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I think my truss rod is frozen

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by StarscreamG1, Sep 21, 2008.

  1. StarscreamG1


    Dec 17, 2007
    I believe the truss rod on my lawsuit Memphis Pbass is frozen. I was going to put it in the shop for a pro set up but I kind of can't swing it right now soooo....

    I wanted to play it today but the relief is pretty bad on this thing and the saddles were adjusted almost all the way down so anything past the 12th fret or so and the strings slap on the fretboard so I raised the saddles hoping that would fix it enough to play. It didn't fix it enough for my liking (besides giving me unreal high action...just like my first memphis :scowl:) so I decided to adjust the trussrod. I loosened the strings and found the right size allen wrench and went to loosing it gently (to adjust too much bow (relief) is loosen, correct?) and this thing wouldn't budge. I tried the other way to see if it would move at all this thing wont budge EITHER way.

    Ok I am new at this so I will take any advice and pointers.

  2. XylemBassGuitar

    XylemBassGuitar Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 14, 2008
    Durango, CO
    Owner and Operator, Xylem Handmade Basses and Guitars
    Hi StarscreamG1,

    The general rule of thumb is Never force a truss rod. It's good that you are being catious.

    First, I'd try putting a couple of drops of 3 in 1 oil down on the rod so that it contacts the adjustment nut and rod's threads. You might also try WD-40 if that doesn't work (be very careful to keep the lubricants off the wood and finish). Let the lube work its way into the threads, then try adjusting the rod.

    Always loosen the rod first, in case it's already as tight as it will go.

    Also, generally you want to keep the strings up to pitch when adjusting the truss rod. There are exceptions, but that's a standard.

    You'll want to loosen a truss rod to gain relief/upbow (or reduce backbow) in the neck and tighten the rod to reduce the relief (or gain backbow) in the neck.

    If the lubrication doesn't work, you might want to call the manufacturer and see what kind of rod is in the bass. Also let me know if it doesn't work.

    Good Luck!
  3. richnota

    richnota Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 11, 2005
    Santa Cruz
    tighten the truss rod (clockwise when facing the end where you make the adjustment) makes the neck flat

    loosen the truss rod (counter clockwise) adds relief/bow to the neck

    if the neck is past flat...reverse bow....i havent a clue.

    Does the truss rod turn at all? If it doesnt you're better off having a tech look. If it moves only one way you're going to need a tech.

    remember to do only 1/4 to 1/2 turns. Turn/check, turn/check...give the wood time to respond.

    I don't play amateur luthier beyond this....broken truss rod is a disaster.
  4. StarscreamG1


    Dec 17, 2007
    ARG....the touchpad on my laptop is a PAIN and it went back a page and I lost my reply...ok here we go again:

    Thanks so much for the replies!!!!! I need some serious help here :p

    Ok the truss rod will not turn at all in either direction. And there is no way I was going to force it. The neck on this bass IS what makes this bass. Its a Lawsuit Precision by a defunct company so theres no way I can get this neck replaced unless someone here at TB just happened to have a lawsuit headstock memphis pbass neck laying around and there little chance of that I think LOL

    I am so new at this and its the neck that makes this bass what it is so I was very careful when I started this because of it. I will put some 3 in 1 oil or WD 40 (watching the finish which is really pretty good on this thing for its age) on it and leave it alone for a bit. And I need to flatten the neck so it would be clockwise I have to go ^_^ The only repair tech in my area is someone I would NOT trust with this the way things have turned out so I am pretty much left to my own resources and some help from members here!!!!

    ...well I couldn't wait to learn all this stuff and....be careful what you wish for, eh? ^_^

    EDIT Oh and the neck isn't backbowed (past flat) its way the other way. Even after raising the saddles anything past around the 12th fret and the strings are on the board when you try to hit a note...
  5. XylemBassGuitar

    XylemBassGuitar Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 14, 2008
    Durango, CO
    Owner and Operator, Xylem Handmade Basses and Guitars

    I'd put on the lube, then try to loosen the rod right away. If it doesn't work, let it sit for another 2 hours, try again. If it still doesn't work, put a little more lube on and try it again in 24 hours.

    If you want to flatten the neck (take out relief) you'll want to turn the rod clockwise (thus tightening the rod to make the neck flatter).

    Definitely keep the strings on the bass and up to pitch. If you don't, you risk warping the neck because the truss rod will have no opposing force and could bend the neck into a backbow if it has any tension.

