Many guitars are damaged by heat during the summer, and by dryness and sudden temperature changes in winter.
Glues holding your guitar together can soften with heat, causing parts to shift. Don’t leave your guitar in your car on a sunny day; the temperature inside can build up quickly. Also, avoid other direct sources of heat. Many imported guitars are less prone to heat damage because they are built with high-tech glues (this can also make them more difficult to repair), but any guitar can be damaged by heat.
Once the heating season begins, the humidity level in many homes can drop to 10% or less. Ideally, instruments should be kept in an environment of 40 to 50% humidity. If you don’t have a household humidifier, buy a Dampit or similar instrument humidifier and make sure you keep it moist. Otherwise, as
the wood dries out cracks can develop. The wood can distort in other ways as well, such as back bowing of the neck, leading to severe buzzing. Guitars with laminated tops will not crack due to dryness, however, excessive dryness can still cause some problems.
Sudden temperature changes can also cause cracks, especially in the finish. If your instrument has been out in the cold, let it warm up gradually in the case before taking it out and playing it. This will also prevent moisture from condensing on your instrument.
Traveling with your guitar can pose a few hazards. Guitars are safer in a hard shell case, but remember to guard against heat damage. Also, airlines are notorious for damaging instruments. You may not be allowed to carry your guitar on board, and your guitar is often treated no better than someone’s socks and t-shirts. Think twice before deciding to fly with your instrument. Consider shipping it instead.
Be aware that your instrument can be damaged while it is in the case, even a hard shell case. If the case happens to fall over the most frequent damage is cracking the neck near the headstock. Be careful when leaning the case upright. And don’t try to stuff a lot of extra papers, etc. in the case either.
Strings need to be changed periodically, They will generally have lost their tone long before they break. Typical string life may range from a few weeks to a few months depending on how much you play, the type of strings you use and other factors. Wiping the strings clean after playing will help prolong their life.
Be sure to choose the proper type of strings for your instrument. Guitars built for nylon strings should never be strung with steel strings.
To clean your instrument just use a slightly damp soft cloth, and wipe your instrument dry. If you feel you need something stronger, these days we prefer Trick Guitar Polish. Some other polishes leave a residue or are abrasive. Do not use furniture polish.
Fretboards rarely, if ever, need to be oiled or lubricated in any way. You don’t need to buy any products to “condition” the fingerboard. If there’s any accumulation of dirt around the frets, a light buffing with 0000-size steel wool will take care of that. The buffing should mostly be in the line with the fingerboard.
Vinyl straps and plastic string packaging will damage a lacquer finish. Guitars finished with polyurethane (plastic) will not be damaged by vinyl, but when in doubt, use a nylon or leather strap, or store the strap away from the guitar. If your string packing is vinyl, don’t leave it laying in the case against the guitar. Luckily, hardly anyone packages strings in plastic packaging, and vinyl-backed straps are also mostly a thing of the past.
If your instrument is damaged:
First, loosen the strings to reduce the tension on the guitar, so the problem doesn’t get worse. Leave the strings on–just
loosen them. When you bring your guitar in for repair it helps us to evaluate your instrument if the strings are still on. Also, the sooner a repair is done, often the easier (cheaper!) it will be. (And if you try to fix it yourself and fail, it may cost you more if we have to remove old glue….)