warped guitar neck

OH NO! Warped Guitar Necks (Symptoms, How To Tell & Fix Now!)

Ever suffered from having a guitar with a twisted guitar neck?  Taking proper care of your guitar is recommended to keep it in good working condition.

Why do guitar necks warp?

Guitar necks warp for a variety of reasons. Guitar necks are made from wood, and because wood is a natural material it can be subject to changes in humidity and temperature. Warping happens when the equilibrium between moisture in the air and moisture in the wood is upset, causing the wood to shrink or swell.

Also, improperly storing your guitar when you are not playing it can also cause this.  We recommend leaving it in it’s case.  You may also loosen string tension a half or full step down if you plan on storing the guitar for a long time.

A warped guitar neck is no fun because a straight neck plays so much better!

If you are still wondering why do guitar necks warp, this guide explores all the possible reasons and their guitar repair remedies.  I would consider it a medium level difficulty job.

What Is A Warped Guitar Neck?

A warped guitar neck is a type of structural defect in the neck of a guitar, usually occurring on vintage guitars or guitars that have been poorly maintained. Basically. it just means that the neck has bent slightly out of alignment. The guitar may be playable, but is almost never tune-able. The defect can cause a number of problems, such as popping string from the nut, fret buzz, and difficulty adjusting truss rods.

How to Tell if a Guitar Neck is Warped – Look For These Signs And Symptoms

To eyeball a guitar, hold it by the body and look down the guitar neck by the body side. Scrutinize it with one of your eyes closed for a clearer focus. Repeat this procedure by observing the neck from the treble side of the fingerboard. The guitar is warped if the middle of the neck is higher than the body and headstock ends. Do not hold the guitar from the headstock as this exerts pressure on the neck and lead to false observation.

Alternatively, place the guitar on a level table with the headstock pointing in your direction. Bend on your knees such that your eyes are slightly above the guitar nut. Observe through the length of the neck to see if you can see the tops of all frets and adjusting the truss rod is okay. The guitar neck profile is okay if you can see all frets but hardly the fretboards in between. It is warped if the ends of the frets look like a winding staircase.

What If It Is Just A Slight Warp? Does That Matter?

It depends.  One thing to think about is that you may be mistaking a “slight warp” with just neck relief.  You need some neck relief in order to prevent buzzing of notes on the bridge and some frets.

Can You Fix A Warped Guitar Neck?

Yes!  If the guitar neck is warped, there are several ways to fix it.  Keep reading to find out how.

Warped Or Bowed Guitar Neck Repair Costs

warped guitar neckThe cost of repairing warped guitar necks largely depends on the type of guitar and design of the neck joint. For guitar necks that are glued in place and have a glue joint such as the acoustic type, the cost of repair is prohibitive. In most cases, the neck is irreparable thus warranting a full-neck replacement. Bills for such repairs can run up to $500 or more which may not be manageable.

Repair prices get lower if a factory-made neck is unavailable but a used, donor-neck is available. Such repairs cost around $100 or more depending on the make of the donor-neck. Necks that are bolted into place require less labor and are thus less expensive A Taylor bolt-on, for instance, costs about $250 if no binding is required.

Neck warps may also be repaired during a partial or full fret replacement. A partial re-fret costs about $150 while full neck resets with a re-fret can cost up to $700. To correct a warped guitar neck during re-fretting, the fretboard is flattened and a compound radius introduced. Resetting a neck warp on traditional dovetail vs bolt-on joints costs up to $600. The bill gets higher if the repair is done on a Gibson acoustic.

Quick note as well – after the neck repair, you will probably need to have a guitar setup done as well.

How To Straighten A Warped Guitar Neck – Repair Tips

With A Truss Rod

The first thing you’ll need is some tools.  As another recommendation, I would also recommend this kit from Amazon.  It has everything you need for this job as well as any other guitar related job you might need to do.

Twisting in a guitar neck is the deformity that sets one side of the neck lower than the other. Partial twisting is manageable as it does not affect the playability of a guitar. However, there is a need to straighten up a twist if it gets large. The most popular corrective action is planing the fretboard so the wood becomes level. Planing a twisted neck involves some degree of technicality. Since wood has to be removed, calculations on neck thickness and the size of the neck warp are important. Planing is not recommended if the twist develops on a new guitar as the problem may recur. The technique is most appropriate for an old neck and truss rod that has already set and stopped twisting. Unfortunately, some neck thicknesses will not allow you to re-plane.

Heat and pressure have effectively been used to straighten wood in carpentry. The same technique works perfectly for twisted guitar necks. The process involves clamping the neck on both ends and applying heat to it partially. As the material heats-up, it will eventually twist back to its normal state. The heat also works on the glue so loosens up and dries once the neck is in the preferred position. Avoid using crude instruments as this may introduce irreparable damages. Instead, take your guitar to the local repair shop as they may have the right clamping and heating appliances.

Neck twists may also be corrected using the adjustable truss rods. For those of you who are not familiar with your instrument, the truss road is a metallic rod that runs the length of the neck. It is used to counter the tension caused by the tightened guitar strings so the neck does not give in.

To perform the procedure, hold the guitar on your hands and examine if it has a plastic plate at the headstock. This is usually placed above the nut and below the guitar string. Remove the plastic to reveal a screw or hex hole beneath it. Do not panic if your instrument does not have a screw at the headstock (check out this post on headstock repair too). The truss rod may be felt from the body end of the guitar.

