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Old 07-30-2004, 02:23 PM   #1
HamFist
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Default Need help fast! Crash course in soldering! (There's still hope at t0minus 5 hours!)

Okay guys, lets make monster garage jealous.......major time crunch!!!

BS aside, the DMV gave me a temp tag for 1 damn day only...today. I have to get my emissions test done by 5:30pm this afternoon. I'm at work now, right across the street from home. I get off at 4 and have about an hour to "perfect" this. The car is at home, needing the MAP clamp install finished. All wires are cut and soldered, but soldered poorly as I've got jack squat for experience doing it. They look okay, but any fine points are greatly appreciated. Everything is hooked up to the correct wires, and the car has run. BUT, the wires short out a bit and I KNOW it's my soldering. SO, FIRE AWAY! The clock is ticking at t-minus 5 hours.

Any crash course at all on soldering electrical wires???? I have a Radioshack 15w/30w soldering iron with rosin core solder. The solders wrap around the wires well, but there's still some "hairs" sticking out, and I think those are what's causing some of the arcing. I have no "tin"....whatever that's supposed to do (clean the tip?). Doesn't a solder have to completely encompass the wires in question? It idles a bit up and down, but I can wiggle the wires and the idle sputters then dies. I also have a voltimeter, but didn't use it at the time.

The clock is ticking. I'll be reading what you guys post until I get home to do whatever advice you give me.
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Old 07-30-2004, 02:46 PM   #2
kaos200
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undo the wires first
wrap the two wires that are getting soldered around each other, and heat them up with the iron, apply some of that solder just next to the iron on the wire(NOT on the iron)
and let the solder flow through the wire, never just apply to the iron, as it may be hot enough to melt the solder, but the wire isnt hot enough to keep it molten and let it flow through...
Thats pretty much it.... do make sure there is enough bare wire wrapped around the other (3/8" or so)
and that you either heat shrink/electrical tape (or both) the connection
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Old 07-30-2004, 02:50 PM   #3
big_adventure
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Use as little solder as possible to make a clean stick. Get yourself a 50w solder gun with a trigger - the extra heat and control is worth the extra money. Tinning the tip is just rubbing some fresh solder on it.

Hold the iron to the spliced or butted wires. Then touch the solder to the wire as well, right by the tip of the iron. It should melt and then flow onto and into the wiring. Get a good coat of clean solder on there. If the iron is not hot enough or too hot, you can get air spots in there where the solder didn't fill the gaps just right. In essence, you wand up with a shell of solder around the contact, and then you have no contact.

Wiggling it should not do anything. I'm not a pro, and it takes me a hell of a lonf time to solder anything, but I'm careful and my soldering always works out perfectly the first time. The main key: DON'T HURRY!
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Old 07-30-2004, 02:59 PM   #4
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okay...so I probably just got a bad glob of solder on it with lousy penetration. It looks like I rolled the wires in metallic Play-doh. I let it drip down the gun instead of having the wire, gun and solder all touching in the same spot. Any tips on keeping the soldering gun clean? It seemed the tip didn't want to melt the wire as quick after a while. It took a while for the solder to melt, even on the 30w setting.
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Old 07-30-2004, 03:01 PM   #5
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big a: that shell of solder around the wires, that's what I got! Bad, huh?


....yeah....I was in a big damn hurry....kinda still am .
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Old 07-30-2004, 03:17 PM   #6
olsaltybastard
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Wash your hands with a good dish soap before doing this.

1. Wet a sponge. (one that you are going to throw away, or use for soldering only)
2. Get the iron hot.
3. With the iron hot, touch the tip with the solder. Allow the solder to coat the tip.
4. Wipe the tip clean on the sponge. Don't hold the sponge, as it will burn you.
5. Allow the tip to come up to temperature again.
6. Strip the wire so you have some fresh, clean stuff to start with. Solder will not stick to dirty wiring.
7. Twist the wiring that you wish to solder. Twist one wire, then the other, then twist them together. If you washed your hands with dish soap, you won't coat the wires with any residual oil from your hands.
8. Touch the tip of the iron with solder. You don't need to goop it on, just get a small bit. It's only to assist in the transfer of heat.
9. Place the soldering iron (with the melted solder) on the bottom of the wires, closest to the insulation.
10. Touch the top of the wires towards the cut end with the solder and hold it there.
11. When the iron gets the wire hot enough, it will melt the solder on its own. Don't touch the solder to the iron. The solder should flow freely towards the insulation.

