1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Truss rod continually needs tightening

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Flatbass, Mar 11, 2014.

  1. Flatbass


    Mar 13, 2004
    Hi all,

    I've been playing my 62 RI jazz bass for about five years now and I can't get the setup right. I like the action to be quite low and completely even across the fretboard. In other words, when I dig in I should get an equal amount of buzz at the 2nd fret as on the 15th.

    However, there's always more buzz at the 15th fret than at the first frets. I had a luthier once redress the frets and lower the frets at the higher positions. This helped, but 6 months later I had the same problem.

    So I started tightening the truss rod and have been doing so for the past couple of years. Every 4 to 6 months I take the neck off, turn the truss rod clockwise 90 degrees and put the neck back on. 5 months later the neck has bent the other way again.

    Is this normal? Should I continue adjusting the truss rod in manner?
    Is there any harm in taking the neck off this many times? Will the screws/holes in the neck pocket fail me one day?

  2. Slowgypsy

    Slowgypsy 4 Fretless Strings

    Dec 12, 2006
    NY & MA
    There's no harm in taking the neck off. Be gentle when inserting the neck screws and don't over tighten. It's possible the screw threads will someday wear out but the fix... threaded inserts... is relatively easy to do and quite permanent.

    If all you're doing is continuously tightening the truss rod and never loosening at some point for seasonal adjustment, I'd say there is something not quite right. Possibly a somewhat stripped thread, or unusual wood compression under the nut, etc.
  3. Flatbass


    Mar 13, 2004
    Thanks a lot!

    The truss rod feels as if it's okay. It's solid, adjusting does not require huge strength or no strength at all. And the neck does move in the right direction with the expected curve.
    I only expected it to settle after a year or so, but that hasn't happened yet.

    The neck seems to move a bit with the weather, but it only really needs straightening. Loosening has never been necessary.

    How can I check for the defects you mentioned? Or do I need to take it to a luthier again?
  4. Bobster


    Mar 27, 2006
    Austin, TX
    I'm more concerned about the need to continually tighten the truss. This makes me think the neck isn't completely stable.

    You need to keep an eye out for wood compression around the truss rod adjustment screw. It might be a good idea to consider adding a washer behind the screw to better distribute the force from the adjustment screw on the wood.

    Fender has a lifetime warranty for the original owner on their instruments.

    I also agree that if the neck threads loosen threaded inserts is the way to repair it.

    All the best,

  5. gary m

    gary m

    Jan 17, 2011
    Mid -Atlantic
    This. Had a similar issue with my Hofner Club, and your description sounds identical to my own experience. Applying the washer solution did the trick.
  6. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    I agree about the possibility of wood compression. I'd install a washer (or two) specifically made to fit under the trussrod nut and try to stop it now. The washer won't hurt anything and could help.

    As far as the neck screw holes failing, they're more likely to fail with repeated removal/replacement cycles than not, especially if the screws are torqued enough each time to start stripping the holes. However, a couple/few times a year for seasonal adjustments shouldn't be much of a problem if care is taken not to over torque the screws on replacement. I've repaired quite a few stripped neck screw holes by drilling out the stripped hole, gluing in a slightly oversized plug I make from very hard rock maple I keep for just that purpose and re-drilling a pilot hole for the screw.
  7. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY Supporting Member

    Wrong on so many levels. Why admit you have no understanding and give give sketchy advice?

    Maybe you can understand this: truss rods do not have an unlimited number of threads that allow you to keep turning the nut in one direction as the OP has explained is happening in his bass!

    +1 for trying a washer OR getting it to a reputable Fender dealer for warranty assessment.
  8. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw

    The washer fix is intended for truss rod nuts that have reached the end of the truss rod threads due to wood compression in order to back the nut off a bit so adjustment can take place. If washers are installed before the wood is finished compressing (or before it reaches the end of the threads) it's possible that the compression will continue but the washers may provide enough additional support to slow it down or maybe even prevent it. In any event, if the compression continues, more washers may be required over the life of the neck.
  9. Slowgypsy

    Slowgypsy 4 Fretless Strings

    Dec 12, 2006
    NY & MA
    Actually you have already been doing the checks for the possible "defects". If after a year all you've been doing is continuously tightening the truss rod and never loosening, I'd say there's something that's not quite as it should be. If you know someone (luthier) who's a seasoned expert on all things instrument repair, you'd do well to consult with that person. If this instrument is still under warranty there might be a claim. Without being able to inspect the neck I'm suspecting wood compression that's a bit more than would be expected from a new instrument.
  10. Flatbass


    Mar 13, 2004
    Thank you all very much!

    I had to learn a bit about how truss rods work and how wood compression affects everything. I think I get it now.

    Also, I bought the bass second hand, so I don't have a warranty. I think the neck also suffers from 'ski jump', although that should be taken care of -for now- when the frets got redressed. It's a truly great sounding bass, but if I knew what trouble lay ahead with this neck, I would've gotten something else.

    The truss rod has not run out of threads yet, so I can keep on tightening. Is adding washers only valuable when I do run out of threads? And should I keep adding washers until the wood stops compressing, if that ever happens?

    I don't see how a washer could stop the wood compressing when there's still room for the truss rod to turn. Instead of the truss rod, it's a washer pushing against the wood. The effect should be the same, right?

    I might as well call a couple of luthiers, to see if they've heard of this problem and know any solutions. I'll bring up the idea of adding washers.

    Once again... Thanks!
  11. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY Supporting Member

    The nut has a rounded end where it contacts the wood. A washer spreads the force of the wood flat over a greater bearing area AND doesn't rotate against the wood as you tighten: it stays still. Rotation against the wood knocks the tubular wood cell walls over and they crush. If force is applied directly down the cells do not crush as easy.

    At some point the wood will likely stop crushing, and is packed down but when you're tightening just a little each time, you aren't moving the nut forward very much.

    These pics might help: nut... http://www.allparts.com/LT-0599-010-Truss-Rod-Nuts-for-Fender_p_2065.html

    Fender rod:
  12. Flatbass


    Mar 13, 2004
    Ah! Light bulb moment! :)
    Seeing the actual parts instead of technical drawings really clears things up. Thanks! Thanks! Thanks!

    Adding a washer now definitely makes sense.

    The only question that remains is... Why didn't Fender put a washer there to begin with? Or at least have a truss rod nut with a flat end instead of a rounded one?
  13. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY Supporting Member

    I can't say for sure but I would guess that only some maple necks may have wood soft enough right at that exact spot that it becomes a problem and it wasn't thought of when designing. As time went on, and wood in stock depleted, it would source from a different stand of forest with different hardness. Etc., etc. When problems arose, the fix is simple and cheap. Fender even sells an official washer for like $7. Lol

    It's kind if nice to see that there are lots of extra threads buried in that neck though. That is a Strat neck in the pic. I hope bass rods are similar. But I don't need to worry, my 1962 jazz nut is fine in fact I think I'm the first one that ever adjusted it because it hadn't been out of the bushes in central Manitoba Canada since 1962. It was straight as an arrow and only needed a tweak when I changed the strings.