How To Remove Acoustic Guitar Pegs (Even if They’re Stuck)

acoustic guitar | Sandy Music Lab

The tuning pegs on your guitar are some of the most essential components of your guitar. After all, they are the reason you are able to keep your strings in tune and play sweet melodies, but if they are broken or otherwise malfunctioning, it can seriously upset the delicate balance of your guitar. If this is the case, you’ll more than likely need to replace them.

To remove acoustic guitar pegs, loosen and remove the strings. Then unscrew the tuning machine head and pop the tuning machine, and peg out of the hole. Next, remove the bushing that sits inside the hole and clean the hole. Replace the old tuning machine with a new one and ensure screws secure it.

In this article, we will tackle the topic of replacing the pegs on your acoustic guitar. We will do this by going over the reasons you may want to replace them, how to replace them, what to do if they’re stuck, and how to care for the new tuning pegs once you’ve installed them. So let’s get started!

Why Would You Want To Remove Your Guitar’s Tuning Pegs?

There are several reasons why you may want or need to replace your guitar’s tuning pegs—the first of these reasons being that it may have broken. Over time, tuning pegs are subject to wear and tear from extended use, making them weak and more susceptible to damage or breakage.

Tuning pegs are under constant pressure from the guitar’s strings, and every time you tune your guitar, that pressure increases. Eventually, this pressure might lead your tuning pegs to crack, meaning that they won’t function correctly, and you won’t be able to keep your strings in tune.

The second reason you may need to replace your tuning pegs and machines is that you dropped your guitar on a hard surface, and the knobs you turn to tune your guitar have broken and are unusable. If you don’t have knobs attached to your tuning pegs, you won’t be able to turn the tuning peg to tune your guitar’s strings (unless you’re a wizard with magic powers, of course).

This means you’ll need to replace the tuning machines to which the broken knobs are attached to be able to use them again.

The last reason that you might need to replace your tuning pegs is because of poor maintenance. Over time, dirt and dust get into the small crevices in and around your guitar’s tuning pegs and can build up and eventually stop your tuning peg from being able to turn. The teeth of the gears inside the tuning machine can also become worn-down and will lead to skipping of gears, which will make it a lot harder for you to tune the strings.

Replacing the tuning pegs of your guitar doesn’t necessarily need to be done all that often, but keeping an eye on them and noticing when they start to lose function can save you a whole lot of frustration in the long run. Every guitar that is played regularly will need to have its tuning pegs and machines replaced at least once in its lifetime, so it’s just a matter of time until yours needs replacing.

Removing and Replacing Tuning Pegs on an Acoustic Guitar

As we’ve mentioned before, replacing your tuning pegs is a necessary step you need to take to ensure that your guitar stays in tip-top condition. However, the process of removing and replacing tuning pegs can be daunting if you’ve never done it before.

So with that in mind, we’ve created a step-by-step list of instructions for you to follow to ensure that you’re doing it correctly. Let’s get into it!

Note: The tuning pegs and machines on different guitars all vary. Thus we cannot recommend one specific set for you to use as a replacement for your guitar. It is best to find a set from the manufacturer that made your guitar, as they will most likely have a set that will fit into your guitar.

It would also help to measure the length of your tuning pegs and the diameter of the hole they are in so that you can find a set that will fit into the holes without you needing to modify your guitar.

If you’re unsure about this, take your guitar to your local luthier or music shop and ask one of the staff there to help you determine which tuning pegs you’ll need to get to replace the ones that are currently on your guitar.

Here are the things you’ll need:

You could also get a guitar repair kit (like this Mudder 42 Pieces Complete Guitar Repairing Maintenance Tool Kit) or a multi-tool (like this D’Addario Accessories Guitar/Bass Multi-Tool), which will include all the tools you might need to repair and maintain your guitar. However, you’ll still need to buy new tuning machines.

