So you’ve decided to install some new tuning machines. Maybe it’s because you’re just tired of having to retune your guitar multiple times a session, maybe it’s because you want to do your Dimebag Darrell impression and manage to stay in tune, or even something just as simple as wanting your hardware to match.
Best case scenario, the only tools you’ll need are a screw driver and maybe a ruler. Worst case, you’ll also need sandpaper/round file/peg hole ream, a drill, and maybe some dowels or superglue if the size difference is significant.

We’ve been on a How-To Guide Frenzy lately! Be sure to check out our articles: How to Adjust your Truss Rod and How to Intonate Your Guitar.

Now, as far as guitar mods go, this is often a very easy and straightforward task involving very little work. It even made it to our list of 3 Easy Mods on a Budget! However, if you don’t bother to measure anything before you order parts, things may become frustrating.

(If you need some suggestions on some tuning machines, we have some of our favorites listed here.)

Before you start, there are a few things you should consider: Mounting screw pattern, post hole size, post height and sometimes tuning arm length (this isn’t usually a big deal, most are fairly uniform in this regard).

Now, most tuning pegs can be a simple process of removing the old one, putting the new one in the hole and re-drilling the screw hole/ mounting tab if needed – this is all assuming you’ve just bought direct replacements and have done your homework and measured the size of tuning peg you need.

Most modern tuning pegs will have a standard hole size of 10 mm (13/32”) whereas vintage will often be at the 9mm (11/32”), so it’s not a huge thing to worry about when ordering tuning pegs. It’s good to just pay attention to what size you’re ordering. However, if you’re wanting to go with a specific kind of tuning machine happens to be a different size, there are a few things you can do here:

1. If you are going from vintage size to modern, then all you need to do is take some sand paper/file/peg hole ream and carefully widen the hole equally on all sides until it goes from 9mm to 10mm. It may be tempting to use a drill here, but that can likely cause some tear out of the wood or damage to the finish.

2. If you’re going from modern size to vintage and the peg is wobbling, you can half-ass it by building up a small wall of superglue and once it’s dry, smooth out the glue with some sandpaper, then install the tuning peg. If you would prefer a more permanent fix, you can get some properly sized dowels, glue it in each hole, then measure and re-drill for the peg size. This only requires a bit of patience for the measuring and glue to dry properly before each step.

Next consideration you should make is the length of each pole. Are the tuning machines going to be staggered? And if they are going to be staggered, can the string hole clear the headstock? Most of the time this really won’t be a problem, it is however always good to measure your headstock’s thickness and compare it to the length of the tuning pegs just in case – especially if you decide to go with staggered poles.

Lastly, a few considerations when changing out tuning pegs are things like removing bushings – this is where you want to take some precautions, as the finish can become damaged if they are tightly fitted into the guitar. If the bushings can’t simply be popped out by hand, grab a piece of dowel the same size of the hole and push the bushing through with it. If you’re having trouble inserting a new bushing, do not force it. Just use a bit of sandpaper to slightly widen the hole in the headstock.

Changing up one’s tuning pegs isn’t really a huge task, 90% of the time it’s just a simple remove one and pop the other on. Very rarely are you going to have to do any actual work when fitting new pegs on, and even then, the amount of work that might be required is so minimal that anyone should be able do it if they’re comfortable with the tools.

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This article was written by Keegan Connor, our editor located in Canada.

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