HOW to Repair and replace a TUNING MACHINE Nut

A Guitar tuner set is a very important part of your guitar because it helps you master the wonderful sound of your instrument. When you desire a better quality tuner or your tuning nuts malfunction or crack, you will need to get a tuning machine replacement. If you bring your guitar to the guitar shops to ask for a change of the tuning nuts, it will cost you a hefty amount of money for just very simple steps. Therefore, the following article will provide you with a detailed instruction of steps for changing the new tuning nuts for the guitar in an easy way by yourself and at a less costly rate from home. In this article we will look at

  1. What is a tuning machine?
  2. When do you need to replace it?
  3. How to replace it
  4. What to do if you cant find a matching tuning machine?

Lets get started below…


A Tuning machine (also known as a machine head, tuning head, tuner, tuning peg, tuning knob or gear head) is a geared apparatus that corrects notes on your guitar by altering the string tension. It is usually placed on the guitar’s headstock to hold the guitar strings to this headstock. The tuning machine can be used on different types of guitars, such as: classical guitar, acoustic guitar, electric guitar and bass guitar. As a result, there are several kinds of tuning machines that correspond to different guitars.


We all know that the tuning machine will mainly affect how your guitar sounds, hence careful maintenance and timely replacement of it are necessary to protect the value of your guitar performance. But the question is when you should replace it? At first, the answer is very simple: when it cracks or goes wrong. Of course, when the tuning machine is out of order and does not work anymore, we must replace it immediately. However, identifying the 2 warning signs will help you take good preparation and recognize the opportune time to replace it:

Broken tuner buttons

The buttons are the grip piece of the tuning peg and this is where you grip the tuning machine head and twist to alter the pitch. There are many root causes leading to the broken tuning buttons, but on the whole, we will focus on 3 main reasons. The first one comes from the humidity. For tuning keys made of plastic or celluloid, they will easily shrink and crack when they are in a high humidity condition for such a long time. For the next reason, if there is no oiling of the gears and you feel that you need to apply more pressure on the tuning button to get your desired tune, then that is a warning sign that your buttons are going to crack. Finally, broken tuning buttons may come from the wrong installation of the tuning pegs to the guitar’s headstock.

Worn out gears

When bearing the frequent immense tension of the string over time, the gears are prone to wear and tear. As a result, they end up stripping or skipping the gear teeth and failing to grip one another correctly. When meeting this issue, if you still insist on trying them out, strings may get out of hand, which requires a complete replacement.


To prepare for the installation of the tuning machine, you should equip yourself with a tuner set exactly suitable for your specific guitar. It is imperative you identify the correct tuning buttons that will fit in well before screwing them into place. If you choose the wrong tuning machine, it cannot work and may become a waste of money and time. Purchasing the right tuner set depends on your choice and the layout of the tuners on your guitar. For example, Les Paul and other guitars with similar headstocks have 3 tuners on each side while the Stratocaster guitar has up to 6 on each size. Besides, there are some guitars (such as older Les Paul’s guitar) that have pressed on the metal bushing inside the holes in order to preserve and keep the tuner clean. With such types, you can leave them in the guitar’s headstock or bring them out. In a word, to buy an appropriate tuning machine for your guitar, you should spend time researching relating information on the internet or checking out ideas from experts.

After taking the right tuning machine for the replacement, you can start replacing it. Remember that this install requires the absolute correct process. Being careful in every step is never excessive:

*Step 1: Unwinding the guitar’s string

Unstringing the strings is of course what you need to do first in the process. You will loosen the strings until you can pull them out. At this step, you should have a look at your strings as well as your guitar to examine whether there are any damages that need to be fixed. When you are unwinding the strings, you should be very careful because under tension, strings can quickly whip out at you and end up injuring you

*Step 2: Unscrewing the tuning machine from the guitar’s neck

Once the strings have been removed, you will detach the tuning machine from the neck. When taking this step, you should make sure that the screwdriver you use coincides with the screws that you are unscrewing. In general, nearly all guitarists use a Phillips head screwdriver to take out the tuners due to its popularity. You do not need to remove all the tuners because you can keep the ones that still work well and put the new tuners aside for the future.

*Step 3: Detaching the jacket

After you finish unscrewing and the screws slip off, you can use a punch, a hammer or something that can fit well inside the jacket and the hole to detach the jackets. There are many ways to carry out this step, but if you want to get the best result, you should hold down the guitar’s neck and softly tap out the jacket. You can feel secure to take this method since it is often used and highly appreciated by many guitarists. However, that is not to say you must always follow this advice because different guitars will not have the same designs requiring a different approach. You can flexibly research more to find a way that best fits you and your guitar.

