How To Fix a Stuck Vibrato Arm Set Screw

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Ken Parker
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How To Fix a Stuck Vibrato Arm Set Screw

Post by Ken Parker »

The Problem:
"I recently wanted to adjust the rotation friction of the vibrato arm and discovered that the set screw in the bridge that controls it is frozen solid."
We did use a steel setscrew which could be corroded, and you suggest.

This shouldn’t be too difficult to address.

Here’s try #1)…...

Get some penetrating oil (Kroil is the best kind, but in the hardware store they’ll only have “Liquid Wrench”0, and see about getting a tiny bit into the trouble spot with a Qtip or eyedropper so you don’t make a mess of it.

Let it work for awhile, maybe stand the guitar on its' head, and repeat a couple times before you try to loosen the setscrew.

While you’re at it, also leak a little bit into the recess in the bridge at the top, around the stainless steel bushing that the bar pushes into.

Try # 2)…..

If you have some mechanical ability and comfort with tools, try the following, and if you don’t, please don’t!

If the latter, perhaps there’s a family member or friend so gifted?

Anyway, what I would do is to find a small nailset or even a nail that fits into the setscrew’s hollow head. The size of the wrench that adjusts this screw is 3/32”, so it would need to be smaller in diameter than that.

Actually, the perfect tool would be a short piece of 3/32” hex key stock. In order to get such a thing, you would cut off one of the usual “L” shaped hex keys with a grinder so you would have a 2 or 3” piece of straight hex key.

Next, you would use the whammy bar to bend the vibrato way “down”, so you can get access to the setscrew without endangering the face of the guitar. (2 person job)

Finally, with the hex key all the way in to the setscrew head recess, and held firmly, nice and straight, you would give the key ONE medium bap with a steel hammer, after which the screw should move normally.

In the event that this works, you would then remove the screw, oil it, or rub it on a candle, and put it back in, where it will likely work fine for evermore!

If this doesn’t work, or if you have damaged the socket head of the setscrew, then other, more complex activities will be required.
"It's not me that designed the Fly guitar, it was all of you guys." - Ken Parker
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Re: How To Fix a Stuck Vibrato Arm Set Screw

Post by Ken Parker »

This is the setscrew:
F4288A43-104A-403F-BF64-9E945DC02276.jpeg
ED7EDE23-EB5D-4942-956B-385474ED0744.jpeg
10-32 X .250”, with a.050” long hard plastic tip
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Re: How To Fix a Stuck Vibrato Arm Set Screw

Post by Fly Rod »

Thanks Ken for the great guitars & this Fix.

On my Refined Fly that screw was rusted solid.

As you said I put some penetrant on the head of the set screw & stood the guitar on it's headstock over night in the corner
Used a syringe as not to make a mess
I have many hex head wrenches but they are all quality & in sets BUT I did have one of those sets that are like a pocket knife
Took the 3/32" allen wrench from that set & gave it a smack with my little brass elf hammer & then took the good 3/32" wrench & it came right loose.. Cleaned it & the threaded hole up with solvent & Q-Tips + turned a .177 bore brush in that tiny hole & it's good to go..
BTW I did this when the strings where at slack & wedged a angled pink rubber eraser under the tremolo while working on it..
Also my set screw didn't have the plastic tip & doesn't appear to have ever had one by the way the plastic insert was marked
Might try Ace Hardware for a replacement like the one you showed above..
It's a 2007 BP Deluxe
Thanks Ken
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Re: How To Fix a Stuck Vibrato Arm Set Screw

Post by Laughinglarry »

Ken, I have a different problem; the set screw can come completely out, no issue with tension on it at all, but the trem arm socket is VERY stiff, even with the screw not making contact. What kind of lubricant is best to use here? (Or is there something else I need to look at?)
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Re: How To Fix a Stuck Vibrato Arm Set Screw

Post by vjmanzo »

