E string tuner is acting a little strange...

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by tbird42, Aug 5, 2018.

  1. I've had an Epiphone Thunderbird Pro-IV Classic for a few years now. Excellent bass with Gibson USA ceramic humbuckers in it. I believe this might've started a while ago but I paid no attention, and recently it's becoming a more noticeable issue. I've been jamming with friends and a lot of times we like to play Alice in Chains songs, and the bass lines are often a step down in tuning. When I absolutely need to play a step down, I just tune my E string down instead of the whole bass. But I've noticed when I tune it down, it doesn't go lower at first when I try it, then maybe after a second or two of turning the key, I hear a small snapping noise from the key and it's usually down to a C sharp. I also notice after it snaps the tuner feels a lot looser when I tune it back up. It's not a gigantic issue, as I'm able to tune it back up after, but I would really like to know if this could be a larger problem than I think, especially since the Thunderbird is neck through, making neck issues probably much more tricky. Any advice?
     
  2. Bassbeater

    Bassbeater Guest

    Sep 9, 2001
    Sounds like the peg is sticking and maybe there is play in the gear. Watch it as it turns. Maybe it needs lubricant? Take it off and take it apart to look if you can.
     
  3. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    ..or the nut is getting worn, it may need a little attention.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2018
    RSBBass and Goatrope like this.
  4. Another possibility is that the string is catching in the nut. Check the string fit in the nut and check whatever tuner screws you can get to.
     
  5. Thanks, I tried downtuning this time while keeping a close eye on the headstock and sure enough I noticed at the point when I heard the noise the peg turned sharply down. Also after a closer look at the key itself I've noticed that on each of the tuners there is a small plastic ring between the key and the tuning mechanism, and the ring on the E is off center. I'll probably try taking it off tomorrow and give it a good look through.
     
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  6. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    If the string is hanging up on the nut you will get the same behavior from the tuner. Your problem is at the nut, not at the tuner. As soon as you start down tuning, the lash (play) starts moving from the key side of the gear to the string side of the gear. If the string isn't going flat then something is preventing the string from moving; the ONLY thing that can do that is the nut.

    Incidentally Welcome to TalkBass.
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2018
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  7. Bassbeater

    Bassbeater Guest

    Sep 9, 2001
    Def check the nut, just putting heavier strings on a bass can make them hang at the nut as Sissy Kathy says. And that is also the easiest fix.
    The tuner might have been slammed or have a defect, particularly if it has "wobble" when it turns.
    It's for sure not the neck.
    If it's the nut it's a simple filing job of about 3 minutes with the right file.
    If it's the peg, they aren't too expensive and they are easy to replace with oem parts.
    Good luck!
     
  8. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    Changing the tuning is hard on nuts, especially of you are using round wounds. Each time you drag the string across the nut it gets a tiny amount of wear. Do that often enough, and the nut gets deep enough that the side walls of the nut are no longer tapered. A nut is shaped similar to a funnel, if the wear is deep enough that funnel effect is lost then the nut will grab the string until the tension difference on each side of the nut is too great for the nut to overcome, then the string slips all at once. The side walls of the nut need to be widened so that funnel shape is restored.
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2018
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  9. Thanks, I'm no pro but once I get some extra strings as a precaution I'll take off the string and take a look. While I'm at the store, should I consider getting some lighter gauge strings? I've currently got the Ernie Ball 50-105 gauge set, and if I get new strings they'd probably be some DR Hi-Beams, the first strings I installed and still a favorite.
     
  10. AngelDeVille

    AngelDeVille Inactive

    Jun 20, 2018
    ABQ
    Buy all new tuners!

    When that doesn't work, chase the nut with the proper file.
     
  11. All in all even if the problem is based from the nut, the E string tuner does have some little dings and marks that could be contributing. Unfortunately, purchasing actual Epiphone brand tuners (which would probably have to come used from Ebay) would be more of a hassle than I care to deal with. If I do end up replacing it, what brand would you recommend? I've had good experience with the quality of Schaller hardware but I know they can be pricey.
     
  12. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    Use whatever strings you like, just remember that the nut will sometimes require attention.
     
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  13. Bassbeater

    Bassbeater Guest

    Sep 9, 2001
    Gotoh and hipshot too. Hipshot makes some nice ultra-lite versions.
    I'll probably get more heat for this suggestion. ..but I would try lubricating the nut and see if the problem goes away. You are supposed to use graphite I think, but I've used lip balm before. If that solves the problem you know you'll need to use a file to widen the top of the nut. Don't file downwards, just the sides, and very little. If you are not comfortable take it to someone who is or you might end up needing to replace the nut from a botched file job. Let us know what the problem turns out to be and what the solution is.
    Good luck!
     
  14. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    The slot can be lubed with a number 2 wood pencil, not a bad suggestion but isn't a long term cure.
     
  15. Thanks, I'll try lubricating the nut and the tuner and seeing if anything changes before doing any permanent repair attempts. I'm starting to get deja vu from accidentally breaking and having to replace the tuners and nut on my other bass, but hopefully it won't get to that point!
     
  16. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    I wouldn't mess with those tuners other than replacing those washers under the key when they break or are about to. To begin with, if you make two mods at once and fix the problem, you won't know which was the fix and which was snake oil. Pick one and do that mod first. If that cures the problem you have fixed it and the other mod is unnecessary. If that doesn't fix it, then do the other mod.
     
  17. Right, thanks for the reminder. Speaking of snake oil, any particular substance you'd think would work best for lubricating a tuning key?
     
  18. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    The best thing to use is nothing. To begin with open gear tuners have a slip sheet that minimizes friction to the gear and worm reducing wear, and sealed tuners are,.. well,..sealed. Further, that is a seldom used low rpm machine. If it starts squeaking then you may need a tiny dab of grease on the string side bushing; other than that nothing is best. A word of caution, don't grease to prevent a squeak, grease to STOP a squeak. Any lubricant you use is going to attract dust and dirt, making a very dependable machine filthy that will pick up dust dirt and lint from its surroundings, and requiring more 'maintenance' than ever. That doesn't even address the grease contaminating the gig bag or case and getting that crap on the wood of the instrument. Nope, leave it alone.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2018
  19. Bassbeater

    Bassbeater Guest

    Sep 9, 2001
    Grease for the tuner. WD40 and other light oils are for cleaning and debinding. Use those first, then grease. Moly grease in small amounts lasts a long time and has high performance for metal on metal.
     
  20. Right, I'm just hoping these fixes won't take too long since my group has been talking about doing some tracking lately and I wouldn't want to be bassless.