So here I am pretty much one year later and I’ve decided to rip apart my old Squire Strat and finally fix the cursed 5-way pickup selection switch. First let me say to those out there who think even for a second that a Squire or a MIM Strat are even close to the American Standards; Fugget about it. There’s a reason these and other knock-off’s sell so cheaply. They’ve got cheap components. From machine heads that won’t stay in tune to pickups with barely enough copper to function to bodies made from wood-ite and other horror show materials. They’re cheaper because they’re made cheaply and subsequently reflect that in their playing and sound. In my last round of playing guitar technician I shielded the pickup cavity of my Squire Strat. this is where I noticed the sub-standard quality of the body.
Prior to this I replaced the machine heads with Fender Locking Machine Heads. These are quite awesome and the guitar has stayed in tune for the first time since replacing the garbage that came with the guitar. The shielding seemed to help as well, however, the big problem was still the 5-way switch. This switch has been a nightmare for as long as I can remember. It would crackle and short out at random. Cleaning it seemed to help for a very short time but the guitar was so unreliable nobody would have anything to do with it. Poor sad Strat : ( I set up my guitar workstation and prepared to replace the nightmare switch with a Musical Accessories Profile SW40 5-way switch. First and foremost make sure to take pictures of the existing configuration of the instrument. Even better, draw out your own schematic. I did. It helps you to better understand what you are seeing whereas with a picture you only see what it shows you.
Next came removal of the existing switch. It was at this point I noticed that the switches were different in their configurations.
I searched the Internet for details on wiring the type of switch I was installing. I found an article by Alan Ratcliffe called Hotrodding a Stratocaster which included an excellent wiring diagram.
[EDIT] Since this article was written the Ratcliffe article mentioned above has become unavailable. The following wiring diagram is from the Mickie Fasken article on Stratocaster wiring.
Prior to soldering my new switch into place I used alligator clip connectors to test the connections. It’s way easier to switch around alligator clips that to re-solder. They are a definite asset to your toolkit. So after testing then soldering then testing again I tightened everything up and replaced the pick-guard. One more test to make sure nothing got strained and then in go the screws. The good news is that there was no noise or popping when the switch moved from position to position. Now for a new set of strings. Stringing up the guitar with the locking machine heads is a slightly different process than standard stringing. To refresh my memory I used this handy video.
Once tuned I ran through each pickup position. AMAZING! For the first time in I can’t remember how long there was a smooth, silent transition between pickup configurations. This guitar can actually be used in combat now! Now, the replacement switch I used was $19.95. I’ll bet the one I replaced didn’t cost that (yeah, yeah, retail, I know but I think you get my point). Don’t kid yourself; Made In America with quality parts will always cost more – and be worth it.