Here is how to do it:

  1. Slowly unwind the tuning knob to loosen the string that is attached to the tuning peg. If you try to take your tuning pegs out while they are under tension, the string or tuning peg might come completely loose and whip out at you, most likely hitting you in the face and causing some severe damage. So it’s best always to loosen your strings first.
  2. Unwind the string from the tuning peg and move it out of the way. Be sure to secure it to something else so that it doesn’t flop around while you’re trying to fix your guitar.
  3. Remove the screws that hold the tuning machine heads in place. Depending on the type of guitar you have, you’ll have either two plates with three tuning machine heads attached to them or six individual tuning machine heads on the back of your guitar’s headstock.
  4. Remove the entire tuning machine from the headstock, pulling it out from the back. If it is stuck, refer to the next section in this article on removing tuning pegs that are stuck.
  5. Remove the bushing that sits inside the tuning peg hole. These bushings are meant to help support the tuning peg and keep it in place. You should be able to lift it out with your fingers, but if not, refer to the next section to learn how to remove bushings that are stuck.
  6. Use a damp q-tip to clean the inside of the tuning peg hole. This will get rid of any dirt that has gotten trapped inside it over the years.
  7. Install the new bushing into the hole.
  8. Push the new tuning peg up through the hole and make sure that it and the bushing are secure.
  9. Replace the screws that hold the tuning machine head in place.
  10. Wind your guitar string around the new tuning peg and make sure that it is secure.
  11. Turn the knob of your tuning machine to tighten the string. You don’t need to tune it right now; it’ll be best to do that once you’ve replaced all of the tuning machines that you need to replace.

Repeat this process for the remaining tuning pegs that you want to replace.

What To Do if the Tuning Pegs Are Stuck?

Sometimes, when you are trying to remove the tuning pegs from your guitar, you may find that they are stuck and won’t come out simply by pulling on them. There are several reasons why this may be an issue; however, they are usually not one that’s too difficult to solve.

In this section and the next, we’ll go over what you can do to remove your tuning pegs if they are stuck, as well as how to remove the bushings if they have become stuck in the tuning peg holes. It is good to note that none of these methods require extreme force, so don’t be too brutal on your instrument; otherwise, you might end up causing it a lot of damage. 

If your tuning pegs are stuck inside the holes of your guitar’s headstock, two things may be to blame. If your tuning pegs and headstock are both made of wood, a change in the moisture in the surrounding environment may have caused the wood to expand, making it more difficult to remove the pegs from the holes.

However, if your tuning pegs are made of metal, there may be another reason why they are stuck. It could be possible that the tuning pegs that are on your guitar were too small and didn’t fit properly into the holes of the headstock, so the previous owner or the manufacturer stuck them into the holes with glue to ensure that they wouldn’t move around or slip out.

The glue will have hardened over time and make it a lot more challenging to remove the tuning pegs when you need to replace them. Luckily, both of these scenarios have a relatively simple solution, which we will discuss now.

  • Use a mallet. You can use a mallet to gently tap the pegs from the front until they come out the back of the headstock. Use either a wooden mallet (like this Bora Beechwood Mallet) or a rubber mallet (like this TEKTON Rubber Mallet) to ensure that you don’t do any unnecessary damage to the finish on the headstock of your guitar or the tuning pegs themselves.
  • Use pliers. If you’ve hit the pegs all the down so that their tops are no longer sticking out the front of the headstock, but you aren’t able to pull them out from the back by hand, you’ll need to use some pliers (like these DOWELL Lineman’s Pliers) to get a better grip on the tuning machine and pull it out.
  • Clean the residual glue inside the hole. If the tuning peg were glued into the hole, you’d need to clean out the residual glue from inside before installing the new tuning peg. If there weren’t any glue left, it would still be a good idea to clean it before putting the new tuning peg in. This is to eliminate any dirt or grime that may have gotten inside and ensure it doesn’t get onto your new tuning pegs. Use a slightly wet q-tip for this.

What To Do if the Bushings Around the Tuning Pegs Are Stuck?

Once you’ve taken the tuning peg out of its hole, you’ll need to remove the bushing that helps support it. Most of the time, you can easily pull them out just using your fingers, but it may be a lot harder to remove them if they are stuck.

The bushings are sometimes stuck down with glue to prevent them from falling out, which would leave the tuning peg unsupported, but when you’re trying to remove them, the glue will make it a lot harder to do so. Thankfully, you should be able to remove stuck bushings without too much extra effort.

