While it seems like it's probably best not to expose anything to extreme climates, will keeping a guitar/bass amplifier in a car for a day, in either hot or cold climates, have any short-term effects on its well-being? Long-term problems? Are there any special considerations for tube amplifiers?

I assume that an amplifier has travelled in various non-climate controlled transports, for longer durations, even before it gets to me (from manufacturers, to distributors, to retailers, etc.)

Related : Effects of keeping a guitar in the car


As Ulf mentioned, the main problem is likely to be condensation. If it has been in a cold vehicle and then moved to a warm room condensation is likely to form. This in itself isn't generally a problem, as it will evaporate again once the amp and components warm up to room temperature, but if you turn the amp on before the condensation is gone you can easily get short circuits, especially across the high power output circuitry.

So the recommendation is to leave it in a room to warm up and dry out before using it.

For valve amps, you also want to avoid very high and low temperatures - because as @luser commented, the seal between the glass and metal parts of a valve can weaken or break, and once the vacuum inside the valve is breached, it will fail.

Generally - if possible do not leave your amp anywhere cold overnight, but if you must, ensure that you leave time for it to warm up and dry out before use.

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  • Are there any dangers of hot climates? Also, are there any long term effects of frequently leaving amps in cold areas (with proper warming up afterwards)? – American Luke Jun 10 '12 at 21:37
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    Long term effects of temperature cycling are failure of sensitive components, yes, but amps are actually pretty robust. Hot climates aren't so bad for transporting amps, moisture is your biggest enemy. – Doktor Mayhem Jun 10 '12 at 21:44
  • Why would valve amps have more problems with high and low temperatures than solid-state ones, the condensation issue aside? – leftaroundabout Jun 10 '12 at 23:04
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    Because the valves themselves are pressurized, and react differently at dfferent temperatures. This is why tube amps have to power up before they sing. Extremes add stress to the glass enclosures and can fracture the seals, allowing oxygen in and the valve literally burns out. – luser droog Jun 11 '12 at 3:15
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    @luserdroog tube amps have to power up for the simple reason that the cathodes need to heat up to the temperatures where they can emit electrons easily; this has to do about nothing with the pressure or the glass. The glass is of course sensitive to strain caused by temperature gradients, but those only happen at rapid temperature changes. In a car, the temperature usually changes slowly enough so that every part of the tube will have the same temperature at each time, save for variations much smaller than they are in normal operation of the amp. – leftaroundabout Jun 11 '12 at 14:45

This is maybe not exactly an answer to your question, but still:
I once left my GK bass combo in a truck in -30°C (-22°F) over night (in Finland). When I took it in and turned it on the next morning there was a loud bang with a flash, and it went dead. It was a chip that exploded, supposedly from a short circuit caused by moisture.

I shouldn't have left it in the truck in the cold, but if you ever do, make sure to give your amp time to warm and dry up before powering it up! :-)

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I once had to leave my GK MB150S amp outside in the cold for about 1 hr before being able to even get into a packed crowd in a very warm, humid room to do a gig. Amp failed- light on but no sound, and I had to put my bass through the PA, got through the gig on a wing and a prayer. However, the following day at home I switched on amp, plugged in bass and...everything worked absolutely perfectly, so I put the temporary failure down to condensation on components which caused short-circuit(s)- but no damage has been evident since.

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Once had a weekend gig tour in Maine when it was in the -20s. Played 2 colleges where the amp was not needed. It was in the car all weekend until a Sunday night club gig. Don't recall about how long it warmed up, but it performed normally.

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