Can a Guitar Be Left in the Sun? Guitar Makers Recommendations

I’ve owned a few guitars in my time, and have known many guitarists with very expensive guitars. And I often would play my guitar in the sun. So, I researched whether leaving a guitar in the sun is bad for a guitar. Based on people’s experience, here’s what I found.

Overall, leaving any type of guitar in the sun is not recommended according to leading guitar manufacturers, Fender and Ibanez. The heat from the sunlight can cause the neck of the guitar to bow. This affects the action, which is the distance between the strings and the fretboard. A guitar with high action is more difficult to play. Sunlight can also fade a guitar.

Certain guitars have UV protective finishes that limit the effect of the sunlight. But, many people have reported that sunlight will cause the color of the wood to change.

Playing the guitar in the sun, and leaving a guitar in the sun for short periods of time can be fine. However, it’s always best to limit it where possible. 

There are a few ways that the sunlight can negatively affect a guitar. 

So, below I’ll explain exactly why you shouldn’t leave a guitar in the sun. And how long you can leave it in the sun.

What does sunlight do to a guitar?

As you may know, the guitar is made of many individual pieces of wood, even electric guitars. Wood is known to expand when it gets hot, and contract again as it cools down. If the wood expands it changes its shape and can pull and push on the joins that connect the pieces of the guitar together.

This can affect the resonance of the guitar and degrade the tone.

Sunlight bows the truss rod and neck

There is also a truss rod that is made from metal that is located inside the neck of a guitar. Metal also expands and bends more easily when it’s heated. 

The guitar strings are secured tightly and pull on the headstock of the guitar. And the force over time is enough to bend the neck of the guitar. 

That means when you press your fingers on the frets you need to exert more force, and it makes your playing less accurate.

In extreme cases it may be so difficult to press on the frets that you get a buzz on the frets even when pressing your fingers as hard as you can. And then the guitar becomes unplayable.

A high action is where the strings are far away from the fretboard. And a guitar with a low action has strings that are very close to the fretboard. A low action guitar is the most desirable and the easiest to play.

This is because you don’t need to move your fingers as much or press as hard. As a result, you can play far faster, and with greater accuracy.

When I first bought my guitar, I had an old guitar that a friend gave me for free that had a really bent neck, and a really high action. 

He told me that when the neck is bent like that you can put it in a vice and bend it back into place. But, it does take some time. As it was my first guitar I decided to simply get a brand new one, since it was relatively cheap, was easy to play, and sounded really good.

Sunlight fades a guitar

There are a range of woods used that create a different tone to the guitar such as mahogany, and maple wood.

Sunlight is known to either change the color of the wood so that it is darker, or it can make the color of the wood lighter. It depends on the type of wood that the guitar is made from. The inlay of the guitar is the black part of the neck.

The black color will also fade when left in sunlight consistently and over long periods of time. Plastic components such as pickguards will also fade. White pick guitars are quite common and they can turn a yellow color over time.

How long can you leave a guitar in the sun?

The main concern with leaving a guitar in the sun is that it doesn’t get too hot. Heat is known to cause wood to expand. Then as it cools back to room temperature it will shrink. As it does that it puts strain on the joins. But, how long is too long to leave a guitar in the sun.

Generally, leaving a guitar in the sun for more than 5 minutes without a case should be avoided. It can be left in the sun for about 30 minutes in a hard case. But, a guitar in a soft case should only be left in the sun for about 5 minutes. Longer than that and you risk damaging the guitar.

It has been reported that guitars can be fine with 1 hour of direct sunlight a day. But, you should aim to keep a guitar out of the sun as much as possible. 

Some of the top guitar manufacturers such as Ibanez, and Fender say that a major reason not to leave a guitar in the sun is that the guitar will get too hot, and can damage your guitar. As you can see in the user manual for both their acoustic, and electric guitars. Here‘s a manual for one of Fenders guitars. It reads:

“The collective experience of all of the major acoustic guitar manufacturers today, has demonstrated that the ideal temperature to preserve the integrity of solid wood acoustic guitars is ‘room temperature’, which is about 70 °F (21 °C).”

The owners manual for a Fender acoustic guitar

This is the same recommendation given by Ibanez in their user manuals.

Keeping a guitar on a guitar stand – one that’s either wall mounted or is free standing is a good way to keep your guitar out of the way, and you can also admire how it looks.

When using a stand it’s best to keep it somewhere in the shade. For example, in the corner of a room. Or, on a wall that doesn’t get direct sunlight.

How do you protect your guitar from the sun?

Simply keeping your guitar out of the sun is the easiest option. But, you often need to move it from one place to another. And you may also be wondering whether leaving a guitar in its case in the sun is OK.

It’s best to keep a guitar out of the sunlight by using a case or placing it where it won’t get direct sunlight. Hard cases will protect a guitar from the heat of the sun better than a soft case. Soft cases are made of a lighter material and will heat up faster.

A guitar in a case should also be kept out of direct sunlight. Given enough time any case will equilibrate to the temperature of the surrounding air. So, leaving a guitar in its case in the sun is not recommended and will cause a guitar to age quicker.

In some cases this is desirable, however, in the case of heat and sun, they will damage the guitar rather than age it in a way that preserves the sound. A well aged guitar can sound even better with age.

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