How to Properly Install an Output Jack on your Guitar

Installing an Output Jack is an essential skill to have under your belt. Installing it wrong, however, can give you a literal headache. At Fralin Pickups, we wire Switchcraft® Output Jacks on our Telecaster Control Plates all the time. This guide will teach you how an output jack actually works, so you never need to Google a diagram again.


To understand how an Output Jack works, it’s best to start with the guitar cable. The cable sends your pickups’ signal through your amp and speaker, and part of the signal to Ground. Let’s take a look at a guitar cord and dive in:

How to Install an Output Jack

  On a cable, the Tip is the “Hot” signal – your music. The Sleeve is the Ground signal that contains unwanted noise from your guitar. Also, there’s a black plastic piece separating the two. Wiring the Output Jack backwards would reverse these – not what you want to do! Follow the following diagram to show you how to install this effectively:


HOW DOES IT WORK?

When you insert your guitar cable, the guitar cord is slid through a metal tube. This tube is the Sleeve, or the Ground connection. Also, when you insert your cord, you should notice a “snap”, securing the cord in place. That “snapping” feeling is the tip of the guitar cord locking in to the Tip Arm (pictured below). The Tip Arm is completely separate from the rest of the Jack, being sandwiched between two layers of Phenolic.

There are a few things going on when you insert your guitar cord. The Sleeve is coming in contact with the Metal Tubing, and the Tip is locked in to the Tip Arm. Now that you know how it works, you can easily identify the correct way to install the wires.


INSTALL:

Installing the jack is very simple, but there’s a few important steps to perform before you begin. Before you install, it’s important to do two things: 1.) pre-tin your terminals, and your wire. 2.) put a kink in the tip of your wire to create a mechanical connection. Creating a mechanical connection will ensure a strong connection.

TO INSTALL:

  1. Install your White wire on your Tip terminal.
  2. Install your Black wire on your Sleeve Terminal
  3. Give yourself a pat on the back!

We hope that this guide is useful to you. As always, more to come! Thanks for reading.

Written By:

Tyler Delsack

Tyler Delsack is the Manager of Fralin Pickups and spends his time editing and maintaining the website, designing graphics and ads, and making pickups. He's powered by Jazz Guitar, Vietnamese Food, Hiking, and Beer.

Author's Note: These blog posts are for educational and information purposes only. We do not offer custom wiring diagrams or wiring help or troubleshooting. For this, we recommend going to a local luthier or tech.

27 Comments

  1. Hello Tyler, once again have to say thanks for this very useful web site.

    With your explanation the connection is very clear now. Just a copuple of questions. Does both cables (white and black) need to be shielded? The gauge of this cables from Volume pot to output jack you recommend to be same gauge of the pickups cables?

    1. Hey Alberto,

      The wire doesn’t need to be shielded at all. We use 7-stranded cloth leads (Fender-Style) to hook up our output jacks. The multiple strands help prevent the wire from breaking.

  2. Hi. I want to wire an extra output on my acoustic that is a direct signal from the piezo pick up so I can route this to an external pre amp. Can I just connect to the input jack of the acoustic pre amp and run the output straight from there or will this cause an unwanted feedback loop? Could these 2 outputs then be used simultaneously to different amps?

    1. Hey Jerome,

      Piezo pickups are not really our thing…but it should work as I believe they are active, meaning they have a preamp to boost the signal. I could be wrong about that point. If your guitar takes a 9V battery, you should be able to run both output jacks in parallel off of the volume pot.. I think. Don’t quote me on that.

  3. Hi Tyler, I’m getting confused, I have an Aria silent guitar and the output jack needs replacing, as it switches the guitar on when you put in the male jack plug , what type of output socket do I buy? I presume it’s a mono but also articles say I can use a stereo and wire the extra terminal to switch on the battery. My existing ( not working well) output jack has 4 cables and a very obvious contact switch at the tip end. Thanks in advance for any info.

    1. It depends – examine the drawings above, and trace which lead connects to the Sleeve part of the chassis – that’s the foolproof way to do it.

  4. You really know someone knows their stuff when they can make it simple. This was a huge help and you’re a great teacher. Thanks a bunch.

  5. Hi
    I can’t get any sound from my guitar to my amp.
    I have a black cable
    Then a grey cable – which has a wire lattice and a white cable inside it.
    The black is connected to the sleeve.
    Bit then the lattice from the grey cable is also connected to the sleeve.
    The White cable is connected to the tip.
    What is this “lattice”.
    Hope you can help
    Paul

    1. Hi Paul. The “lattice” you’re talking about is the shielding around the signal wire. It is intended to reduce noise and essentially send any interference to ground. The shield should be connected to ground, which is the sleeve. The black wire is also a ground wire, so they are both connected to the sleeve. The white wire would be your signal and you need to make sure the conductor inside does not make any contact with the shield.

  6. Thanks a lot to share such valuable information about the installation of output jack. I have just started to learn guitar and before reading this blog I have no idea about the output jack installation. I was just looking for it and suddenly found your article. Recently I have learnt how to fix guitar tuner buttons and done by following tutorial. Thanks again.

  7. That’s very helpful. On the guitar I’m repairing has a two core wire , one central in clear the other wrapped around it in a webbing. Trying to decide which one is hot . Other than doing a loose connection and plugging it in, any suggestions?

    1. Hey Pat,

      There’s really no way – I think the best method is to open up the wiring and trace each wire and see which one is connected to the back of a volume pot/chassis. That will be your ground.

  8. i have a bass that broke and the wires are connected to the output jack but they broke off on the tone knobs. i’m not sure which one goes where because they’re both black. Please help.

    1. Hey Ziip,

      I would personally recommend taking this to a local repairman to wire it up correctly.

  9. We have made a tool box guitar and having problems with output and pickups. We can not get any sound output at all, all wiring has been double checked and correct. If I have attached Output Jack and Pickup to the outer metal casing of the tool box could this ground it out completely?

    1. Hm…

      There could be a few things going on here, and it is tough to diagnose this online. I would personally recommend taking this to an experienced luthier who can troubleshoot it for you!

      If you have grounded out the toolbox, any ‘hot’ from the signal that remotely touches the toolbox will be sent to ground, and therefore produce no output.

  10. Hello,
    Can you tell me if there is any truth to the belief that your soldering iron can inadvertently demagnetize your pickups? How about the large pistol grip units at 100W or 200W?
    Thank you.

    1. Hey Joe,

      Soldering pencils do not. The large soldering ‘guns’ are so powerful that they create a magnetic field around them that can de-mag the pickups. It’s happened here for sure!

  11. Thanks Tyler. I suddenly realised when faced with this task (after 50 years playing) I didn’t have a clue what went where and more importantly WHY. Nickey Stepehenson’s comment and your answer also explained the wiring on my Gretsch guitarlele and Ibanez mandolin.

  12. Stagg electric ukulele. 1 white wire, 1 red wire, 1 black wire. Please , where do these wires attach on my new output jack. Please help me. Thank You so much.

    1. Hey Nickey,

      White Wire would be Tip (Hot) Black Wire would be Sleeve (Ground), and Red might be a battery? If you have a battery in your Uke, that might be the culprit.

      If that’s the case, you need an Active Output Jack, with 3 terminals (Tip / Ring / Sleeve). The Ring connection would be where the Red goes.

  13. Thank you Lindy for your tips ! – Jim, 64 year old engineer General Motors , 50 year player. I learned a lot just from your basic tips that I wish I new a LONG time ago. JD Jones Lake Wales, Florida

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