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How to Solder, beginners guide

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Copper - Posts: 105
Copper spacespace
Joined: December 03, 2003
Location: United States
Posted: January 03, 2004 at 6:38 PM / IP Logged  

Soldering is a useful skill, even if you dont use it. Its like knowing how to drive a forklift. Yeah, you may never want to do it, but its nice knowing you can.

First of all, you will need a quality soldering iron or gun. Soldering irons are long and look something like a screwdriver, have a plastic handle with a long rod sticking out of it. Soldering guns look more like a hot glue gun. Pistol grip with a long rod sticking off of it or sometimes a metal wire that makes a horseshoe shape comming off the end of it. In the automotive/mobile electronics field you will want a soldering iron. Having both is just something "extra" Since i perform my job outside sometimes, or in places where A/C power isnt an option, i chose a Matco butane model. T110k and PPSK are both great choices. A can of butane costs 2$ and lasts me weeks. These get really hot really fast and have adjustable heat output and specialty tips that come with them.

Next is to choose a good solder. We can debate all day about lead free/leaded solder... this is your own choice. Lead/Tin solder melts faster, but does contain lead which has health risks. Leadfree/Tin solder is usually much more solid (as in, harder to bend/stiff) and takes longer to heat up, but has no health risks (that i know of). Either way, you want to choose a solder that has a "rosin core".

Now you want to take your soldering iron out. If its new, fill it up/plug it in and away you go. If its an old one, you will want to heat the tip up slightly (not even enough to melt solder) and take a wet sponge and clean the crap out of the tip. If anything is burnt onto the tip, such as wire insulation, this will work against you and the tip should be replaced.

With your iron plugged in and just hot enough to melt solder (not too hot) you want to "tinn" the tip of it. Take the solder and apply a small ammount of solder to the tip of it. Not enough so the solder drips off, but enough to cover the tip.

Tinning the tip does 2 things, and should be done before you make a connection, and before you put your iron away for a while. Doing this before you make your connection helps to heat the wire up faster, by making a complete "iron tip to wire" connection. Doing this when your done ensures that the tip will stay clean and stop it from getting scratched and make the tip last alot longer.

Next you need to prep your wire. If your making a repair to an old connection, or something that wasnt done correctly, you will want to use a little bit of flux paste on it to clean it up and make it ready for solder.

Doing remote starters for example, you dont have to "cut" the ignition wires to make your connection. I wont reveal how i do it, but will say there is a tool you can use to strip the wire without ever cutting it. Most people use a sharp knife or razor blade and strip back about an 1 1/2inch of insulation. Here, you can use an awl and poke through the bare wire, being careful not to damage the wire. Next you will slide your R/S wire through the "eye" of the exsisting wire and wrap it around. You must be careful not to slide through too much bare wire but must use enough so the wire, while wrapped around it can hang there freely and not move AT ALL. Use a pair of needle nose pliers to squeeze it down tight.(also gives you 2 sides that are flatter than the others)

Now, you are ready to apply heat. If its a 10-12gauge wire, it will require a little more heat than if it was a 14-16gauge wire(which takes seconds to heat up).

Tinn the tip of the iron. Hold it to the bare wire for a few seconds. Touch your solder to the opposite side of the wire (the other flat spot), and after the wire gets hot enough, the solder will SLOWLY start to melt into the wire. This is easily seen because the solder that is slowly melting  will quickly cover the wires.

After the wire is completely covered in solder, your ready to remove the heat.

Let the joint cool for several seconds. If your joint is "GOOD"  you will be able to see every strand of the wire, twisting and turning. The joint will also be very shiny, and free of "globs". If the joint is bad, it will look more grey/blue and be very dull.

Your basic solder joint is complete.


If using a portable butane model, leave the iron on "low" the entire time, it will go much faster and you wont have to wait for it to get hot ever.

If using either matco model above, take the little steel tray inside the car with you so you can rest the iron in it when your not using it and not burn anything in the car. If your particular model doesent have a tray, you can fabricate one yourself. I used a metal sunglasses case and simply snipped an opening out of the end for the handle to rest in. I also made a holder out of a few coat hangers that i hang off of the brake pedal for use in vehicles with small floorboards.

Feel free to add anything else..or make it sticky whatever

Good luck!

