November 20, 2011 - ModGuitar Senior Editor
Fender Strat Plus Bi-flex Truss Rod Fix and Pick-up Swap.
I’ve had this Strat Plus Deluxe for ages. Unfortunately the previous owner must have used the wrong hex wrench (I’m not ruling out the design of the Bi-Flex truss rod itself) which has led to the truss rod socket being stripped completely, leaving the neck unadjustable. This is a somewhat common problem for this model and others equipped with Fender’s Bi-Flex truss-rod design.
The 93′ Strat Plus Deluxe with pop-in trem bar, two point floating tremolo, locking tuners, roller nut, Bi-flex truss rod, in crimson burst finish.
The truss rod being unadjustable isn’t necessarily the end of the world. However, if you live in a climate zone that has big changes in the weather seasonaly, you could be stuck with a guitar with less than optimal playability. In may case, a guitar that has too much relief (back bow) in the neck, requiring a higher action to play notes cleanly.
Having given up on adjusting the truss rod, I had previously done a fret dress and level procedure on it, focusing on taking off some of the height off the frets at the nut and high end of the neck. This was a good intermediate fix which brought back much of the playability. I wanted this guitar to play as well as I know it can, so I ventured to dig deeper and find a way to adjust the truss rod – without resorting to costly factory authorized repairs, or attempting to replace the truss rod entirly which is a very tricky venture on this type of Fender neck – if that repair was even feasible. The cost of repairs alone makes replacing the neck the next best option, but I wanted to keep the guitar stock. It’s an American made Fender Stratocaster, a design no longer in production. After some consideration on what needed to happen for this fix to work, and an assessment of my tools, I came up with a plan.
Tools Used For The Truss-Rod Fix
- Torx Bit – sized to just fit in the stripped socket
- Hex Wrench – whatever size your guitar needs
- Rotary tool + various bits
This pic shows the roller nut with the set screws removed. I didn’t even remove the strings at first. If I was able, I’d make the adjustment with the strings just slackened, and the roller nut slid down out of the way.
First I try to get the correct 1/8″ hex wrench to seat in the truss rod adjustment socket. No luck, the socket was truly stripped, almost totally rounded off inside.
Before using a very small milling bit to cut a few ridges in the inside surface of the truss rod socket, I first used an abrasive bit to sand away some of the mahogany plug so that I can get in there with the other tools.
This photo shows the truss rod end with a couple of ridge milled into it (it’s not real easy to see) so the Torx bit can get a grip. I ended up using a metric Torx bit that was slightly oversize, and with a hammer, tapping it into place. This was a very touch and go operation, and I might not be able to make another adjustment.
Finally, I was able to make the 1/4 turn adjustment needed to reduce the back bow and get the relief within a useable range. With this guitar on its way to playable status I went ahead and replaced the Blue Lace Sensor pickup that had stopped working as well as switching the positions of the three Lace Sensors that are stock to this model into their factory spots: Neck – Gold Lace Sensor, Middle – Silver Lace Sensor, and Blue Lace Sensor in the bridge position. At some point along the way the pick-ups had been switched around, and I thought it would be cool to check them out in the stock configuration. Lace Sensors are suitable for any pick-up position, though each one has a distinct tone as indicated by the color designation.