What To Do When a Whammy Bar Keeps Falling Out?

whammy bar keeps falling out

A whammy bar (also known as a tremolo bar) is an excellent addition to an electric guitar. When used sparingly and with taste, it produces an amazing sound effect. However, whammy bars are notorious for not staying in place or falling out, so guitarists often search for solutions to this problem, which is often easier to solve than it seems. 

When a whammy bar keeps falling out, it can sometimes be pushed deeper into the guitar to stay tighter. You can find a screw that keeps it in place on some guitars. Guitarists also use a threading die on their tremolo bars, PTFE tape, or a q-tip. Installing a ball bearing and spring can also help. 

This article will help you if you’re having problems with your whammy bar. Whether it is loose or falling out, you’ll know what to do to fix whammy bar problems in no time, allowing you to rock out even harder. 

whammy bar keeps falling out

Check if Your Whammy Bar Is Inserted All the Way

One common problem guitarists encounter is their whammy bars falling out or being wobbly because they’re not pushed deep enough into the guitar. This may be quite easy to overlook because a whammy bar can seemingly go all the way in while not installed properly. 

If you feel your whammy bar doesn’t quite sit in its place, don’t go on a wild goose chase. Try to see if you can push the whammy bar deeper into its slot. You’ll see that with a little bit of effort, you might secure the whammy bar in its place, preventing it from falling out and dangling.

Some tremolos have a tiny pressure screw on the side that you can push to let your whammy bar slide in deeper. This is present on Wilkinson tremolos, which you can find on Ibanez and some other guitars. 

If you’re not certain you’ve got this, call Wilkinson or Ibanez (or whoever your manufacturer is) and see if they can help you. You can Google first to see if this is an option on your guitar. You might get surprised by what you find out. 

It’s also important to install your whammy bar properly when you first get it. Let’s quickly see some steps to do that. 

Tips for Installing a Tremolo Bar

Installing a whammy bar is an easy thing most of the time, but you can unexpectedly run into problems that can make your head spin. However, getting to know those problems before you get annoyed or nervous about it is important. 

  • See if the trem bar is screw-in or pop-in. While you might simply say “duh” to this, such simple matters can be easily overlooked, so you have to check in advance. If you try to screw in a pop-in bar, it will just fall out. The same goes for the opposite situation. 
  • Make sure the bridge is not too tight. Guitarists sometimes run into this problem, unaware of the situation. This often happens on second-hand guitars. If the bridge is too tight, you’ll be able to install the whammy bar, but it won’t move or will move only downward. Loosen the screws just enough to let the whammy bar move, but don’t go overboard, so you don’t lose it. 
  • Check if the tremolo is blocked. This is another problem that can happen with second-hand guitars. Some users block the tremolo, so it’s impossible to install it. You should open the tremolo cover to see if this is causing the problem. There might be a little piece of wood there blocking the tremolo bar. Remove it and see if you can install the bar that way. 

These problems often occur and can be frustrating, especially for a beginner. However, a bit of patience can go far, and if you examine the guitar carefully when you get it, you’ll evade a lot of pain. 

tips for installing a tremolo bar

If you can’t locate the problem, get a guitar technician to check the guitar for you. You might have to set it up anyway, and since you need a technician to do that, tell them about your whammy problems. It will cost slightly more, but it will be worth it. 

Use a Threading Die To Keep the Whammy in Place

People typically use threading dies to cut external threads, usually on tapered or cylindrical surfaces. It might seem an odd choice for fixing a guitar, but some guitar technicians use it on Fender Jaguars when the whammy bar gets too loose.

Sonic Youth’s guitar technician Eric Braecht used this trick on their guitars and Nels Cline’s too. He says you should thread the die at the end of the whammy bar and then add a lock nut. This will keep the whammy bar in place, but there are a few caveats. 