  • Use a chisel. The first method you can try is to use a chisel (like this WORKPRO ½” Wood Chisel) or a putty knife (like this Warner 1-1/4″ DIY Stiff Putty Knife) to pry the bushing away from the headstock and pop it out the front. You can also use a putty knife or chisel to loosen any glue that may be stuck to the bushing before you try the next method.
  • Use a pin punch. Next, you can try using a pin punch that matches the size of your headstock’s tuning peg holes (like one from this TEKTON Roll Pin Punch Set). Once you’ve found a pin punch of the right size, you can insert it into the tuning peg hole from the back of the headstock until you come into contact with the back of the bushing that is stuck in the hole.
  • Use a mallet. Now you may not need to do much more than pushing down on the pin punch to get the bushing to come out the front of the headstock. However, if that doesn’t work, you can use a mallet (preferably a wooden or rubber one) to gently tap on the pin punch until the bushing comes out of the headstock.

If you have tried all of the methods we have mentioned above and your tuning pegs or bushings still won’t come out of the headstock, you should take your guitar to a trained professional or a luthier and have them remove the stuck parts for you. They have a lot more experience in guitar repair and maintenance, so they will likely be able to remove the pegs and bushings without damaging the instrument.

Tuning Peg Maintenance

One of the biggest reasons why tuning pegs break or malfunction (other than incorrect installation) is because they are not maintained adequately. To ensure that your newly installed tuning pegs last as long as possible and function well, you need to take care of them properly.

Keep Your Tuning Pegs Properly Lubricated

Making sure that they are well-lubricated is a big part of this. Of course, you don’t want them to be too slippery, but if they aren’t lubricated enough, turning the knobs can become difficult and may end up breaking or damaging either the peg or the knob itself. So keeping your tuning pegs and machines properly lubricated can help prevent this.

You can use a lubricant like the Tri-Flow Superior Lubricant Drip Bottle to do this. However, it should be said that you should use just any run-of-the-mill lubricant like WD-40 or other lubricants for cars, sewing machines, and no Vaseline. If you’re unsure of what kind of lubricant to get, you can ask the staff at your local guitar or instrument shop what they’d recommend or ask a luthier what they use.

Once you’ve got your lubricant, you’ll want to add a couple of drops of it to your tuning machines. If they have exposed cogs on the back of your guitar’s headstock, you can add one or two drops where the cog and the shaft of the knob meet. You’ll want to loosen your strings first so that the lubricant is distributed evenly around the whole cog as you tighten the strings again.

If your tuning machines conceal the cogs inside, you can put a few drops of the lubricant in the crevice where the tuning peg and bushing on the front of the headstock meet. The lubricant will run down the tuning peg’s shaft and lubricate everything inside of the tuning machine as well.

For this, you’ll also want to loosen the strings before you add the lubricant so that you can distribute it evenly around the tuning peg as you rewind your strings to bring them back in tune.

Clean Your Guitar’s Headstock Regularly

Another thing that you can do to maintain your new tuning pegs is to clean your guitar’s headstock regularly. You can use a microfiber cloth (like these Buff Pro Multi-Surface Microfiber Cleaning Cloths) or a small dusting brush (like these Pangda 2 Piece Colorful Soft Kabuki Brushes) to get rid of dust, debris, and the oils from your fingers. 

This will ensure that there isn’t a build-up of grime where the bushings and tuning peg shaft meet that could eventually damage or hinder their function.

Conclusion

Replacing your guitar’s tuning pegs may have seemed like an impossible task. Still, we hope that through this article, we were able to illustrate the importance of replacing them and make you feel more confident in your ability to do so yourself.

However, if this doesn’t seem like something you want to do yourself, we would suggest taking your guitar to a music shop or a luthier and asking them to do the replacing for you. Nonetheless, good luck removing and replacing your guitar pegs!

David Sandy

Hey there! My name is David Sandy and I'm the founder of Sandy Music Lab. I've been playing guitar for several years now and created this site to be able to share and explore music with others. Check out my recommended guitar gear!

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