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Several factors that can impact your guitar’s pickups include dirt accumulation, humidity, and exposure to magnets. Pickups are designed to take years of use, but having these elements near your guitar can reduce their life or even ruin them.

Several guitarists approach me to ask about guitar pickups and things that can degrade their performance. For the most part, many people don’t know the things that can permanently damage their guitars, and this article aims to help those people.

This article will tell you about things that can damage guitar pickups and how fragile guitar pickups are. Here are the topics we will cover in this article:

  1. Common Things That Ruin Guitar Pickups
  2. How Fragile Are Guitar Pickups?
  3. Do Magnets Ruin Guitar Pickups?
  4. Can Dust Damage Your Guitar?
  5. Can Pickups Stop Working?
  6. Can You Ruin a Guitar Pickup?

4 Common Things That Ruin Guitar Pickups

Several common things can damage your guitar’s pickups. These include magnets, moisture, humidity, dirt, foreign objects, and solders getting weak over time.


1. Exposure to magnets

Exposure to powerful magnets can negatively impact the pickup’s magnetic field – which is important to ensure proper working.

Smaller magnets are generally harmless to the guitar and any distortion created is short-term, but it’s generally a good idea to avoid having magnets near your guitar’s pickups.


2. Long term exposure to moisture

Guitar Pickup that’s repeatedly exposed to moisture for a long time can deteriorate, rust and get damaged. 

It’s very common for guitar pickups and strings to get exposed to moisture through sweat. 

During playing sessions, this is fine, but long-term exposure to moisture can be detrimental to the pickup’s longevity as this can cause deterioration over time. 

Make sure to wipe your guitar pickups and strings with clean cloth after you play. Especially important if you tend to sweat a lot.

Pickups can easily rust when exposed to moisture for a long time.

3. Foreign objects enter coil

Another thing that negative affects the pickups is when foreign objects find their way inside the coil and sever the wires inside. This includes metal shavings and dust particles.

This can cause the wires in the coils to get bent and flake off in some spots, making contact with other pieces of metal and shorting them out.


4. Solder joints weaken over time

The solder joints of a pickup tend to become weaker over time and can even break, which can not only impact the sound but can ruin your guitar’s pickup.

The wires in the pickup are usually insulated, and if that insulation breaks down at some point, it can cause a short circuit which can damage your pickup permanently.

How Fragile Are Guitar Pickups?

Pickups are incredibly delicate and sensitive. The coil is about the thickness of human hair and can be easily damaged.

However, the pickups won’t break unless there is direct physical assault, like dismantling or cutting the wire.

Even though pickups are exceedingly delicate, the only method to harm an open pickup is to tear the tape and fracture the wrapped wire. Most of these wires sit low enough that you’re unlikely to do so.

However, you may risk scratching the plastic or, worse, damaging the frame of your instrument.

Covered pickups, such as those found on a Gibson LP or PRS, will only cause aesthetic charm to the silver. You’ll likely be changing strings more frequently.

In any case, it’s pretty challenging to break a pickup, and it’s certainly not something that could occur with daily use. You just need to be careful not to put the pickup under physical assail. 

Pickups are delicate on the inside but should last a long time if you don’t physically damage it.

Do Magnets Ruin Guitar Pickups?

Strong magnets can cause permanent damage to your pickups since the magnets in them are susceptible, so it is best to avoid bringing magnets near pickups, especially near antique pickups.

This process is known as degaussing, where the magnetism of the magnets in the pickup is removed. This essentially eliminates the purpose of a pickup. The pickup’s larger magnetic fields tug on the string, slowing down the real sustain. This is what damages the pickup. 

Do know that weaker magnetic fields like those from the tip of a screwdriver likely won’t affect the pickup’s magnetic field. However, I would suggest not bringing any sort of magnets near your pickups as even the weaker magnets can cause some harm which can impact the sound of your guitar.

Related article: Do Old Pickups Sound Better? (Impact Of Age & Wear)

Can Dust Damage Your Guitar?