First, you’ll never be able to remove the trem bar. However, if you rely heavily on the whammy bar, you probably won’t even want to remove it. In that case, you’ve got no worries from this side. 

Second, this technique will remove the guitar’s aesthetics and originality. This problem will remove some of its worth, so it’s a no-go if you’re planning to sell your guitar. It’s also not a great option if you wish to retain the original looks of your guitar.

However, this is a great technique if these problems don’t bother you. Your whammy bar will be rock-solid and will withstand a lot of abuse. Sonic Youth are known for their energetic and passionate playing, so if this works for them, it will work for you. 

Consider Changing the Bridge

Some guitars have famously (or infamously) bad bridges. This is particularly a problem with Fender Jazzmasters. Some newer models have tried to solve this problem, but guitarists still sometimes run into problems. And if you’re using an old model, you’re bound to have bridge problems.

A low-quality bridge can create problems with your tremolo bar. While it might not fall out, it might be difficult to keep it in place and use it as intended. That’s why it’s important to have a high-end bridge. 

Some recommend replacing it with a Mustang-style bridge, which looks quite good. However, you can use anything reliable. It’s often quite easy to do, especially on modern guitars. However, it might be a more complicated task on some other guitars, so you should get a technician to help you. 

consider changing the bridge

Getting a Staytrem Is Also a Good Idea

A Staytrem is a replacement tremolo arm designed to eliminate the problems commonly caused by stock tremolo arms. It stays in place, sounds great when you play it, and doesn’t wobble. It also costs very little, so it’s a great investment. 

The only problem with a Staytrem is that it can’t be used on every guitar. You can only install it on the following models:

  • Fender Jaguar
  • Fender Jazzmaster
  • Fender Jaguarillo
  • Fender Bass VI

Therefore, it’s not a particularly versatile tool, even though it does a great job when you can install it. If you have one of these guitars, replacing the stock tremolo with a Staytrem immediately is a wise choice. You’ll get a high-quality trem bar and spare yourself from stress. 

Use PTFE Tape To Tighten the Whammy Bar

Taping the end of the whammy bar with PTFE tape is another great way to prevent it from getting wobbly or falling out. It seems a bit unusual, but it can work miracles in some cases, so it is worth giving a try. 

People more commonly refer to PTFE tape as “plumber’s tape”, so it might be easier to find it under that name. You can probably find it in any hardware store, and it’s not expensive, so you can stock up in case you need to replace the tape on the bar. 

All you need to do is take the part of the whammy bar that goes into the guitar and cover it in two or three layers of PTFE tape. The part that’s closer to the rest of the whammy bar should have more layers because most of the wobbling likely happens there. It also helps to wrap the tape around the threads in the opposite way the whammy bar screws in. This prevents the tape from bunching up. 

This trick will make the whammy bar sit tightly in its place without moving too much (or too little). It works particularly well on Stratocasters, but it will probably work on other guitar models, too. You should avoid using too much tape. That could make it impossible to screw the bar into place and use it as intended. 

There are some downsides to this trick. Taping the whammy bar might make it hard to remove. If you have to remove the bar often, this technique might not be for you. The tape will also deteriorate over time, so you’ll have to retape the whammy bar now and then. 

If you don’t have to remove the bar and don’t mind reapplying the tape, you’ll probably have lots of success with this. Unfortunately, finding the perfect fix is impossible, so you just have to go with what causes the least number of problems. 

Use Dental Floss

Dental floss is another unusual household item that some guitarists use to keep their whammy bars in place. Apparently, you can wrap dental floss in the threads of the bar to keep it tighter. This is not something that people often do, but since there’s a handful of guitar players swearing by this technique, you can give it a try and see if it really works.

use dental floss

I can’t guarantee this will work, as I’ve never tried it, but it might work for you. In the worst case, you’ll waste a few inches of dental floss without damaging your guitar.

