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Strange Pickup Problem


hags2k

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Okay, I'm at a loss here. I've never experienced this problem, and I've replaced pickups a few times (several in this bass alone).

 

So, here's the story. I recently came full circle and put a passive Fender P-bass pickup back in my main baby P-bass. I had an expensive active pickup in there for a couple years, and I got what I needed from it, and I wanted to return to where I was, more or less.

 

So, anyway, I get these new fender p-bass pickups, pop 'em in, and everthing's rocking. Fast forward a couple days, and my bass isn't working. No output. Something is wrong with the electronics, and it happened while my bass was sitting there. I pop off the pickguard, take the pickups out, examine them closely, plug them into my amp, and they appear to be working fine. I remount everything, and reassemble everything. All working again. Cool.

 

Fast forward an hour and a half. Same problem, again. No output from my bass. Check using another bass to see if it is my amp. Find that another bass works fine, but my main one won't make a sound. I tap on the pickup pole pieces with a metal screwdriver, and I hear a loud click. I pluck a string and, lo, there is output! It just started working again.

 

Fast forward another hour or two, and repeat the same thing. Goes out. Tap pickup pole piece with metal, starts clicking (though not the first time, I might add), and I have output again.

 

One MORE time it happens the same way. I about scream, and decide to ask the LDL. What the heck is going on???

 

There's an electrical problem, no doubt, but I have no idea what kind of electrical problem would fix itself simply by my tapping a pole piece with a piece of metal. Nor do I know what kind of electrical problem would return like that after a few hours. Is it some kind of short? Does anyone have any ideas? I looked at the solder connections, they were all sound. I checked the connecting wires, and appeared to be fine. I even checked to see if the coils under the pickup covers were connected securely. They appeared to be. I may have missed something, but not knowing where to look any more specifically, or even if I should be looking at the solder connections at all, may be contributing to my inability to find evidence of a cause for my problem here.

 

Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated.

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Sounds like a "cold" solder joint. Go back through and resolder everything....make sure you clean all the old solder off before you reconnect.

 

It could be you damaged the volume pot by getting it too hot, so you may want to replace it.

 

A third, more remote possibility is the pickups themselves may be damaged, ie, a coil wire shorting against a magnet. You'll need a multi tester to check for continuity and resistance standards(you should have a DC resistance spec for the pickup)...

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Originally posted by dave251:

Sounds like a "cold" solder joint. Go back through and resolder everything....make sure you clean all the old solder off before you reconnect.

 

It could be you damaged the volume pot by getting it too hot, so you may want to replace it.

 

A third, more remote possibility is the pickups themselves may be damaged, ie, a coil wire shorting against a magnet. You'll need a multi tester to check for continuity and resistance standards(you should have a DC resistance spec for the pickup)...

I've been meaning to get a multimeter for some time now. They come in so handy.

 

The pickups actually came prewired to the pots, though I've soldered pots and pickups plenty of times myself. However, before going to that trouble, I think I may see if I can't at least borrow a multi-tester from someone else and look this thing over, as it MAY help me see if a solder joint is bad. Hell, I can take my bass into the electronics lab, if need be, and use the equipment there to test it.

 

I suppose a cold solder joint seems like a good possibility, and I've had bad pots before, too.

 

I don't even want to think about what to do if there's a short in one of the pickup coils, though...

unkownroadband.com - step into the unkown :-)
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Yeah, multimeters aren't too expensive. I'll probably do just what you suggested, '73.

 

Anyway, a little update. The problem happened again today (I hadn't picked up my bass since last night) and it didn't go away at once when tapping the pole pieces. I took everything apart, and using my amp as a makeshift continuity tester (i touched a screwdriver to various parts of the chain to see if I could hear a click or hum from my amp). It seemed to do the job, and turning the volume knob had the correct effect on the current, directing it away from the pickups and to the ground. So, my volume pot appears to be working.

 

Everything was peachy after testing the first coil, but the second coil was not so peachy. The second coil, as I'm describing it here, is the coil that is connected to the first coil and to ground. There was certainly something wrong there. The only thing I noticed when examining the second coil was that there was one strand of magnett wire extruding away from the coil on one side...like it wasn't pulled tight. It did not directly connect with the strand that connects to the lead, but they were overlapping. Does that seem like it might be the problem? Shorting out the coil, possibly? Anyway, that's the only thing I noticed.

 

After handling the pickups for a bit, they started working again, I plugged them back into my amp, and everything was working again, suddenly.

 

So, think I should try and remedy this problem, or try and get a refund/replacement for these puppies?

unkownroadband.com - step into the unkown :-)
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yeah, sounds like they are duds to me

 

you could always ask the luthier at your local music store :)

"I'm thinkin' we should let bump answer this one...

Prepare to don Nomex!"

-social critic

"When I install my cannons, I'm totally going to blast their asses back to the 16th century; Black Beard style"

-bumpcity

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Ha! Like there's anyone close to a "luthier" at my music store...

 

Anyway, I'm looking into a replacement/refund now. Everything about this scenario says there's a short in one of the pickup coils to me. My friend is bringing over his multimeter just to make sure now.

 

Oh, well, thankfully there's a "money back guarentee". I'll just be jamming on the Jazz bass exclusively a little while longer, it seems!

unkownroadband.com - step into the unkown :-)
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UPDATE:

 

Well, I went back and resoldered a bunch of solder points, trying to fix any conceivable connection problem. Whatever I did when doing that, it seems to have done the trick. It hasn't cut out since then (knock on wood). So, thanks for the resoldering suggestion!

 

I hope it sticks :)

unkownroadband.com - step into the unkown :-)
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Originally posted by Dr. Zarkov:

So - still working?

 

Tom

Yes (thankfully!). I'm feeling pretty confident that I've taken care of it now.

 

Originally posted by bubbaupright-o-plenty:

Hags, Is your control cavity shielded in any way?

Yeah, it is. There's some pretty good foil on the pickguard, which doubles as a control plate on P-Basses (you probably already knew that!). I've never had electrical interference problems before, and since the thing still seems to be working, I think that assumption is still valid.

 

*knock on wood*

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