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when you tighten and loosen this rod in your guitar neck,
it either pulls or pushes the neck in a certain direction.

It is there to adjust the curve of your guitar neck.

when you look down you guitar neck.. say.. from the headstock towards to body, look along the side of the fretbaord, this should look straight.

wait for Rich to porbably post something more imformative than what i can tell you.
 

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The string tension pulls (bows) the neck forward. The truss rod adds some counter-tension to the neck to try to pull it back to straight, or near-straight. Loosen the rod, the strings will bow the neck forward more and give more relief. Tighten the rod and the neck will straighten. Different people like different amounts of relief (slight forward bow) in the neck. Some types of rods will also allow "pushing" the neck into more of a forward bow as well (dual-action rods).
 
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