Hey @Laughinglarry—I know you targeted this question at Ken, but I’ll chime in ‘cause I had a similar issue once: perhaps you could use a drop of oil at the bottom part of the vibrato arm bushing?
A47EADDF-8B40-42F0-BEFE-1EFEF2B159D7.jpeg
Also, it’s not impossible to unscrew the bottom part from the back, although there’s not a lot of room. If it can be unscrewed, maybe you can pop the top part out from the bottom?
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Re: How To Fix a Stuck Vibrato Arm Set Screw

Post by Laughinglarry »

Thanks VJ! Your answer nearly paralyzed me; I'm overly analytical, and a "drop of oil" could mean SO many things. I have a bunch of specialized lubricants (from Liquid Wrench and PTFE to Lithium Grease and graphite powder), and after NOT doing ANYTHING for several days finally settled on good ol' 3-in-1 oil (it was a toss up between that, sewing machine oil and gun oil). It definitely helped, the arm moves about comparably to my other Flys, so I'm happy. Of course, I'm wondering if any of the other lubricants would have been better, but that's SOP for me... ;)
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Re: How To Fix a Stuck Vibrato Arm Set Screw

Post by vjmanzo »

Laughinglarry wrote: Tue Feb 22, 2022 4:09 pm …a "drop of oil" could mean SO many things.
My inner Italiano paesano says “put a little olive oil on it!” 😝

If @Ken Parker doesn’t reply, I’ll try to ping him about what oil he specifically recommends. 👍🏻
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Re: How To Fix a Stuck Vibrato Arm Set Screw

Post by Voice Of Reason »

vjmanzo wrote: Tue Feb 22, 2022 4:14 pm
Laughinglarry wrote: Tue Feb 22, 2022 4:09 pm …a "drop of oil" could mean SO many things.
If @Ken Parker doesn’t reply, I’ll try to ping him about what oil he specifically recommends. 👍🏻
VJ, I have the exact same problem as Laughinglarry. However, the only lubricants I have on hand is WD40 “Dry Lube” and regular (WD40).

Could you kindly advise me if it is ok to proceed or should I go get something else?
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Re: How To Fix a Stuck Vibrato Arm Set Screw

Post by vjmanzo »

Voice Of Reason wrote: Sun Jan 15, 2023 9:20 am VJ, I have the exact same problem as Laughinglarry. However, the only lubricants I have on hand is WD40 “Dry Lube” and regular (WD40).
The type oil you want is called "penetrating oil"—anything with a low viscosity that can get in between the two surfaces and provide a bit of slippery magic. I've asked Ken what he specifically uses, but any penetrating oil you can pick up at a hardware store should do the trick.The real function here is the striking motion—the oil just helps make that action to be more effective.

This is what Ken said previously in the original post:
Ken Parker wrote: Wed Jul 15, 2020 4:23 pm Get some penetrating oil (Kroil is the best kind, but in the hardware store they’ll only have “Liquid Wrench”)...
...so, I had overlooked that Ken actually did note two specific brands of oil he uses when I first replied to @Laughinglarry, but there ya go! ;)
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Re: How To Fix a Stuck Vibrato Arm Set Screw

Post by Securb »

I am so happy I found this site and resource. I have been dealing with this issue since I bought my Midifly and no luthier has wanted to help me with the issue. I just ordered Kroil and will report back hopefully soon with some good news.
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Re: How To Fix a Stuck Vibrato Arm Set Screw

Post by Securb »

The Kroil showed up I am letting it soak in overnight as directed

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Re: How To Fix a Stuck Vibrato Arm Set Screw

Post by Securb »

I am pumped, it worked! Thank you all, especially Mr. Parker.

