
It’s important to note that even though a guitar may still be playable in colder temperatures, it’s not necessarily safe from damage. If you take your guitar into the cold, then you risk cracking, warping, and other damage. So if you plan on taking your instrument somewhere that is very cold, then it’s best to be prepared and take extra steps to make sure your instrument is protected.
Learn what to look for when a guitar gets too dry here.
What is the Ideal Temperature for a Guitar?
The ideal temperature for a guitar is between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. This range of temperatures will prevent any dryness or rapid expansion or shrinking of the parts. Exposure to extreme cold can damage the guitar, so it’s important to store it in a climate-controlled environment.
Sudden temperature changes can also have a negative impact on the guitar as the different materials react to the cold. Metal and wood don’t expand or retract the same, so this can cause issues with an instrument.
Cold temperatures also bring with them dryness as humidity goes down. This can cause issues with the wood as it can dry out causing shrinking and cracking.
Effects of Cold Temperatures on a Guitar
When most people think about the effects of cold temperatures on musical instruments, they probably feel that they will be fine and that no harm can come to them. However, guitars are susceptible to damage from very cold conditions.
The wood that makes up the body of a guitar is sensitive to changes in temperature and can crack if it gets too cold, this is especially true with acoustics. Metal and wood parts can shrink when exposed to cold temperatures, but not at the same rate.
This means it can put extreme stress on screws and other fasteners, as the metal shrinks more than the wood. This can resort in loose screws and nuts, and changes to the truss rod which will affect the action and tuning.
For these reasons, it’s important to take care not to leave your guitar in a cold car or basement for extended periods of time. If you do, you might find that your once-beautiful instrument is now in need of a setup or worse.
Can a guitar get wet? Click here to learn more!
How To Transport a Guitar in the Cold
Winter can be a tough season for musicians. Not only is it harder to find gigs, but cold weather can also take a toll on your instruments. Wood contracts in the cold, which can cause cracking if left for long periods. Strings go out of tune quicker, and metal parts can shift or loosen.
As a result, it’s important to take extra care when transporting your instruments in winter weather. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Don’t transport your instruments in the back of a truck, exposed to the freezing cold. It can be tempting to toss everything in the back when packing up for a gig.
- Make sure to have a good guitar case that is somewhat insulated to help prevent extreme changes in temperature, especially if you live in a very cold climate.
- Wrap your guitar in a thick blanket or sleeping bag before putting it in the car if you don’t have a case. This will help insulate it from the cold.
- Warm up your car or truck before loading your guitars, this will help prevent them from being shocked by the cold. It will also mean that they will remain in tune when you get to your destination.
By following these simple tips, you can help ensure that your guitar makes it through the winter unscathed and is play-worthy all season.
How Long Can a Guitar Remain In the Cold?
How long can an instrument remain in the cold before it is damaged? This depends on a number of factors, including the type of guitar, the humidity, and the temperature it’s exposed to.
Acoustic guitars should not be left in the cold for very long. If you are expecting an acoustic guitar to sit in temperatures of 5 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, then only 3-5 hours at most is suggested. Electric guitars with solid bodies on the other hand can remain at this temperature for much longer, but should not be exposed for more than 10 hours.
Most guitars can withstand brief periods of exposure to cold weather without suffering any damage. However, if the instrument is exposed to freezing conditions or if it’s left in the cold for an extended period of time, it’s possible that the wood will crack or the finish will be damaged.
Try and keep it in a good case and limit the exposure as best you can, especially with acoustic guitars.
Can a Guitar Damaged by Cold Temperatures be Repaired?
The good news is that, yes, a guitar damaged by cold temperatures can be repaired. However, the cost and time involved depends on the extent of the damage and how much repair work must be done. Things like cracked wood could mean a rather costly repair bill, if it can be fixed at all. But this depends on the damage and where the wood may have cracked.
If you find that your instrument has suffered from cold weather exposure, take it to a qualified luthier or guitar tech for an assessment. The repairs might be relatively simple and inexpensive, or they could be more complicated and costly. In any case, it’s best to have a professional check it out to determine what needs to be done.
The best way to protect your guitar from the cold is to never leave it in extreme temperatures for extended periods of time. If you must transport your instrument in winter weather, make sure to do so in an insulated case or wrap it up in a warm blanket and heat the vehicle ahead of time. This will help prevent any damage caused by the cold.