Photo 2

Installing the new switch. On the open switch I’m installing in this Ibanez, there are four prongs at one end and one prong on the opposite side (Photo 2). The four grouped prongs are the switch’s inputs and output, and the single prong on the opposite side is the ground. In the group of four prongs, the two outer prongs are the inputs for the pickups and the two in the center are the outputs.

Before soldering, I use hemostats to gently bend the outer prongs (these connect to the pickups) away from the two output prongs between them. Then I crimp the two inner prongs together, because they’ll share one wire from the switch’s output to the output jack.

Note: Open 3-way toggles may differ physically. On a right-angle switch, for example, the ground prong and the input and output prongs are stacked vertically, and on some straight switches the ground prong is located between the two inputs, while the outputs are on the opposite side. But regardless of the layout, the principle is the same, and once you understand it you’ll be able to confidently wire up your guitar. Study the wiring diagram that came with your new switch to confirm how it’s configured, or use a multimeter to test and identify the input and output prongs.

Slide the new switch into the switch cavity, thread on the collar or nut, and then tighten it. Be careful when tightening the collar—it only needs to be “finger tight.” If you torque it too much, you’ll strip the threads. Also be sure to orient the switch so the toggle throw matches the original.

Switches get used a lot and eventually they can wear out. When this happens, you’ll hear loud popping sounds or scratchy noises, and the signal may even cut out when you’re switching pickups.

Solder up. There are typically four wires to solder: the neck pickup, the bridge pickup, the output (this connects to the output lug on the jack), and the ground. Select a wire and clamp it to its respective prong with the hemostats, then briefly touch the tip of your soldering iron to preheat the prong and wire, and finally touch the solder to the connection just long enough to let a small amount of solder flow over the wire and prong. For detailed soldering tips, see “Tips for Replacing a Strat-style 5-way Switch.”

Tip: When soldering, be careful not to heat up the prongs too much. Excessive heat can damage the switch.

Once you’ve soldered the four wires to their prongs, it’s time to check your work. Gently tap the pickups with your hemostats for each position of the switch. You should get neck and bridge alone when the toggle is pointed up or down, respectively, as viewed from the playing position, and both when the toggle is in the center position.

If the neck and bridge toggle positions are working in reverse (i.e., the bridge pickup engages when the switch is up), then reverse the leads on the outer prongs. If the pickups are working correctly, reinstall the cover plate and you’re done!