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When I screw in the tremolo arm to my Fender American Performer Stratocaster, it is angled back a bit such that it is quite high above the strings when turned towards the neck, very close to the body when turned away and also hits the cable at the jack. The bridge is setup to float, so it's not flat against the body, where I would expect something like this to happen.

enter image description here

The arm itself is not bend, it really seems like it goes into the bridge block at an angle. Is this not abnormal?

Should I angle the bridge even more? Or just learn to live with it?

I also bought these tremolo arm springs but I can't screw the arm in after inserting a spring. All this is quite disappointing since everything about the guitar except the trem is great.

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The vibrato sytem that Leo put onto his Strats in particular work on a balance system. The tension of the strings pull one way, while the springs inside the body counteract that by pulling opposite. Remove the plastic plate from the back to reveal all. Changing the string gauge usually results in somee fettling in this area.

There is the facility to put anything from 1 to 5 springs on, and adjust their tension with a couple of screws. 2 or 3 seem to suit most folk. This in itself will adjust the angle at which the bar is. I have lost count of the number of arms that I've simply bent, carefully, in a vice. So if that's all you need to do, so be it.

As far as the tiny spring is concerned - some of the units have open threads, some blind holes. Yours is probably blind. If the spring is too long, and you can't start the arm thread by pushing down as it turns, the spring can be shortened. I'd put it in a vice and use an angle grinder.

Slightly off-subject, but I find most of these vib. units have awful threads which wouldn't pass engineering standards, and if I played a Strat regularly (I have several, but don't), I'd be using a Helicoil to give a much better fit.

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Randomly came across this via websearch. The angle you see coming out of the trem block is normal for vintage-era and vintage-repro trem blocks. It's drilled at an angle on purpose so that when put in the case, the arm can be turned toward the strap button and fit into the case without removing it. As for the bend in your trem arm itself, that looks 100% correct to me too.

I don't know if the trem block on the Performer series normally has the vintage-correct angled drill though. Maybe they grabbed a trem block from the vintage bin when yours was built, or that might just be the correct one. I can say that compared to my American Original strats, your photo looks totally correct for a floating bridge setup. Nothing weird going on. Play and enjoy. If you don't like the arm angle, you can bend it further, but however you grip it needs to protect the threads so they don't get crushed, and if you bend it very far chrome plating will likely flake/chip away.

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Right now I can't find a trem arm anywhere in the house [which just shows how often I use them ;)

As far as I can recall, the insert thread isn't exactly square to the bridge itself, otherwise the natural resting position would be too close to the body.

However, I'm pretty sure the bend in the arm should be closer to 90°. Yours looks quite a way out from that.

enter image description here

DIY bend methods - I've seen people do everything from set it up carefully in a vice & gently but firmly pull into a new alignment with a leather wrap & careful use of large grips…
… or wedge it in a door frame & pull on it til it looks right.

As regards the bag of springs. I'd invest in a roll of plumber's PTFE [Teflon] tape instead. Wrap it round the arm's thread until it holds just how you like it. It's really really thin so you can get a lot of winds on it before it will start to clog up the thread. It will never stick either; it will stay at pretty much the tension you first wrap it to.

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  • 1
    Just looked in my box of tricks, and my Strats, and the only one that has a 90 degree bend is on a guitar I use occasionally, that needed to be bentto get a good angle.
    – Tim
    Apr 25 '20 at 10:31
  • I think even if I managed to find one, I don't have an arm that's 'virgin' - I think they've all been wedged in a door at some point in their lives ;)
    – Tetsujin
    Apr 25 '20 at 10:35
  • I've seen them as threatening weapons at rehearsals in the past. Singers have to learn somehow...
    – Tim
    Apr 25 '20 at 10:38
  • I just had to adjust one of mine. Just stuck it in a vice and bent it.
    – PeterJ
    Apr 25 '20 at 13:17

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