    Also, if you do get the rod to work, only turn it in small increments like richnota says. I'd even say only turn it about 1/8 of a turn between checks; turning it 1/2 of a turn at a time is a lot.

    Also keep in mind what richnota says: "broken truss rod is a disaster," but you seem to already understand that.

    If you can't get the rod to work, I would seriously consider sending the bass to a luthier/repair tech that you do trust (or has an impeccable reputation) somewhere else, especially considering the rarity of the bass.

    Keep us posted!
  6. StarscreamG1


    Dec 17, 2007
    Thanks! Im heading to a neighbors to bum some WD40 right after I post this and see what I can do. And breaking the truss rod or hearing that other dreaded sound of cracking wood would terrify me beyond words so Im being so careful with this!! I don't think Memphis basses are that rare or valuable BUT the lawsuit headstock ones that are stock, and factory original and complete ARE rather hard to come by and this one is all factory and complete.

    Oh well, it stands to reason sooner or later my luck would run out. This is the 5th bass Ive gotten off of eBay and its the first one that has 'issues' that were unforeseen (besides cosmetic). 4 out of 5 good isn't bad though. ^_^
  7. StarscreamG1


    Dec 17, 2007
    Alright, neighbor has 3 in 1 and WD40 so I grabbed both and used the 3 in 1 first. I put a fair amount in and tried to turn clockwise, nothing. I put some more in and tried again and got maybe a smidgen of a turn clockwise (mmm something between 16th and 8th of an inch Id say off hand) and then it wouldn't budge at all. Its almost like somethings binding it up. I doubt anything is and as new as I am with this it probably isn't. Thats just how it felt to me. I also did tighten the strings back up before I did this. Its sitting now with the 3 in 1 soaking in more and I will try it again around 9PM my time (that will give it a bit over 2 hours) and see what I get. And I heard no cracking or any other noise so whew...:p I wasn't being hard on it anyway but no weird noises happened thankfully regardless.
  8. StarscreamG1


    Dec 17, 2007
    ok just reread the posts here. I should have gone counterclock wise instead since right now my goal is to free up the truss rod...Im a dork tonight...*sigh*
  9. BillyRay

    BillyRay Supporting Member

    Jan 20, 2008
    I'll try to help you on the frozen later but first can you describe precisely how the relief is ? Your previous posts are pretty confusing... To do this, capo the first fret, fret the last one and measure the distance between the crown of the 8th fret and the string. Uusually, you want to see some light (credit card thickness).

    If you don't see any, there's not enough relief in the neck. If there's too much, you have too much relief. The right relief has little to with how the action is set up and all to do with neck geometry since the first and last fret are serving as reference point to measure the neck's bow.

    Do the same thing at different locations on the neck. If you get wildly differing results, the neck might be warped. Taking a true bar to the neck might also give you any indication of the neck's condition. If it is warped, it might be the reason the truss rod has frozen. A warped neck of this value is not worth salvaging...

    If the neck is true, but just has too much/too little relief, you'll need to "unfreeze" the nut. As was pointed out, 3 in 1 oil can help. Heating the nut with a heat gun can also help. Sheer brute force will usually work too, but it can also ruin the truss rod.

    Here's what I did with a Goding SD who has a frozen nut due to the previous owner over tightening the rod.

    a) Took the neck off the bass.
    b) Rammed the biggest key in there using a mallet.
    c) Clamped the neck.
    d) Using a pipe for leverage, I loosened the nut until it gave.

    I don't recommend using this "technique" unless you're ready to ruin the neck.
  10. Bassist4Life


    Dec 17, 2004
    Buffalo, NY
    I remember seeing something in Bass Player a while back about this. I've never done it. The neck in question needed to be clamped straight to relieve pressure on the truss rod so it could be turned.

  11. StarscreamG1


    Dec 17, 2007
    Yea I know my posts are rather confusing today. I am not a stupid person but when it comes to left/right/counterclockwise/clockwise..one way does this, one way does that I have always been a bit dislexic with it. When I was going to school for automechanics years ago my teach would get so frustrated with me on that (loosening bolts etc)...thankfully my brain seems wired for MoPar and Ive never had a prob with them but on my Fords sometimes Im like 'uhm righty tighty, left loosey??' LOL So if my posts are confusing its cause Ive always had a hard time with directional stuff like that. I apologize.

