What’s wrong with my tuners? … The question may seem unusual to experienced builders, but for beginners (or for some players having trouble with their instrument) it comes up fairly often. Are my tuners defective?
First off, we need to put to rest the idea that tuners can ‘slip’. We hear it all the time, but if you think about it, it’s just not possible. The teeth on the gear of any tuning machine, including the economy models, are so large that it would take a minor miracle for the teeth in the gear wheel to disengage and ‘slip’ from the cogs in the corresponding cylindrical worm gear. When we hear “my tuners are slipping” the first thing we advise is to change strings! More often than not the strings were not wound around the post correctly and are slipping around there. Or they were not seated beneath the bridge pins correctly. With nylon strings, some break-in time is completely normal, of course. So give it some time (a few days even, playing the guitar now and then) before changing strings to correct the problem.
When tuners become stiff, on the other hand, a number of things can be going on. On older tuners, it is often necessary to lubricate the machines now and then. For this, we recommend our Tri-Flow oil. In some cases, it can be necessary to remove the tuners and do a deep cleaning. Naphtha does a good job of loosening a removing dried up oil and gunk. Try squirting it into the gears or, if necessary, giving them a bath in it –but never apply it while tuners are on the guitar as the solvent may damage the finish or wood.
A deeper problem, on new guitars, is when the peghead holes are drilled improperly. The holes need to be dead square to the back of the peghead otherwise they can bind up. The issue can creep up especially on modern guitar designs where there are tapers on the two faces of the peghead, and or the side. It’s been reported that high-performance tuners, which have a tighter tooth set, are more prone to being affected by an improperly drilled hole. They need to spin freely in order function as they should, and in those cases, of course, they offer the player a very smooth tuning action.