*Step 4: Installing the new tuning machine

If you easily removed the tuning machine, then installing it at the final step will not be a problem for you. It can be considered to be the easiest step to follow in this process because all you need to do at this time is just reflect on how you started and then reverse your actions. The only thing we want to remind you is that you should not be in a rush even when you are extremely knowledgeable about the procedure. Instead, you should be very careful to avoid installing tuners incorrectly or spoiling the finish.

**Note: When your tuners are slipping, you should replace them as soon as possible to avoid other problems arising in the future.


As mentioned above, you should find a tuning machine that is identical to your current one because any difference will badly affect your tune. However, life does not always go according to plan and we will not always get what we want. Sometimes, we are powerless to get a new tuning machine totally the same as our previous one. So what should we do in that case? You should find out about the parameters of your tuner which includes the post hole size, post height, tuning arm length and mounting pattern of your arm length and screw. Knowing about these measurements will help you easily determine the right tuning machine replacement or the needed changes you should take to make it fit your guitar. And if you have to make some changes, you should pay attention to the features below:

  • If the diameter of the new string post is bigger than your previous one: you should check your guitar again to see whether its peghead holes’ size can be enlarged for big-sized shafts or not. If your answer is yes and you can accept this change, then you just take that new tuner and expand the hole to a suitable size for the new tuning posts. When making the peg holes bigger, you should not chip the finish of the peghead veneer or your guitar. Besides, sometimes you even need to re-shape or fill the peghead holes to accommodate for different spacing for tuners to be mounted on a plate. It must be sure that you get the right specifications before drilling new holes to protect your instrument’s aesthetic appearance.
  • Measure the length of the peghead: you need the exact info of the peghead’s length in order to calculate the distance that each tuning peg should go from the other. This thing will prevent tuning pegs from hitting each other when adjusted. Besides, the guitar tuner should be placed at a distance in such way it is simple to access the hole of the string, which will fix the tuner and prevent it from coming off.
  • Knowing about the gear ratio: This ratio demonstrates the number of times that the tuning knob will make a rotation of 360° to one turn of the string post. To clearly illustrate it, a ratio of 10:1 means that the tuning knob will rotate ten times for each rotation of the post. The high ratio will result in the accuracy of the string’s tuning, reducing the aggravation of tuning down and up repeatedly before the ultimate tuning is achieved. However, everything has a limit, hence too high a ratio is not necessarily a good thing.

Getting a new tuner that best fits your guitar is hard and the modification of the headstock is usually inevitable. But not everyone is willing to modify their beloved guitars, especially for those who are the owners of vintage or collectible guitars since this action will greatly devalue their instruments. The following tips will provide you with some information of aftermarket vintage tuners that just might work:

Sealed-gear tuner

With a sealed-gear tuner, the gear is preserved inside a die-cast housing while the tuner is secured to the guitar’s headstock by a threaded collar surrounding the tuning post. This tuner can be removed or tightened with a deep-well socket. As a result, you will use a tapered reamer to make the diameter of the post hole bigger when changing tuners from a press-in fitting to a threaded collar. Make sure that you carefully test the fit of the new tuner to avoid oversizing the tuning post hole.

Vintage-style tuner

If your old tuner is open-back allowing the gears to be exposed, then you can feel secure getting a vintage-style tuner for your replacement because it has press-in bushing that secures your tuning post. Moreover, if the hardware of your new tuner suits your previous hardware, you just leave the old press-in bushing installed. In this way, you only need to change the tuner itself without the risk of chipping the finish when taking out the old bushing.

Indexing Pin

Sometimes you will meet several guitars (especially Fender guitars) with tuners that will make use of one or some indexing pins to secure the tuner to the headstock. If you intend to use an indexing pin for retrofitting a tuner, you can depress the tuner on the headstock’s back in order that the pin leaves a shallow impression. And you will use this as your marker to drill your pilot hole.

Locking tuner

This type of tuner will bring considerable benefits to your guitar such as ensuring better tuning stability. Moreover, you do not need to wind your string down the post so it makes restringing your guitar a breeze. The locking tuner has a mechanism in the tuning post that, when engaged, fix the string in place and remove string slippage.


For guitar artists, keeping guitars in tune is one of the most vital things. Therefore, replacing the tuning machine is a very necessary skill that most guitar players should have. The subject today provides you with a detailed step-by-step guide for changing your tuning machine as well as the ways to pick up a new tuner that best molds to your guitar. If you find this article is useful and informative, do not hesitate to share it with those who need it.

Rich Wilde Music

My name is Richard Wilde and go by @richwildemusic on all major social channels. I am an artist, guitar player, and producer. I have been playing guitar for over 15 years and have come to learn the "tips" and "tricks" to enhance guitar playing, recording guitar, setting up guitar, and overall get that professional sound.

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