Why Do Guitar Cables Go Bad?

why do guitar cables go bad

A great guitar cable should last years or decades with proper care, but certain factors may shorten its life.

First is general wear and tear, which occurs when not wrapping the cable up properly or when you step on it frequently.

1. Damage

Guitar cables are an integral component of any guitar rig and need to be treated carefully to ensure their longevity. But with proper care and maintenance they could last much longer!

As soon as you purchase a guitar, ensure it is properly stored. This will protect its cables from being damaged by blunt objects and harsh weather conditions, and for optimal protection use a hard case when travelling with it.

Avoid stepping on your guitar cable as this could result in serious bodily harm to yourself and others, particularly young children at home, as the cord could roll or slide under their legs and get caught between their legs, potentially leading to injury.

Stepping on cables can damage their insulation layer, protecting against abrasions. Furthermore, this could also harm solder connections connecting wires.

If your cable exhibits cracking or fraying, it is recommended to replace it immediately with one made from superior material. Also ensure you use only high quality cables.

Quality cables will help ensure they last longer and offer better sound, saving both money and time in the long run. Investing in high-grade cables could prove fruitful over time!

Maintaining separate guitar cables and speaker cables will help prevent damage to both, while making identification of them much simpler if they do come in contact with each other.

If you notice any pops or buzzes when plugging your guitar into an amplifier, swapping cables could help determine if the problem lies with either your audio jack or with one of its cords.

2. Heat

Poor guitar cables can have a dramatic impact on performance, tone and sound quality. A quality one will make your instrument sing with amazing tone; while poor ones may turn it into unlistenable noise.

There are various reasons for why guitar cables become damaged over time and some can be easily diagnosed and rectified. One such cause is simply overuse or misuse which damages them further.

This is especially relevant if you perform live on stage where guitar cords may often get tangled and trod upon. Therefore, keeping your cables clean and in good condition to maximize longevity.

Choose a cable with a sturdy shield to avoid picking up electromagnetic or radio frequencies that could interfere with your audio experience.

Additionally, an ideal cable should feature high-grade conductors and dielectric insulators to keep its core free from grounding or “leaking,” thus reducing vibrations caused by cable movements during playing.

Higher-priced cables typically use less Picofarads per foot than low-cost alternatives, indicating greater ability to prevent leaking.

Check your guitar cable’s condition by plugging it into an amplifier, touching its other end and listening for any pops or buzzes (dim the lights for optimal results). If a buzzing noise occurs when touching either end, that could be an indicator that it has become damaged.

3. Humidity

Humidity can wreak havoc with your guitar. It can cause the wood to expand and contract as well as crack. In addition, humidity can dry out glue joints leading to unglued bridges or parts becoming damaged on your instrument.

A good case or at least a case that’s well insulated against temperature and humidity changes is the ideal way to protect an instrument, whether you store it at home or work. Keep it away from windows that could expose it to sudden temperature and humidity changes, such as those near windows that offer natural sunlight and ventilation.

Consider replacing cables as they begin to sound odd or become outdated if they start sounding poor or becoming worn-out.

Purchase a cable that suits the way you play — for instance, if you tend to move around on stage a lot, consider investing in an Ernie Ball flexible cable with copper jacks – this will protect against moisture corrosion corroding its connections and wires.

Under normal conditions, cables should last several years with proper care and handling. However, overcoiled or pulled on too harshly may damage them and make them microphonic; when run around your guitar you might hear strange noises, hollow sounds and pops as a result of these damages.

If your guitar starts sounding bad, it is advisable to inspect both its cables and amplifier. One way is to gently wiggle each end and listen for any crackling or popping sounds; if any are present then your cables could likely be malfunctioning.

4. Over-stepping

Over-stepping is one of the primary causes of guitar cable degradation. Be it on stage or during practice sessions, accidentally stepping on your cable can quickly lead to damage that needs repairs.