You Can Also Use Heat Shrink Tubing

Some guitarists have had good results with heat shrink tubing, which might be the most unusual material for fixing a whammy bar. It will cost only a few bucks, and you can easily remove it if you see that it doesn’t work. 

You can put a small piece of the tubing near the top of the threads on the whammy bar. Then, you should apply some heat to make it shrink, which will give you a nice plastic cover that prevents the whammy bar from being wobbly. 

It’s best to use a heat gun for this, but a hair dryer will work reasonably well if you don’t have a heat gun. You also use anything that produces heat but with varied results, so it’s difficult to know what to expect. 

This method will prevent the arm from moving around, but you’ll still be able to take it out. The tubing won’t deteriorate as fast as PTFE tape, which is another plus. However, it’s more difficult to pull off and requires more money, so it’s easier to use the tape. 

A Q-Tip Can Also Help

Using a q-tip to keep your whammy bar tight is another quick and budget-friendly option. The cotton part of a q-tip is the only thing you need, apart from a few moments of your time. This method only applies to guitars on which the hole for the whammy bar has a bottom. In other cases, you’ll have to use a different technique. 

What you need to do here is simply remove the cotton part from a q-tip and push it into the whammy bar hole. Use the plastic q-tip handle to jam the cotton into the hole. After that, screw in the whammy bar, and the job is done. 

The best thing about this method is that it allows you to choose how tight your whammy bar will be. You can screw it in tighter, but you can also leave it hanging. This will allow you to get it out of the way when you want to strum, but keep it close to you when you need it. 

Allegedly, this method was created by Stevie Ray Vaughan’s guitar technician. If it was good enough for such a guitar legend, it must also be good for us mere mortals. And considering the overwhelmingly positive experiences guitarists have had with this trick, it must be worth a try. 

Install a Ball Bearing and a Spring

Squeezing a ball bearing and a little spring into the whammy bar hole is another great way to prevent the bar from moving too much. It’s not a big investment, and it’s very quick, so it’s worth a shot. 

You’ll need a three-millimeter ball bearing and a spring. You can get a pack of each for a few dollars, so if you ever need to replace them, you’ll have the materials ready. What’s best, you can get original Fender springs, which is advisable for the best results. Of course, if you’ve got a different guitar, try to find springs made by the manufacturer. 

install a ball bearing and a spring

Note that some guitars have a bottom in the whammy bar hole while some don’t. This is easiest to pull off with the first kind of guitar, but we’ll also see what you have to do if your guitar belongs to the latter kind. Let’s take a look at the steps.

  1. Insert the ball bearing into the hole.
  2. Cut the spring in half if necessary. It’ll probably be necessary.
  3. Insert the spring. 
  4. Screw in the whammy bar. It will still be a bit wobbly until it makes contact with the spring. Once it makes contact, it will be tight.

As you can see, it’s a quick and easy method. Many guitarists have used it with great success, so you can also expect good results with it.

But suppose your guitar has a hole through which the ball bearing and spring will simply slide through. What should you do then? 

Some advise that you can cut the threading of the whammy bar in half with a handsaw (or another tool) and push the part you’ve cut off into the hole. You can also superglue it to be sure, but it’s likely unnecessary. This will create a bottom that will allow you to go through the steps above without problems. You probably won’t need the whole threading of the whammy bar anyway, so you’ll be just fine.  

If you don’t feel like destroying parts of your guitar, you might solder on a piece of metal on the bottom or squeeze in a piece of wood and superglue it. The latter option is less invasive, so maybe it’s better to choose that one. It’s a particularly good idea if you are not confident in your soldering skills. 

Final Thoughts

A loose whammy bar prone to falling out is a common problem. Thankfully, it’s not difficult to solve, at least most of the time. As we’ve seen, there are plenty of tricks to make it sit in place, and you can easily fix your tremolo and keep jamming like nothing happened. I hope you’ve learned some useful tricks in this article, and I wish you luck in advancing your guitar skills! 

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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