Dust doesn’t cause harm to a guitar. However, ensure to wipe it off when you’ve finished playing, specifically the strings, because wiping off the hand oils and sweat before storage enhances its life.

That said, if your instrument has an internal pickup, dust can accumulate in and around the pickup, causing crackling, poor tone, or a faint signal.

The pickups on an electric guitar’s exterior are considerably more sensitive. A guitar will not be harmed by dust in an ordinary room. While not in use, it’s good advice to store a guitar, but it’s mainly aimed at novices who may leave it lying about the room or bolstered behind the door.

A case will protect a guitar from harm, excessive sunlight, and, to some extent, extreme temperature and humidity fluctuations.

Dust is abrasive, and brushing across the top of your finish with a towel can scrape the finish’s surface. 

I recommend using an air compressor that can blast dust away but do remember that suppressed air is cold and can damage finishes. Another alternative is to get a soft makeup brush and gently dust off the dust before switching to a soft towel.

Can Pickups Stop Working?

There are several factors that might cause your pickups to stop operating. The most common issue is having strings hooked in the coils when exposed or removed coverings.

The oxidation or corrosion on the magnet wire can move down the magnets to the coil and erode the insulation. If this occurs, the pickup will stop working and need to be unwound and fixed.

Check your guitar to ensure that there are no active pickups. If you do, the battery may need to be changed. When pickups are removed from the instrument, they might be destroyed simply by removing them from the box.

I have seen screwdriver gouges, soldering drips on the coil, magnet wire damaged when the tape was pulled from coils, magnet wires and coils damaged by level adjust springs and coverings that are too snug break the outer coil, and plain harsh handling.

Examine the solder joints for cold solder connections that may function intermittently. If the pickups are feeble and you drop the tone control to zero, the volume disappears. This indicates that there is a fracture in the coil or connection.

I recommend that you take care of your guitar pickups and store them safely if you aren’t planning to use them. Keep them neatly wrapped in tissue and stored in a secure location. Place them far apart so that their magnetism is not impacted by their closeness as it can shift the magnetic inclination.

Can You Ruin a Guitar Pickup?

Damage to the pickup should never be an issue unless subjected to force or metal with high magnetism. Pickups can demagnetize if they are stored next to one another for an extended length of time.

Kinks in the wire may emerge if a pickup is coiled incorrectly. The wire will ultimately break as a result of this.

Pickups are sensors that generate low-voltage signals that are safe to use. It can be entirely destroyed if a pickup is stored near a very intense pickup or magnetic field. Some guitar players may purposefully degauss a hot pickup to soften it down. Because there are no moving parts in guitar pickups, they can’t be ruined. 

On the other hand, pickups frequently fail due to corrosion, any broken wire or a short circuit, or improper installation. It is somewhat a regular event if you cannot use a guitar pickup after the installation.

There are several additional circuit components to consider. If you replaced an old pickup with a new one, then you may have jumbled the connections only enough to prevent it from operating.

If the wires were simply flipped, you would still receive maximum volume when only that pickup was selected, and there would be a loudness reduction and a tinny sound if both pickups were selected. Check for damaged wires if the sound is cutting out. If damaged wires are discovered, they must be replaced.

I recommend you avoid using the guitar pickup with sweaty hands as they contain high salt levels, which can create a short circuit. Purchase a low-cost soldering kit and learn how to repair common pickup faults independently. This would save you a lot of money while greatly expanding your guitarist skillset.


Several things can go wrong with a guitar pickup, but if you know what you’re doing, then your pickups should last you for a couple of years. Taking proper care of your instrument will ensure that it stays in the best shape.

Ensure to keep magnets away from the pickup and ensure that pickups aren’t stored close to each other. Unused pickups should be wrapped in cloth or kept in a sealed plastic bag to avoid dust and humidity.

I hope this article helped you understand more about the things that can cause harm to your guitar pickups and how you can prevent damage in the first place.

Ifandi S.

About Ifandi S.

Ifandi started Strumming Bars to answer all the questions of a guitarist. As a self-learned guitarist, he remembered how frustrating it was to not find answers to his many questions in the journey. With Strumming Bars, that's no longer the case!

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