    I just went back to the bass and tried to work it again. This time I went clockwise and it moved a bit then froze. I went back counterclockwise and it turned just a bit then nothing. I then tried a bit more force and went back clockwise and got that sound of something loosening up finally. It wasn't a breaking or cracking sound. I went back counter clockwise and got the same sound and it seems to be starting to get easier to turn. BUT I can't seem to go more then a bit under 1/8 of an inch either way before it freezes up again.

    I am going to retune it and do as you said and post back. I can tell you already though from about the 12th fret on the strings on laying ON the frets. When I took the bridge cover off the saddles were up as high as they would go...

    Be back in a bit.

    And yea, if I didn't care about this neck, I'd have handed it to my BF and said 'loosen that, dear'. Hes a big boy with highlander blood in him...hes a big boy...LOL
  12. StarscreamG1


    Dec 17, 2007
    Ok, I had a capo but couldn't find it...pfft. The truss rod is now turning more and I got it to go 1/4 turn both ways. So I put it 1/4 turn to the right and left it.

    I tune it back up, plugged it in and jammed for a bit. The strings are not hitting the frets at the 12th fret anymore. In fact the E string isnt at all. BUT the A string is dead on the frets after the 17th fret. The D slaps frets but not as bad from that fret on and neither does the G. I rechecked the saddles, leveled them all off both sides maxed and of course theres that nosebleed action again but no big deal (for me, Im used to it)...now the A string doesn't lay on the frets till about the 19th fret but it stays dead on the fret till the 21st fret. The last note obtainable on the neck is perfect but the 2-3 frets before are dead from laying on the frets. Its the only string thats doing that though...W T F ....

    The bow in the neck is more visible from approx the 2nd fret to the 9th for what thats worth. Once I did all this I focused on the strings behind where I was hitting, looked down the side of the neck. While pressing each string down I looked at various frets and the distance from string to board, eyeballing it and it all look the same all across. Did that make any sense? Hehe probably not. At this point I doubt the neck is warped. I think its just never been set up.

    The truss rod seems to be loosening up thankfully. Should I try and loosen the truss rod all the way before I set it where I want it (to make sure its fully freed)? Or just work it to where I want the relief and leave it be?

    So even though the saddles are back maxed again this time around strings arent resting on frets so does that mean what little adjustment I have been able to make with the trussrod so far, is working?
  13. fretster

    fretster Advanced Beginner Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2005
    Moraga, California
    Well, sounds like the 3-in-one is working. yay for that. Be ready to adjust the bridge height too. Straighening out the bow of the neck also removes some string height, and you might need to make that up by raising the bridge.

    Does this bass have a neck angle adjustment too?

    Personally, I find I flip-flop between super low action with buzzy frets, and high action with no buzz. Whatever I've got now, I want the other!

    At the moment, my brand new Peavey Foundation is lower than low, and feels awesome. Gotta play over the bridge pickup to avoid buzz-city, but the balance on this is just awesome.
  14. StarscreamG1


    Dec 17, 2007
    Knock on wood, so far things seem to be going ok with this. I have no idea what Im doing LOL But Im trying at all costs not to break the trussrod or crack the neck because I have no idea what Im doing...I can't thank you guys enough for helping me here!!! I am learning this through fire I think. ^_^

    I went back later and attempted to turn the truss some more clockwise (to flatten it) and it worked. This thing is so dry I think. I did get a slight dry squeak sound that time but no popping or cracking. I left the saddles maxed up and played it a bit. Even with the high string action right now, it /seems/ to feel a bit better and theres less fret buzz. I will work on it some more tomorrow. My goal is to get the action as low as possible without fretbuzz on this Memphis and see just how my first bass (that was a Memphis) /could/ have been (through this one) had I known what a truss rod and 'set up' was when I first got into bass. That was the reason why I HAD to get one completely stock and factory. Curiosity about how my first bass should and could have felt just drove me to the point where I had to get another one and see.

    And yes, Foundations are so well balanced. I can have one strapped to me all day long with no problem.

