Installing Pickups in a Stratocaster Style Guitar

Introduction: Installing Pickups in a Stratocaster Style Guitar

About: Handwound Pickup maker focused on providing excellent sounding pickups for the discerning guitarist.

A Quick, but detailed process of installing new Pickups in a Fender Strat Style guitar from Brian Porter of Porter Pickups. We'll go over the tools needed, and the order for installing new replacement pickups. Often times, a good playing guitar can become a good sounding guitar with a pickup upgrade.Find out more about Porter Pickups at

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Step 1: Tools for the Job

Having the Right tools for installing your new pickups is key. You can do it fairly inexpensively. Here are some basic tools that are helpful for the job:
-Safety Glasses (Eye Protection is a must)
-25-40Watt Soldering Iron
-Phillips Screwdriver
-String Winder
-Tweezers (Optional)
-Wire Cutters

Step 2: Remove the Strings

Use the string winder to speed up the removal of the strings. It is possible to save the current strings but chances are you might need to change them anyways!

Step 3: Remove Pickguard Screws

Remove all screws around the perimeter of the pickguard. Don’t touch the pickup or selector switch screws yet. If the strings can’t get out of the holes in the backplate, you might need to remove this as well.Remove all screws around the perimeter of the pickguard. Don’t touch the pickup or selector switch screws yet. If the strings can’t get out of the holes in the backplate, you might need to remove this as well.  

Keep Screws in a Safe Place!
Put all the pickguard screws in a safe place, so you don’t lose them. Nothing like having a pickguard with one missing screw!

Step 4: Remove Pickguard

Flip Pickguard Over....
It will still be attached with the jack wires, and the ground wire to the bridge, so make sure you carefully turn it over and don’t pull too hard on it.

Step 5: Make Notes of the Wiring

Find where the wires go
One wire from each pickup will go the the selector switch...Usually the white or “hot” from the pickup. In this case, the middle pickups “Hot” is yellow.

And one wire from each pickup will be soldered to the back of the volume pot....
The black wires from the pickups will be the “ground”

Refer to wiring diagrams from places like to make sure everything will go back in the right place. Watch where the neck, middle and bridge wires connect to the switch!  

Step 6: Unsolder Old Pickups

1. Touch your soldering iron to the metal portion of the switch. The solder will heat up, and you can remove the wires from the old pickups. Eye protection is a good idea here, as well as your tweezers to hold the wires when removing them from the pot or the switch.

2.Repeat the same process and unsolder black ground wires from the back of the volume pot...

3. Wires are now off! Time for some new tone!

Step 7: Remove Old Pickups From Pickguard

Unscrew the pickups from each side, and keep the existing screws for mounting the pickups (We’ll use these again)

Step 8: Spring or Tube Pickup Mounting?

Many Pickups come with either a spring or a tube. We prefer to use the tube for pickup mounting, but you can use the same springs from the old pickups if you would like.

Step 9: Read for New Pickups!

Time to give this guitar a new sound. We're going to install our Porter Pickups 1960's single coils in this guitar.

Step 10: Install New Pickups

Install the new pickups in the pickguard the way the old ones were installed. Tube or string is below the pickguard and before the cover for the pickup.

Begin the prep for the installing the pickups by making a neat wiring path.

Step 11: Cut Black (or Ground) Wires to Length

Cut the pickup wires to a rough length
Remember, the black wires will solder to the back of the volume pot, so cut them near the middle of the volume pot.

Prep wires for soldering
Here we are using vintage style cloth “push back” wire. You can push back the outer cloth to reveal the wire inside. For other plastic coated pickup wires, you’ll need to use a wire stripper. Leave about 1/4” for soldering.

Solder to volume pot
Put some solder on your wires before soldering to the back of the volume pot. This will make the connection easier. You might also need to put some more solder on the volume pot. Heat up the solder with your iron, and attach all three wires. Tweezers come in hand here since the wires can get hot.

Step 12: Route, Cut and Solder White Wires

Solder white wires to switch
Repeat the cutting, push back/stripping of the white (Hot) wires and solder them to the appropriate lugs of the 5-way switch. Refer to a wiring diagram if you get lost. In this picture it is Bridge, Middle, Neck (Left to right)

Step 13: Check Your Wiring Job

Turn the pickguard over and tap on the pickup magnets with your screwdriver to make sure they are making a sound at the right positions (1-5 on the selector switch). Shown here is the checking of the bridge pickup. If the neck and bridge are backwards, you can reverse the wires on your selector switch to fix this.

Step 14: Almost Finished!

If it works right , put it back together
Put in all the pickguard screws, and restring the guitar. After you have the strings on and can play it a bit, adjust the pickups heights to taste. Usually a nice balance between all three pickups volume wise is a good idea. Some people like the bridge louder so they will raise that pickup higher than the others.

Enjoy your new pickups
Often times a great playing guitar can be upgraded with new pickups for a lot less than buying a new guitar. You now have completed a great tone overhaul of your instrument! Turn it up and rock out.

If you have questions about pickups, please visit us online at

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    2 Discussions


    8 years ago on Step 13

    Don't tap too hard! you can demagnetize your pups

    porter pickups
    porter pickups

    Reply 8 years ago on Step 13

    true, just enough to check if it's working. We often use tweezers.