Bad news: a stripped truss rod nut. Good news: an easy solution.

Issue 83 March 19, 2009

First, the bad news: This truss rod nut is stripped, so the rod won’t adjust.

Ruined truss rod nut

Now for the good news...

I’m checking out this Tele from a pawnshop to see if my buddy got a good deal on it. Hmmm... It’s in good shape overall... Very little fret wear... Hardware and electronics are good...

Checking the neck for straightness


The neck has a pretty serious backbow. And that’s not the worst part: the truss rod needs loosening, but the adjusting nut is a mess. Somebody’s been using the wrong size wrench on it, and its hex socket is stripped.

The flat sides of the hex socket are rounded over, so a correctly-sized wrench can’t get a grip. It just spins in the hole.

The truss rod wrench won't fit

You’ve probably seen this lots of times before. This was a standard truss rod, but if it had been a rod with an adjusting nut that’s permanently attached, the problem would have been particularly devastating.

Pop Quiz! How would you handle this?

Pound a screwdriver into the nut, and hope it jams tight enough that you can back the nut out?

No thanks — and remind me not to have you work on my guitar!

Pull off the fretboard and replace the rod?

Yikes! That’s major surgery! (You get extra credit for being such a hard worker, though.)

The solution:

I use the Gripper truss rod wrench. We introduced this wrench last year, and it’s a hit. Now we offer a full set of them. The Gripper has a tip that’s small enough to fit inside the messed-up nut, then it tapers out wider to grip even a rounded-out hex socket. It grips, so you can turn the nut like normal.

Gripper truss rod wrench

It saves a lot of time that would have been spent on expensive repairs.

Check It Out!

The String Action Gauge is your pocket "Swiss Army Ruler" for setting up every stringed instrument. Check out Dan Erlewine’s video demo!

String Action Gauge

The adjusting nut on this truss rod is a removable one that screws onto the rod. Now that I can get a grip on it, I can back the nut out to replace it. No problem.

Removing the truss rod nut

Some short blasts of canned air remove any debris that’s in the access cavity. A small brush gets rid of any crud on the threads.

Cleaning the nut cavity

The new nut gets a dab of petroleum jelly. This makes it smoother-working.The new nut goes on easily, with the proper 4mm wrench.

A little dab of Vaseline

After a quick tweak, the neck is adjusted perfectly straight. This guitar is ready to go, without pricey repairs.

This neck is straight

If this truss rod had a welded-on, non-replaceable nut, I could adjust it with the Gripper even though I can’t remove it. In that case, the guitar’s owner just needs to keep a Gripper wrench in the guitar’s case and he’ll be all set.

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