General tech questions

Cleaning covered tuners

1

Last time I had my acoustic (1981 Epiphone flat top) in to the shop, the tech mentioned that the tuners would eventually need a good cleaning. I had noticed that over the years, a few of them had become stiff and hard to turn.

I found this video on the Stew-Mac site, which seems to explain pretty well how to go about it. Couple of questions:

  • I have naptha (lighter fluid). I guess it's all pretty much the same?
  • In the video, he uses Tri-Flow lubricant. Not sure if that's sold here in Canada. Is it like WD-40? Could I use that? I see there are "dry" silicon lubes and "wet". Does it matter?

Anyone have any other advice about tackling this job? Much appreciated.

3

I believe tri flow is a Teflon bike lube here in the states. I like to use a heavy almost grease like white lightning brand lube. A bike product also. I dont know about dry products. Hope that helps

4

Take the tuner off the guitar, with that type of tuner the back cover comes off very easily. With the cover off you'll be able to see how much wear is on the internal threads. Personally I'd dismantle the whole tuner, clean it well and use tiny amount of vaseline on a toothpick to grease the gears, then reassemble. Cheers.

5

Most of the sticking and excessive friction comes over time between the ferrule and the capstan rather than in the gears. Take the tuner off, clean and polish the capstan shaft and cylinder inner walls of the ferrule and prepare to be amazed at the smooth performance.

6

Don't use WD-40. Tri-Flo is a wet silicon lube and it doesn't last. Grease or vaseline will work better. And do ade said.

7

Hell, I run bike shops for a living and even I would try to talk you out of using TriFlow!

8

I use TriFlow a lot working on airplanes, and it does have a place on guitars as well - for lubrication set screws and the like - but I wouldn't use it on tuners myself. The residue tends to attract and retain dust, which would lead to its own problems.

I prefer to use a White Lithium Grease for things like tuners, as a little bit goes a long way and it lasts a very long time.

I think ade had the best idea. I'd sure try that first.

9

I have used synthetic bearing grease to good effect, mostly out of fear that an oil lubricant would spread over time and attract dirt, or worse, would stain the finish around the tuners.

10

Thanks everybody. I'll let you know how it goes.

11

So, I took the tuner off, but I don't see how it comes apart easily so I can get at the innards. I tried applying a little pressure with a flat screwdriver, trying to jimmy the cover off, but it started to dent the cover. Do these come apart easily?

13

So, I took the tuner off, but I don't see how it comes apart easily so I can get at the innards. I tried applying a little pressure with a flat screwdriver, trying to jimmy the cover off, but it started to dent the cover. Do these come apart easily?

– Jimbodiddley

Hey Jim, I can't see why the case part shouldn't come off. I took off one of the tuners from my Fender Newporter to have a better look and its case fell straight off. I'd try to grip the post with one hand and grip the case with the other and gently work the case from the bottom. I'm pretty sure the only thing holding the case on is the amount of time it has been screwed down.

Some of this type of tuner have a 'C' shaped opening in the case for button shaft and with those you'll have to slide the case up the shaft to remove completely and reverse to replace, a bit fiddly that's all.

I recieved your PM but I have very limited access to email at the moment. Best of luck.

14

I have had minor troubles getting the back of a tuner like this. I suggest not prying the back directly off since, as you note, the back bends easily.

I suggest first prying the perimeter VERY SLIGHTLY of the back cover away from the tuner body where possible - in a sideways direction. Now doing this is pretty much the most efficient way possible to cut a finger, so care is a good idea.

After that, with the tuner oriented on the bench as in your picture, try pulling the key shaft upward while pushing downward on the tuner cover on each side of the key shaft. I suggest not pulling upward way out at the key itself, but in close to the tuner body.

For lube: Viscosity is best chosen by the speed at which the parts will be moving, and the total load on the mating surfaces. In this case that means a thick grease, NOT a runny lubricant like Tri-Flow.

A thick lithium grease or a synthetic bearing grease will be just fine.

All in my opinion.

15

I had a guitar with some of those on it, once. I tried to do the same but it appeared the back covers were soldered on. I ended up ruining them and buying new ones. I hope you fair better.

16

I had a guitar with some of those on it, once. I tried to do the same but it appeared the back covers were soldered on. I ended up ruining them and buying new ones. I hope you fair better.

– Suprdave

Well very nicely working tuners are inexpensive. So maybe just time to get new ones?

Just check the dimensions of the press-fit bushings very carefully vs. the existing holes. (That is if the new tuners have press-fit bushings.)

And if you choose to enlarge the holes, use a hand-reamer. It is hard to express just what a mess you can make with a drill in this situation.

If you absolutely must drill, then fill each hole with a hard wood plug, then use a drill press.

In honesty, I have filled holes successfully with Bondo then re-drilled, but that carries its own thrills too.

17

Thanks everyone. I'll try again to see if I can get it off.

I noticed for the most problematic ones, where the tuner is really tight and hard to turn when it's strung up and tuned to pitch, the shaft is quite "wiggly" when the string is off. It moves back and forth more than the others. So maybe the gears are worn?

Might indeed be time to just get some new tuners. They've been on there for 36 years!

18

Keep us posted, cheers.

19

Thanks everyone for your input. I brought one of the tuners to my local guitar shop, and the repair guy was able to get it apart by prying it from a spot near the top that I hadn't tried. Showed me how to disassemble the parts. There is a bit of wear on the gears. He put a bit of silicon lube on it.

When I got home, I took the rest of them off and was able to take them apart – just went over them a bit with a toothbrush for cleaning, then applied a small amount of vaseline and reassembled/re-installed them. Just about to re-string it.

Probably will need a new set eventually though.

Thanks again everyone for all your advice. I really appreciate it.

Cheers -j

21

The problem tuners are turning much more smoothly now, so all seems well.

Only minor problem was that the screws for two of them didn't screw back in as tight. Feels like they're stripped a bit - they seem to be 'catching' the wood okay, but just keep turning. For one of them, I broke off the tip of a wood toothpick to fill the hole a bit more and used a little wood glue to keep it in place. Seemed to provide a bit of a better purchase. Anyway, they seem to be staying in place.

Thanks again for all the words of wisdom.


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