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I’ve just bought a second hand Squier bass. When it arrived I immediately restringed it and that was when I noticed that the action was extremely high - Almost half an inch!

I adjusted the saddles to see if that’d make any difference. It did but not enough. I then decided to adjust the truss rod. This also didn’t make a difference and I’m not sure if the truss rod is broken? It felt very forced turning clockwise however when I moved it back moved with no force whatsoever, as if it was just spinning.

I’ve played guitar for years and I’ve never had any issues like this but honestly I have no idea what I’m doing! The action of the strings is highest towards the middle of the neck?

At first I thought the bass was supposed to have a really high action but after checking with friends who play bass this is not the case.

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  • Does the neck look very curved? (This is best answered with photos). The truss rod only changes action as a side effect, its purpose is to adjust relief, i.e. how curved the neck is. – Edward Jan 6 at 3:11
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    You admit you don’t know what you’re doing. We can’t make you a guitar or bass tech just by writing some words on the Internet. You’ll probably have to take the bass to a tech to get it set up properly. From what you’ve written it seems unlikely that a little online advice will help you set it up yourself. It’s just not that simple a process. – Todd Wilcox Jan 6 at 4:18
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    If you bought this instrument from a dealer you should see about returning it as defective. An instrument shouldn’t be sold with an extremely bowed neck and excessively high action. – John Belzaguy Jan 6 at 4:20
  • Just out of curiosity: what was the action like before you restrung it? You didn't even play it once before restringing? – Michael Curtis Jan 6 at 15:30
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There's high and then there's HIGH, and by this sounds like the bad kind.

If you fret at the first and last fret, there should be slight room between the frets and strings at around the 10th to 12th fret. If there's a lot of room, then the neck is too bowed. When you tighten the truss rod, it should straighten out, but this is make a quarter turn, stop of there's too much resistance, and let it sit for some time before you turn again. If you can't turn it, or turning it makes no difference, see your local repair shop.

Once the neck is straight, if the action is still high, then you adjust the saddles. You then need to do intonation and pickup height, but that's gonna need to happen anyway.

There's a chance that you will still be unable to get the action low enough, and here you would shim the neck, which will adjust the neck angle to where it's good. A thin piece of wood, maybe the size of a business card, would be enough to get the neck angle back to good. I did this with my Tele years ago and got that action way down.

Without seeing and handling the guitar, I don't think I can fully diagnose your problem, but this is about all you can do without making sawdust from your bass.

Good luck.

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Questions -

Why did you re-string it?

Did you notice the action was awful before?

Did you use the same gauge strings?

Is it tuned properly (I've known people tune up an octave, and no, the strings didn't break).

Have you tried adjusting the trussrod with the strings slackened off?

Have you contacted the seller again?

Have you shown it to someone who knows what they're doing?

Have you sighted along the neck with slack and tuned strings?

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    All excellent questions. @ashjm - if you answer these questions in comments, we can provide much better help. – Jeff Learman Jan 6 at 15:21
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  1. measure "relief," which is the curvature of the neck. From the Fender shop manual:

The factory specification for appropriate neck relief for Fender® bass guitars is between . 012” and . 014”, measured between the bottom of the string and the top of the fret, at the 7th fret. 4-string bass, depress the “E” string at the last fret with one hand.

You can get feeler gauges at any auto parts shop or hardware store to measure this. While the manual doesn't say this, it's generally best to put a capo at the first fret when measuring, in case nut height is wrong.

  1. Make a SMALL adjustment of the truss nut. This nut should NOT be loose; if it is, tighten it until you get firm resistance, turn one half-turn more, and then measure relief again. If it's already firm, turn a half-turn and measure again. Repeat until either this feels too tight (like you're going to break something) or you can measure the change in relief. Important: after each adjustment, let the bass sit for a day! If it gets so tight it feels like you're going to break something, then back it off a whole turn or two, and take the bass to a shop.

  2. Once you're in the ballpark, only adjust the truss rod by about 1/4 turn at a time, and give it a day to react. Measure and adjust again.

  3. Once you have the relief in the right general area, check the action and try adjusting the saddles. If this works, great; you're done. If not, continue.

  4. Check the nut height. This is pretty obvious: use the feeler gauge at the first fret. Google for what this should be on a Fender bass. As a general rule, though, it should be close to the difference between first and second fret, and so on. At most, about twice as much.

  5. If everything else is reasonable but you're still out of range of saddle adjustment, then the neck needs to be reset. The good news is that Fender basses have bolt-on necks, so this is possible. I would get a luthier to do it, but if you're at all handy with woodwork you might be able to do it yourself, by adding a shim. (It's also possible to re-file the neck, but I'd avoid that without expert advice, since you can't undo a mistake.) Use the hardest wood you can find for a shim. It'll need to be very thin with a very small angle so you'd need access to a good shop to make one, but perhaps you can find something that works. For the most part, this won't damage anything so you can experiment without too much worry. But I'd take it to a luthier.

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