Copper - Posts: 114
Copper spacespace
Joined: October 29, 2003
Location: United States
Posted: January 05, 2004 at 11:10 AM / IP Logged  

Awesome guide!!  Thank you very much!


Member - Posts: 9
Member spacespace
Joined: October 16, 2003
Posted: January 09, 2004 at 12:27 PM / IP Logged  
I find that poking a hole in the wire and then passing the RS wire through it is unnecessary.  Strip the wire and twist the RS wire around it.  No need for an awl or anything.  Pick up a good set of strippers at the local harware store, that can strip the wire without cutting it. 
Copper - Posts: 105
Copper spacespace
Joined: December 03, 2003
Location: United States
Posted: January 09, 2004 at 6:30 PM / IP Logged  
That is correct, simply informational on how to solder, how you connect the wire is up to you. I find that if you strip and poke the wire will hang there alot tighter, allowing your solder joint to be a solid as possible, to where if you just wrap the wire around the bare wire, the RS Wire can still move on it own, creating a cold joint
Copper - Posts: 92
Copper spacespace
Joined: August 04, 2003
Location: Massachusetts, United States
Posted: January 13, 2004 at 2:46 PM / IP Logged  
yea that was very educational.....thanks bud.
*paw print*
Copper - Posts: 105
Copper spacespace
Joined: January 12, 2004
Location: Missouri, United States
Posted: January 30, 2004 at 3:11 PM / IP Logged  

Thanx for the info. As they say you learn something new everyday.

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Silver - Posts: 380
Silver spacespace
Joined: February 07, 2004
Location: United States
Posted: February 08, 2004 at 1:00 PM / IP Logged  

 The butane soldering irons are nice, and the hot exhaust is handy for shrinking the heat shrink, but a trick I use sometimes is powering my 35 watt electric soldering iron with an inverter.. You can pick up a 350 watt inverter at BJ's or Sam's Club for less than $30. Handy for doing remote work where you need some A/C power, and no outlets to be found.



Gold - Posts: 1,031
Gold spacespace
Joined: January 13, 2004
Location: United States
Posted: February 08, 2004 at 7:26 PM / IP Logged  

Yea this is  a good guide too bad I use my Snap On torch that does the job in a few seconds. How to Solder, beginners guide -- posted image.

~The Rookie~
Rookie of the year that is...
Don't let the smoke out of your doesn't go back in.
Member - Posts: 12
Member spacespace
Joined: February 08, 2004
Location: United States
Posted: February 09, 2004 at 12:00 PM / IP Logged  
I find this guide to be very helpful, though I still have a few questions.
Q 1: I need to connect 12 gauge wire to the male end of a butt connector. Should I use another butt connector or is solder going to work better?
Q 2: I have two ends of wire that need to be connected so that they stay straight with no bends or anything. Do I strip insulation off both ends and inter-twine them and just solder?
Q 2a: How do I insulate the connection? It is going to be in a warm environment.
Q 3: Why is solder better than butt connectors?
Q 4: What is the purpose of dielectric compound, and is it conductive?
2001 Suzuki SV650
Copper - Posts: 105
Copper spacespace
Joined: December 03, 2003
Location: United States
Posted: February 09, 2004 at 8:09 PM / IP Logged  

male end of a butt connector? Butt connectors are females, if your dealing with a "male" its not a butt connector.

Regardless of what situation you are in, solder = higher quality, more conductive, longer lasting joint period. The ONLY connectors i have in my collection anymore are ring terminals and spade connectors. Hell i retired my crimping tool because i dont even crimp the ring/spade connectors, i solder them.

So you want to take 2 seperate wires, connect them together, and make 1 solid strait peice of wire out of it? Strip back both ends, connect the 2 wires together, either by wrapping it, or by fanning our the strands and forming a "handshake" with the wires. Solder them together, and cover it and you will only be able to tell something is there by seeing what you covered it with.

Covering. Heatshrink would be your best friend. In situations where you dont actully cut the wire, 3M/Scotch Super 33+ tape is most excellent. Either way, if you use quality tape, or quality heatshrink, in combination with solder, The joint will be a permenant as you need it to be and last forever.

Why solder over butt connectors? Because over time butt connectors tend to corrode, sometimes dont make great contact, look like crap, whatever... plus you dont have to buy anything but a roll of solder every now and then

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