Fender 3-Screw Plate: To Mod or Suck It Up?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Zak TMD, Jul 29, 2021 at 11:59 AM.

  1. Zak TMD

    Zak TMD

    Apr 22, 2016
    Outside of the heart of darkness, Washington, DC
    Breaking even is the new making money.
    In December of last year I bought this CiJ 2004 Fender JB75-90us.


    It's really a lovely instrument and it plays / sounds great.

    My issue is with the 3-screw neck. As I'm sure you've seen a number of times in any thread talking about the original CBS basses or the reissues, someone shows up to chime in about the mounting instability. And, yea, they are right.

    I've noticed a little shifting and it's frustrating. I haven't taken it to get fully set up yet, cuz the dude I usually use has yet to start his shop back up and I want to swap the pups out on it.

    So here's my big question... should I consider modding this to accept a standard 4 bolt or do I just continue to make the appropriate adjustments and suck it up?

    On one hand, I know that doing any permanent mods will immediately destroy the value of it, but on the other hand the only reason I'd consider selling it is out of frustration around the 3 bolt... because the bass really does play, feel, and sound amazing. Sustain for days.

    Hit me with your thoughts.
  2. lug

    lug Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2005
    League City, Tx
    Get it set up and make sure neck screws are tight. I've played on a 3 screw G&L for more than 20 years and it's as stable or more than any bass I own.
  3. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    The 3-bolt Micro-Tilt Leo designed works just fine if it's executed correctly. As made by CLF Research for Music Man and G&L it always seems to be stable and reliable. And many Fenders with it work fine. The problems in my experience stem from oversized gaps between the neck and body and/or the finish on the neck heel and the neck pocket allowing the two parts to slide.

    There's a process required to make sure it's stable and I don't recall the details (I was a Fender dealer '77-'88 as well as a very early G&L dealer and bought a new Stingray in '79). TBut the general method is to loosen the string a step or two loosen the single lower screw a lot and the other two screws a couple of turns. Make sure the neck settles into the neck slot then tighten the two top wood screws then the single bottom screw. The amount of loosening the screws seemed to be what you had to be pretty careful of. There's bound to be online information with the original Fender service manual instructions.

    Changing to a four-screw attachment won't ensure more stability and will be a bit of a hastle so I wouldn't do it.
  4. luciens


    Feb 9, 2020
    No. The three bolt attachment is fine. Remember that, when tuned to pitch, the pulling-apart load is taken mostly only by the top two screws. The bottom screw just adds a bit of clamping and not too much at that, even with 2 or more. Adding screws elsewhere is very low bang/buck and you’ll just have a bunch more unsightly holes in your nice bass.

    A better option is adding something to the mating surfaces to increase friction. I used sticky back 200 grit sandpaper on my 70’s jazz bass and that helped. Didn’t cure it but made it less bad, enough that it didn’t move anymore unless I just really yanked on it…

    Last edited: Jul 29, 2021 at 12:51 PM
    Clutchcargo, P. Aaron and Zak TMD like this.
  5. Zak TMD

    Zak TMD

    Apr 22, 2016
    Outside of the heart of darkness, Washington, DC
    Breaking even is the new making money.
    Not to mention permanently altering the instrument...

    I think you're all right. I'll get it full set and see what happens. I've seen a lot of comments poopooing on the micro-tilt but I guess it's just likely these people never had them properly set up?
    Ricky Rioli likes this.
  6. Lesfunk

    Lesfunk Bootlegger guitars : S.I.T. Strings Supporting Member

    Apr 5, 2007
    Florida USA
    The whole 3 bolt neck paranoia is mostly a bunch of hooey.
    Leave your bass alone.
  7. luciens


    Feb 9, 2020
    The micro-tilt is useful in a pinch, like if you have a ski jump in the fingerboard- I used the microtilit on my first L2000 3-bolt to treat a ski jump for a while.

    But it’s not a critical adjustment to have. More of a nice-to-have from Leo Fender for finessing your setup if it gives you an action you like. But it won’t hurt if you disable it with a shim not milled with a hole in it, etc.

    Zak TMD likes this.
  8. Try applying bow resin in the mating area between the neck and body. Remove the neck, rub the resin on the back of the neck and the body cavity. Re-install the neck, do the above mentioned neck alignment and you should be good.
    TheReceder and Zak TMD like this.
  9. capnjim


    Mar 13, 2008
    I still can't understand the mechanics of how it can move. I believe it when people say they have had the necks shift, but what actually moves?
    If the bolt is tight, where does it move to?
    The only thing I can think of is if the holes in the body are too big. Otherwise, there is nowhere for it to go.
    Maybe the body holes need to be addressed on any problem basses.
    dkelley and dusterdan70 like this.
  10. FunkHead

    FunkHead Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2007
    JTE got it right in post #3. Loosen the 3 bolts and let the strings pull the neck nice and tight into the pocket. Just make sure you have the bass strings down on a soft surface like a bed or couch. Clench the neck and body tight with your left hand and loosen the neck bolts with your right hand. You’ll feel the neck tightening up into the pocket. Then tighten the neck bolts and you’re finished.
    Clutchcargo and Zak TMD like this.
  11. Zak TMD

    Zak TMD

    Apr 22, 2016
    Outside of the heart of darkness, Washington, DC
    Breaking even is the new making money.
    Thanks for this!
    FunkHead likes this.
  12. FunkHead

    FunkHead Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2007
    No problem. I do the same thing for 4 bolt necks.
    Clutchcargo, blmeier7 and Zak TMD like this.
  13. The point isn’t the amount of screws, it’s that his neck is sliding in the pocket more than likely, effecting intonation, and he’s looking for ideas to fix it. I agree a forth screw will not solve the problem however.
  14. While I disagree totally with the micro tilt part of it, and would discourage the use that feature, there’s no reason why the 3 screw setup cannot be stable. When you get the neck in position to where you want it, start shoving pieces of veneer, plastic shims or even cereal box cardboard etc into any gaps in the neck pocket till it’s tight. Trim off anything standing proud and you’ll never see it.
  15. P. Aaron

    P. Aaron Supporting Member

    And/or, a nice piece of maple or some hardwood veneer IF the thickness is just right.
  16. Veneer is preferable, but if that is too thick any sort of plastic from an ice cream tub or any other sort of packaging can be used. Being a model maker I have styrene sheets from 10 thouto 60 thou.
  17. MikeBass

    MikeBass Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2003
    Royal, Oak, MI.
    Common mod back before people considered them “vintage”. main problem is the neck pocket being too loose- like it was made by a 14 year old with a router.

    I had my 3 bolt Jazz converted to a 4 bolt back in like 89.
    Solid as hell. I kept it that way through 4 necks and likely won’t ever put the 3 bolt plate back on.
  18. Primary

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