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Re: How To Fix a Stuck Vibrato Arm Set Screw

Post by mmmguitar »

Congrats, @Securb! Your successful application of this fix inspired me to abuse the "like" system for the entire thread.
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Re: How To Fix a Stuck Vibrato Arm Set Screw

Post by Voice Of Reason »

Securb wrote: Sun Feb 26, 2023 7:35 am I am pumped, it worked! Thank you all, especially Mr. Parker.
This prompts me to try this again on my own. We don’t have Kroil in Canada (at least it’s very pricey). Found some Liquid Wrench (which is rare here as well). Fingers crossed.

Did you have to reapply oil more than once?
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Re: How To Fix a Stuck Vibrato Arm Set Screw

Post by Securb »

I put in a drop of Kroil and checked it a couple of hours later. I was able to rock the screw back and forth a little bit. I added a couple of more drops of Kroil and the next morning I was able to work the screw loose. I got the Kroil on Amazon for $21 USD on Amazon. A lot cheaper than a trip to the luthier. I have tried WD30 and 3 in 1 Oil on this screw with no luck in the past. The Kroil is the only thing that got the job done. If I were you I would have a friend in the US buy it and ship it to you in Canada.
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Re: How To Fix a Stuck Vibrato Arm Set Screw

Post by Voice Of Reason »

Securb wrote: Sun Feb 26, 2023 10:28 pm The Kroil is the only thing that got the job done. If I were you I would have a friend in the US buy it and ship it to you in Canada.
Thank you kind sir. We will try with Liquid Wrench first. If not, I’ll try to follow up on your suggestion.

Having Kroil shipped here is “nuts”. :mrgreen:
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Re: How To Fix a Stuck Vibrato Arm Set Screw

Post by Voice Of Reason »

Well, I have followed the directions and the set screw moves freely. However, it makes no difference whatsoever in the arm adjustment.

Before I go nuts and over-lubricate everything, could one explain me how this is supposed to work?

I mean my arm isn’t overly stiff and stays in place at all time. Are we supposed to be able to have the bar become loose ala EVH Floyd Rose?

Also, I heard 1-2 users saying the vibrato can flutter. However, I have never seen it done. Can anyone confirm if this is possible (I have a pre-refined Fly)?

Thanks to anyone providing insight.
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Re: How To Fix a Stuck Vibrato Arm Set Screw

Post by vjmanzo »

Voice Of Reason wrote: Sun Mar 19, 2023 2:06 pm Before I go nuts and over-lubricate everything, could one explain me how this is supposed to work?
It’s a little confusing, but here are two things that have helped me.

1) the set screw keeps the bushing from rotating not the vibrato arm

2) the bushing has a smaller interior dimension at its deepest point, so a vibrato arm that is bent slightly will go into the bushing at an angle and, in principle, stay put.

Does that help?
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Re: How To Fix a Stuck Vibrato Arm Set Screw

Post by Voice Of Reason »

vjmanzo wrote: Sun Mar 19, 2023 2:15 pm 2) the bushing has a smaller interior dimension at its deepest point, so a vibrato arm that is bent slightly will go into the bushing at an angle and, in principle, stay put.
Thank you VJ.

My bar would stay put even before being slightly bend (i.e. even when I bought the guitar in 2007). I suppose it is what it is. I can live with it. Just needed to see how it worked with others.

N.b. I take it fluttering has never been possible at all with the Parker vibrato system?
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Re: How To Fix a Stuck Vibrato Arm Set Screw

Post by vjmanzo »

Voice Of Reason wrote: Sun Mar 19, 2023 2:36 pm N.b. I take it fluttering has never been possible at all with the Parker vibrato system?
I have been told by others that it is possible on a Fly, but I, personally, haven’t put in the right amount of effort to say how it compares to Floyd-style flutter. My friend @VinceGenella flutters with his Flys, so maybe DM him?

A couple years back, I had started looking into the mechanics of what is actually fluttering, but I didn’t get very far. Do you know for certain if it’s the bar? The bridge itself? The spring? Some combination therein? I’ve heard lots of speculation and people speaking as passionate authorities, but, like many things with the guitar: none of it was very “science-y” 😊
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