The truss rod is your best option when it comes to flattening a twisted guitar neck. All you have to do is twist tighten the screw as you observe the twist. Tighten in small bits as the rod is highly responsive. Stop tightening once the twist levels out. In some instances, tightening will not remedy the problem. It is at this point that you should decide to visit the local repair shop.

Without A Truss Rod

This is a bit more difficult to do and it requires the use of clamps and heat.  I’d strongly recommend watching this video showing the entire process:

Warped Acoustic Guitar Neck Vs Electric Guitar Necks

The process of repairing this issue is basically the same between both types of guitars.  Just follow the above for whether or not your guitar has a truss rod and you should be fine.

Warped Guitar Neck Examples

This video from has some crazy examples of warped and twisted guitar necks:

How To Fix a Back Bowed Guitar Neck Or Neck Bow

The back bow is much the same as a warp only that the bend propagates in the opposite direction. A neck bow brings the center of the fretboard closer to the strings making it impossible to play some frets. Bowing also introduces some buzzing and intonation.

Also read – check guitar neck bowhow to clean guitar fingerboard

Just like with warping, a back bow is effectively corrected using the truss rod or pressure and heat. Once you notice a neck bow, loosen up the truss rod so the fretboard may assume a more-natural tension depending on the string gauge. This may eliminate the bow completely. Set the truss rod at the right tension to avoid recurring of the same.

To fix a back bowed guitar neck using pressure, remove it and put it on a bench. Clamp it on both ends and subject it to some heat. Only apply enough heat to soften the glue as too much of it introduces irreparable damages. A commercial heating blanket is most suited to eliminate a neck bow.

Tools For Fixing Your Twisted Guitar Neck

Need the right tools?  We recommend this – Activists Guitar Luthier Tools

Beyond this, you may want a few other things like clamps, some kind of straight edge, etc.

How To Prevent Guitar Neck Warping

The most important thing you can do to protect your guitar from neck warping is to ensure its away from any sources of heat, humidity, and sunlight when it’s not being played.  For example:

  • Don’t leave your guitar in the trunk of your car. The heat and the humidity can cause permanent changes to the wood of your guitar, and lead to neck warping.
  • Avoid storing the instrument in the basement or garage, where humidity is high – as this increases the chances of warping.
  • Don’t leave your guitar in direct sunlight when you aren’t using it, or let it be exposed to excessive heat – like a hairdryer or heating appliance.

FAQ’s On Guitar Neck Warping And Twisting

Can A Guitar Neck Be Warped If You Remove It?

Yes, but typically not because you removed the neck from the body – mainly because you no longer have strings countering the tension from the truss rod. Without the strings, the truss rod is pulling on the neck which could cause warping over time. So if you must remove the neck for a period of time, maybe adjust the truss rod to release some of that tension.

Can A Guitar Stand Warp A Neck?

No, just storing your guitar by placing it in a guitar stand should not cause the neck to warp or twist.

Can A Warped Neck Affect Intonation On A Guitar?

Yes, warped necks can affect intonation on a guitar. The neck, and its corresponding tuning pegs, are the final ‘tuning’ component of a guitar.  Anything out of place will affect the intonation.

Can Heat Warp A Guitar Neck?

Yes, heat can warp a guitar neck. But the heat MUST be applied for a long period of time to warp the neck. It is possible for heat from lamps, fires, stoves, or pot lights in the home to cause this to happen over time. The best way to prevent it from happening is by investing in a guitar stand and keeping your instrument out of direct contact with any sources of significant heat (except when your are playing it).

Can Saddle Height Cause A Guitar Neck To Warp?

No, at least not in my experience. I have never seen or heard tell of saddle height causing this but I would be interested to hear if someone has had it happen.

Can Tuning Warp A Guitar Neck?

No, typically not.  Warping and twisting is usually caused by humidity or heat.  If you guitar was set up for standard tuning or alternate tunings and you decide to turn it way down the neck will bow backwards but this is not really warping since you can adjust the truss rod easily to correct the issue and make it work with that new tuning.

Do Bolt On Guitar Necks Warp Easier Than Neck Thru?

No, not in my experience.  Actually, since most bolt-on necks are made from denser wood than neck thru guitars like maple, it usually means that they are more stable and have less warping or twisting.

My Guitar Arrived With Neck Warp – What Should I Do?

First of all, don’t panic.  Personally, during shipping, I expect that this can happen sometimes – especially if it went on a long journey to get to you.  Luckily, it is not too hard of a fix as mentioned above.  However, if it is beyond fixing you certainly should try working with the seller and getting a refund.

Will Leaving A Guitar Sit Long Warp The Neck?

It really depends on how you are storing it.  If you keep the guitar away from humidity and/or heat you should be fine.

Conclusion On Your Warped Guitar Neck

If you have been wondering why do guitar necks warp, we believe you are now better informed – whether you are looking at a full guitar or a neck from a DIY guitar kit. The strings of a guitar exert considerable tension than cause curvatures or twisting to the neck of the instrument. Even when the guitar neck string tension is checked, wood is porous and adversely affected by heat and humidity levels and may need to have a good guitar room humidifier. The good news is that most of the deformations are repairable. Try the techniques discussed here the next time you observe a warped guitar neck, twisting, or bowing on the neck of your instrument.

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