Roll your cable carefully to prevent fraying and splitting as this is one of the easiest ways to maintain its condition and can prevent fraying, splitting and even breaking altogether.

Staying on top of your guitar cable maintenance requires not over-twisting it. Overtwisting can cause it to break or even short out completely, leading to unexpected failure of its structure and eventual destruction.

It is particularly essential if you’re performing on a stage with lots of dust or debris present. Furthermore, cables should be as short as possible since longer wires increase noise pickup potential.

Consider selecting a guitar cable featuring Oxygen-Free or Linear Crystal Copper conductors; these purer forms of copper provide superior conductivity and signal purity, giving rise to better conductivity overall. Though more costly, such cables will yield better sound quality overall.

5. Misuse

Misuse of guitar cables is often the culprit of poor connections that go bad, leading to serious consequences and potentially ruining guitars, amplifiers and other equipment.

Too often, people make the mistake of using different cable types that were never intended for that application, leading to issues down the road that could have been avoided through proper care.

An example is when someone purchases a cheap cable solely to connect their guitar, without considering other possibilities, such as something of higher quality that may outlive this low cost alternative.

Another issue can arise when people connect their instrument to an amplifier or PA system that they weren’t designed for, potentially causing severe damage and ruining its tone.

Avoid these issues by purchasing high quality cables designed specifically for these devices. A great cable will feature a durable outer jacket to resist wear and tear as well as shielding to block electromagnetic and radio frequency (RF) noise from nearby equipment.

Flexibility is also crucial to ensure a long life for any cable, especially as you play and move about on stage. A good cable should flex enough to withstand regular abuse without becoming damaged over time.

Finally, an ideal cable should have a strain relief to prevent the joint that attaches the wire to its connector from bending too far, creating unnecessary stress on its structure. This feature is particularly crucial as this is where most cables get damaged and must be replaced.

As soon as you press down on an electric guitar or bass string, electrical current travels directly from it to your amplifier through cables – this transference of electrical charge is of critical importance for creating tone.

At times, regular use can wear down your devices to the point of malfunctioning. In this article we’ll look into why this occurs and how to address it.


Though guitar cables may seem inconsequential, they’re actually very important pieces of gear to consider when taking care of. Without proper maintenance they could quickly deteriorate and affect both your signal quality as well as even cause permanent damage to your amplifier.

Bending is one of the primary factors contributing to guitar cables going bad, leading to signal loss or crackling sounds due to broken or loose wires inside them. Furthermore, continuous coiling of cables may cause poor connections and noise/feedback from amps as a result.

Another cause of guitar cable failure is physical wear-and-tear. Constant bending and coiling can wear away their outer insulation, leading to shorts or poor connections between instrument and amp. You can avoid this situation by purchasing high-quality cables with thicker insulation and better connections.

Care should also be taken when using and wrapping up cables after each gig, to avoid kinking or bending them and ensure that they remain out of reach of those who could walk over or accidentally bump into them during performance. Carry an extra cable so you can replace damaged ones at the end of your set if any occur.

Also, try only using the cables provided with your equipment or purchased from a reputable music store. Lower-priced cables tend to be thinner and flimsier, leading to quick wear-and-tear wearout and possibly featuring lower quality wires or connectors which could become vulnerable to rusting over time.

If you’re in the market for a new cable, consider purchasing one with at least one end featuring a right-angle plug to reduce stress on the cable and make fitting into some jacks and effects easier. Furthermore, many guitarists find playing more comfortable when using right-angle cables as it puts less strain on their hands.


A quality guitar cable may seem like an inconsequential part of your equipment setup, but its role in producing sound quality cannot be understated. Unfortunately, however, cables can become easily damaged over time leading to unwanted noise, static and other issues – but by understanding why cables break and taking steps to prevent further degradation you can extend their lifespan considerably.

Guitar cables are designed to transport low-powered signals from your instrument to an amplifier, where they are amplified audibly. They typically feature one small diameter inner conductor, a braided shield conductor that acts as ground connection and various insulators and outer jackets for insulation purposes.