    My other basses with the exception of my Foundation5 (it too needs some relief taken out of the neck) have had fairly decent setups from the get go. I have raised or lowered the saddles as needed on them and thats been it. But the Precision is needing an adjustment now as is the VMJ and the Bat. Dare I say once I get this taken care of on the Memphis perhaps I won't look so like a deer caught in headlights when I go to work on the rest. And thankfully Im not learning on them, though the Bat was the intended victim for my first set up with me doing it. The Memphis had other ideas though LOL

    Oh and there is no neck tilt adjustment on this bass but I did notice the tip of a wood shim I think inside the route hole for the truss rod neck (the truss rod nut is at the base of the neck not the headstock on a Memphis).
  15. StarscreamG1


    Dec 17, 2007
    Updaate: I got sidetracked today and didn't get to the bass till a little while ago. The two adjustments I made clockwise last night took out a fair amount of the bow. The neck feels better in my hands but I am a bit leery of lowering the saddles with the fret buzz Im still getting with the A string.

    I took a good hard look at the frets and I have some serious uneven fret wear on the board. I /think/ its the frets themselves thats causing this buzzing problem at this point as the neck is looking pretty good if I say so myself. LOL

    I've got some frets that still have their crown and some that are flat, some that are uneven flat, some that are taller....dayum...the more I look at this the more I realize I need some serious fretwork here. O_O HOW do frets frets get such uneven wear like this???? I can say right now that I am not interested in refretting this axe and at the same time I do not want to defret it. Can I smooth and even out what I have there already, even if it does put them almost flush with the fretboard, and still be ok?

    I also don't know if I should continue to try and get the trussrod totally working smooth again or just pop some more 3in 1 oil in and leave it alone since I like how the neck is now?
  16. Definitely apply more 3-in-one or wd-40 and let it sit for another night. Try to keep the bass upright, as this will allow the lubricant to seep down the threads of the rod. You might want to reapply a couple of times over a few hours.(I might even suggest liquid wrench if the others don't work. It is a more penetrating oil)

    As for the frets, if you have a rosewood board you can get 800 grit sandpaper from an automotive parts store. Cut a piece wider than you fretboard and wrap it around your index finger. Slide your finger up and down the fretboard to smooth and level the frets. Some people suggest you wrap it around a dowel, but I believe you finger works better as it cushions the impact with the fret and effectively crowns them as you go. Do NOT sand across the fretboard. This tends to flatten your frets and leaves scratches in the rosewood. After you are satisfied with the frets use 2 or 3 coats of lemon oil or old english to lubricate the rosewood.

    If the board is maple you will first have to tape off the fretboard with painters tape, then use the same procedure to smooth the frets. After you are finished you will have to remove the tape. If there is tape residue you can use the wd-40 to help remove it.(The sooner the tape is removed the less residue you will have)
  17. StarscreamG1


    Dec 17, 2007
    Super suggestion!! Thankie!! I can't really afford to get these leveled by a luthier so Im on my own here. I have a maple neck so taping it off is the route I have to use.

    Also my truss rod nut is at the base of the neck so to get the lubricant to seep into the threads Id have to prop the bass up on the end of its headstock, leaning against the wall. Would that be ok too?
  18. It would probably be fine, but I don't like to place the weight of the body on the neck so I would take the neck off and stand it by itself. I would also probably do the fretwork with the neck disconnected, though you don't have to.
  19. BillyRay

    BillyRay Supporting Member

    Jan 20, 2008
    Have you checked to see if the neck is warped ? It sounds to me like it is, or it has at least twisted. It might have a bump in the fretboard after the 12th fret or the dreaded S-curve that is associated with single action truss rods.

    Try to be a little more precise in how you do your adjustement and you won't waste days turning clockwise then counterclockwise then clockwise again. Get a set of feeler gauges (you work on your car, any old set to check valve seating is good) and hit the Fender setup guide that is a sticky in this section.

    Set the relief first than worry about the action. You can always shim the neck to compensate for screwy geometry/action problems but you need to have proper relief and have exhausted all possibilities to adjust the action at the bridge first.

    Also, don't put WD-40 in there if it feels dry. 3 in 1, yes, Graphite powder yes, not WD-40. I'd try to remove the nut completly and start from scratch if I were you, ie.

    1) Take the adjusting nut off.
    2) Screw it back in place gently using your fingers.
    3) Stop when you start feeling "friction".
    4) Give it a 1/3 of a turn with the tool.
    5) Retune strings to pitch.
    6) Wait for a while (15 minutes is usually enough) and check relief.
    7) If it's not good, repeat step 4 except in 1/4 of a turn increments.

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