AV Jag Tremolo Arm Fix

Like many others, my 2002 Fender American Vintage '62 Jaguar has a loose tremolo arm that would just flop around, and sometimes even fall out if I leaned forward far enough.  Here are a few ideas to fix that problem . . .

A common complaint about the American Vintage (AV) Jaguars and Jazzmasters is that the trem arms do not fit snugly into the collet that holds them in place.  These trem arms do not screw in, but are held in place by a friction fit with the collet in the trem assembly.  I've seen vintage Jags and Crafted in Japan (CIJ) Jags where loose trem arms are not a problem - it seems to be an issue with the AV reissues.

One easy solution is to wrap Teflon plumbers' tape (PTFE thread sealing tape, in some circles) around the trem arm and insert it into the collet assembly.  As there is little wiggle room (no pun intended) between the trem arm and the walls of the collet assembly, a couple of wraps of plumbers' will snug things up nicely.  Unfortunately, this is a temporary solution, as the tape gets ragged, unravels, and generally stops working after a while.  The good news is that this stuff is very inexpensive - it's just a pain to keep doing it - over, and over, and over, and over, . . . .  Also, you may even expand the collet teeth that provide the friction to keep the trem arm in place - so after a while, the plumbers' tape trick may not be effective at all!

I wanted to come up with a solution that would not be an on-going fix - but where to begin?

For starters, let's take a look under the hood:

Here's what the collet looks like from the underside of the tremolo assembly. This is a view of the collet with the trem arm installed.  You can just about see the end of the trem arm peeking over the top of the collet.

While changing my strings one day, I decided to remove the tremolo assembly and see if I could tighten the collet that holds the trem arm in place.  I have heard lots of horror stories about how fragile the collets are in the AV reissue Jags and Jazzmasters - many people have snapped off the teeth from the collets by trying to tighten them with pliers.     I tried that, too - (very carefully) - but stopped when I heard that fragile *ping!* sound of fatiguing metal.  Here's what that effort looked like:

 

If you ever try to tighten up the collet teeth, always be sure to have your trem arm in place - otherwise, you're almost guaranteed to bust off a collet tooth or two.

After failed attempts to tighten up the assembly with electrical shrink wrap (doesn't shrink tight enough), I decided to try a rubber beveled washer - just like the kind that goes into kitchen sink faucet assemblies.  They look something like this:
 

Your basic beveled rubber washer - this one is 3/8" size.

The side view shows the bevel in the washer.

 
As you can see, I used a 3/8" diameter washer, because that's what I had in the workshop!  These are also pretty inexpensive, too.  The inner diameter is just a little bit too small to fit tightly over the collet, so I used a tapered reamer to make the inside of the washer a bit bigger, as shown to the right:
   
It was a trial and error process to take away just enough material so that the washer would fit over the collet without being too loose.  f you don't have a reamer, you can use a 7/32" drill bit to remove material at the bottom of the washer, and continue at the top of the washer with a slightly smaller bit.  Just be sure to make the opening a little smaller towards the far end - the lines on the picture should give you an idea of what I mean. 
   
After you've enlarged the hole, slip the washer over the collet (don't forget to have the trem arm in place when you do this!), and voila!  Here's what the finished produce looks like:
 

Assembly complete!  Tapered washer has been  placed over the collet.

 

I don't know how long this fix will last, but it provides just enough pressure to firmly grip the trem arm in place!  Say goodbye to the floppy tremolo arm!
 

 

Update - Beveled Washer Fix Ver. 1.1:

Well, I guess my first fix wasn't too permanent . . . it lasted only about a week!  When I took the tremolo assembly off to see what went wrong, it did not appear that the washer had slipped, or anything like that.  I guess it just got stretched too much to apply the needed pressure.

One again I crafted another reamed beveled washer to grip the collet teeth.  This time, however, I removed a little less material from the inside of the washer and placed it more towards the end of the collet teeth - just at the point where the additional pressure is *really* needed to hold the trem arm in place.

As you can in the picture (sorry - it's a bit blurry), the washer is riding higher on the collet assembly.  This should put the squeeze where it's needed!

Of course, the washer could pop off and rattle around in the tailpiece cavity for a while, but we'll have to see.  For now, it's nice and tight.

Stay tuned for any developments!