High-quality guitar cables typically boast solid copper cores that allow them to conduct strong current without overheating or becoming damaged, as well as having low capacitance – the amount of charge stored between shield and conductor that can be stored between them – that reduce handling noise and electromagnetic interference caused by things like clothing rubbing against each other or other objects.

Material used to make cable insulation has an effect on its capacitance. Polyethylene and rubber tend to have lower capacitance ratings than more costly materials like teflon due to tighter winding of insulation that creates less of an electrical barrier between conductor and shield.

If your cables are left exposed to damp environments or used with pieces of equipment that contain metal parts, they could become vulnerable to oxidation and corrosion. This causes connectors to corrode, which could create issues when plugging your guitar in. Corrosion also damages the wires within your cable causing loose connections or breaks to occur.

Before storing or using cables for gigs, it’s essential that they be rolled up neatly and kept short as possible for optimal use. Also consider investing in some Pro Gaf tape which is easy to tear by hand without leaving behind a mess behind.

Faulty Jack Connectors

Reliable connections are one of the key components of a guitar cable, as this ensures uninterrupted signal flow and provides crisp, clear tone during performances and recording sessions. A malfunctioning jack connector may lead to distortion, degraded tone quality or intermittent connectivity issues; fortunately, repair solutions often come quickly enough that this expense can often be saved with just a simple repair effort.

If your jack connector has malfunctioned, its cause could be mechanical damage or wear and tear. To identify this, perform a visual inspection to check for bent prongs, broken pins or damaged housing; additionally you can plug it into an amplifier and tap on its cable’s end in order to listen for buzzing sounds from within it.

Like any component in your rig, quarter inch cables are subject to wear & tear over time, particularly the jack socket at their tip. Over time this may become loose through repeated use or being dropped on hard surfaces; this could result in tip of jack pins becoming loose or falling out entirely if left connected for extended periods of time. One way to mitigate this potential hazard is using a rubber washer when connecting and unconnecting cables from each socket.

Guitar jacks can also become subject to corrosion when exposed to humid environments for extended periods. Corrosion may result in intermittent signal loss, distortion or even completely dead output; to protect them against this possibility it’s wise to store them in dry environments and regularly clean them using lint-free cloths.

If your guitar jack has broken, replacing it yourself may be possible; this requires basic soldering skills. However, if you prefer working with electronics more directly then professional help should be sought to perform this repair. In any event it’s wise to exercise caution when using soldering irons in well ventilated environments in order to reduce inhaling fumes from them.

Inadvertent Damage

A guitar cable is a wire that transports your signal from your guitar to another device, such as an amplifier, pedals or tuner. Each end of the cable features a connector – usually 3.5mm stereo (TRS) jack – with two contact points: Tip and Ring – that are used to plug into instruments or devices while ground connects via Ring.

Over time, constant bending, coiling, and uncoiling of cables can lead to wear-and-tear at their point of attachment to connector tips, eventually leading to broken connections, noise or signal loss, noise suppression problems or worse yet cables that no longer function as intended.

Your cable’s connector tip may no longer appear as bright as when you first started using it, which is likely caused by corrosion. Metals corrode when exposed to moisture and air, so proper storage and regular cleaning is crucial in keeping your cables looking great for as long as possible. #00 steel wool can easily remove blemishes from connector tips to preserve their looks for as long as possible.

Another element that determines cable quality is materials and construction techniques. High-grade guitar cables typically use copper cores with effective shielding layers to block radio frequency interference; cheaper guitar cables often feature plastic or rubber materials with inferior shielding qualities that allow RF noise into their signal paths.

Use of an appropriate cable is as integral to having an amazing guitar or amp as owning one itself. A quality cable should lay flat and coil easily for transport, remain plugged in, work every time it’s used and offer solid connections between its ends and those found on your instrument or amp, have an unobtrusive core that transmits signal without adding unnecessary noise, as well as boast a low capacitance per meter specification.