In order to keep a healthy instrument, It is important to always store your it properly. Whatever it is at your home or when you are traveling with your guitar. It is important to try and maintain the ideal environment for your guitar of 70°F(21°C) and humidity level in the range of 40% to 50%. But, it isn’t always achieved and your guitar may sometimes be exposed to heat.
So, what happens if you leave a guitar in the heat? On an acoustic guitar, the bridge and the neck can fall off. On an electric guitar, the neck can come off only if it isn’t bolted in. In both types of guitar, it can shrink the fretboard which will cause it to fall, it can wrap the guitar’s neck and it can remove the finish of the guitar.
It is not rare that the guitar gets completely ruined due to exposure to the heat. The only option you will be left with is to spend a fortune fixing it.
if you are interested in what happens to a guitar in a cold environment you can check my post Can I Leave My Guitar In A Cold Car?
What Can Happen If You Leave An Acoustic Guitar In The Heat
The main difference between acoustic and electric guitars is in the way it’s built. Acoustic guitars have a lot less wood, and the body is quite thin. As a result, the temperature changes can have a significant impact on the performance and general health of the instrument. One of the main problems when making sure your guitar remains in perfect condition is extreme temperatures. This, of course, considers both hot and cold, and each can damage your instrument.
If you are keeping your acoustic guitar in your room, you should make sure that it isn’t near a heat source. Humidity, in general, can damage the instrument, and placing your guitar near a radiator or any other thermal source can cause permanent damage. Similarly, if you are traveling, you should avoid leaving your guitar in the trunk or in the car for longer than necessary. We all know how hot a car can get during the summer. According to California’s Weather Service with an outside temperature of 72°F the inside of a vehicle will reach 100°F within just 15 minutes for more information you can check their car temperature sheet. So the easier way to avoid repairs is to avoid leaving the guitar in the car.
Now, when we talk about the damage that heat can cause, the most common is the glue problem. When the guitar is exposed to the heat, the glue that’s used to fix parts of the guitar like bridge or fretboard can become softer. As a result, it is not rare that the bridge will simply fall off and your guitar will become useless. The problem can get even worse since the glue is used to fix the neck as well. In the end, heat can cause all kinds of glue-related problems from neck to bridge rendering your guitar worthless. Furthermore, the fretboard itself can shrink and leave the ends of the frets sticking out.
Besides physical and obvious damage or the one that will completely break and ruin your guitar, there are others that are a bit more subtle. For example, heat can also damage the finish of the guitar. For all of you that didn’t know, the easiest way to remove the finish from the guitar is by using a heat gun. As you can expect, the extreme temperature might ruin the finish as well. While you won’t find your guitar without finish after a while, it can cause cracking in the wood and even the neck can warp. Besides, repairing serious damage caused by heat, like removed neck or bridge can be quite expensive. The best course of action would be to avoid leaving the guitar in a car, or near any other heat source.
What Can Happen To An Electric Guitar In The Heat
The situation with electric guitars is a bit more favorable. As you probably know already, the electric guitar has a lot more wood, and the parts are not as thin as the acoustic one. The damage that heat can create is quite smaller. While it is still not recommended to expose the guitar to heat, you won’t have to worry about the bridge falling off or something similar.
The bridge on the electric guitars is usually bolted. Furthermore, many manufacturers still prefer bolt-on necks, which means that the neck won’t fall off either. However, the heat can still cause damage to the neck or wood in general. Similarly to the acoustic guitars, the neck can get warped or the fretboard can shrink or fall off. While this is not something that will happen as soon as the guitar is exposed to heat, you should still avoid doing it as much as you can.
Besides, there are guitars where the neck is glued in instead of being fixed using screws. If this is the case with your electric guitar, then it can fall off when continuously exposed to heat. Other than neck and frets, there aren’t many other parts that are glued so it is not the main issue with this type of instrument.
However, metal will contract and expand with constant heat changes and parts like neck and bridge are already under a lot of tension thanks to the strings. Finally, the heat can significantly shorten the life of the guitar’s strings. While this is not as problematic as a cracked finish, it is still easier to avoid exposing the guitar to harsh temperature changes.
How To Prevent Damage From Heat Exposure
The first and most obvious is to avoid leaving your guitar near thermal sources. For example, if you have a radiator or any other heater, place your guitar somewhere where it will be far away from it. Many luthiers and guitarists claim that the best place for leaving the guitar is in the case. This way, you can place a humidifier inside it, and ensure that you will avoid problems with humidity as well. Furthermore, the guitar in the case will be less exposed to temperature changes than the one that is left “in the open.”
Of course, sometimes is impossible to avoid transporting the instrument, and if this is the case, there are still several things that you can do. For example, If you left the guitar in your car then you should leave it for a while until it “gets used to” temperature change or its surroundings. This way, the guitar will have enough time to cool down before you start playing it. Not only that it will help to avoid the damage, but it will also improve the tuning.
Furthermore, getting a hard case is always a great option. The worst-case scenario is leaving the guitar exposed to heat without any kind of protection. So, if you are transporting the guitar, the hard case is your best option. Naturally, you should never expose your guitar to direct sunlight for a longer period of time.
Impact Of Humidity
Another important aspect of temperature changes is humidity. With higher temperatures, humidity can drop. As a result, the wood in the guitar can dry as well, causing it to crack. Naturally, acoustic guitars are in more danger than the electric ones because the wood is thinner. Besides cracks in the finish, the neck can bend as well causing all kinds of problems.
Electric guitars can also suffer from humidity, but the problems are not as serious as with the acoustic ones. The main reason for this is that electric guitars have a lot more wood in the body, and the finish on it is usually a lot thicker. While acoustic guitars have minimum finish on the body and neck, electric ones can have up to several millimeters of finish.
The easiest way to avoid dry wood and humidity problems is to get a humidifier. This device is easy to use, and you will just place it in the guitar case when you store it. Naturally, the humidity is connected to the location you’re at, but if you are visiting a place that is known to have low humidity, be sure to pack a humidifier to ensure that the guitar’s wood is fed.
Furthermore, there are protection oils and conditioners that you can use as well. Usually, you won’t need tons of it, and conditioner is applied to the fretboard approximately once a year. By investing a bit in proper maintenance, you will ensure that your instrument will stay in perfect shape and that you won’t have to spend a fortune on repairs that could’ve been avoided easily.
Leaving the guitar exposed to extreme temperatures can cause permanent damage that is not easily fixed. Whether you leave it in the sun, near a heater, or in the car (or trunk), it is possible that the glue tying the wood will come loose. Furthermore, it is not rare that the bridge falls off on acoustic guitars after being left in the extreme heat. We all know how hot a car can be in the summer, so do your best to avoid having to repair your instrument.
Besides acoustic guitars, electric guitars can suffer from heat as well. While the damage is not as significant as on acoustic ones, it can still damage the neck of the guitar and ruin the finish. Of course, the obvious way to protect the guitar is to completely avoid exposing it to heat. Naturally, this is not always possible, but there are still ways to protect it if you are traveling or if you are forced to leave it somewhere where it will be exposed to temperature differences.
There are also conditioners and oils that you can use as a protective measure from humidity as well. So, whatever you do, make sure that your guitar is in a safe environment and that you can avoid unnecessary damage to it. Heat is not something that you should treat lightly and keeping your instrument safe should be your top priority.
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