If you are going to use heat shrink, you should place it on the wires before you begin. If not, ensure you use lots of electrical tape about two inches beyond the insulation to keep water out. The tape should be stretched as you apply it. Keep it tight.

Good luck.
7.
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Old 07-30-2004, 03:23 PM   #7
HamFist
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Oh...I also get a good bit of smoke from the solder when I work on it. Is that bad?

Thanks for all the tips. A co-worker is going to loan me his 50w unit this afternoon.
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Old 07-30-2004, 03:46 PM   #8
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.................it chaps my balls having to sit here at work knowing I can go home and get this done. ARRGGGHHHHH!!! But, it's all for helping little old ladies, drunks, kids with parents too stupid to put them in a helmet....*sigh*
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Old 07-30-2004, 04:07 PM   #9
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Solder with a flux core is gonna smoke. The smoke stinks.
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Old 07-30-2004, 04:21 PM   #10
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okay...cool. I'll let ya'll know how it goes later tonite. 3 hrs and counting. I get off work in 2hrs. Glad to know I wasn't missing much. Thanks for all the advice! Keep 'em rolling, please. I'll be listening.
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Old 07-30-2004, 07:05 PM   #11
ERIC DRAVEN
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i always like to use a butaine torch.a good one of course
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Old 07-30-2004, 08:26 PM   #12
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So...one temper flair and one broken door later, the damn thing still isn't in. (6 ft 4, 250 lbs....even the slightest temper flair breaks stuff.) I don't know what's wrong. The solder just won't stick after it takes an obscenely long time to melt. I cleaned the tip, even washed off the solder to see if that'd help. For some reason it works off of the car on my bench, but goes to hell when I just turn around and try solder those wires in the vehicle. GRRRRRR....

Last edited by HamFist; 07-30-2004 at 10:41 PM.
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Old 07-30-2004, 10:58 PM   #13
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Are the wires you are soldering shiney or tarnished? Tarnished is a no go. How thick are the wires? Thicker wires will require way more heat. Is the tip of the iron clean? When you swab it with a wet sponge, the tip should shine for a few seconds then the heat will turn it a light brown. Are you using a flux core solder? If not, you will need a can of flux. How old is the solder? If it has been laying around the house for 10 years, it's probably no good. How thick is the solder? Thinner solder is much easier to work with. 0.030 is the size to shoot for. Are you getting the iron hot enough? When you touch the tip to the solder, it should melt immediately. Also, when you hold the iron to the wire, did you put a little solder on the iron itself? There should be a tad bit of solder between the iron and the wire. Let the solder transfer the heat. Hold for about five seconds. Then when you touch the solder to the wire, does it melt immediately? If not, the iron isn't hot enough. Thicker wire requires even more heat.

Don't actually answer these questions. Just ask them to yourself. If you have some spare wire laying around, practice a little.
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Old 07-30-2004, 11:10 PM   #14
HamFist
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Yeah, this wire is about 1/8th inch thick and it's very old. The wires were also tarnished. How do you clean them when they're still on the car? That's my only real question. You answered a lot of my hunches. I feel a little stuck at the moment. (Corkey Bell rule #1: avoid all paths leading to "stuck.") Welding went a lot easier and I KNOW I suck at that...but it was still easier! .030 was what I welded with, actually. the tip of the gun just seems like it wouldn't stay clean. Is cleaning it with sandpaper a good idea? I had to literally scratch that crusty crap off of the head of the gun. The solder definitely wasn't melting immediately like I knew it should have been.
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Old 07-30-2004, 11:42 PM   #15
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Where are you located? If you're in the NYC/LI area I can give you an in-person soldering lesson, it's part of what I do for a living and I've been doing it for a very long time. It's something that is best demonstrated directly rather than described.
From your descriptions I can tell that you are getting "cold" solder connections which is bad. If the wire is really that tarnished you may have great difficulty getting the solder to flow properly on it, even if you can clean the exposed ends (try scraping gently with a small knife) chances are the oxidation goes up the wire well under the insulation. You might also try one of the chemical treatments for removing corrosion, i.e. "Dipit" or similar, which should be available at hardware stores.
Bad soldering won't cause "shorts", it will cause poor conduction in the connected wires. Shorts are caused by wires touching when they shouldn't, due to improper insulation between them. As mentioned above the best way to insulate wires you are soldering together is to apply heat shrink over them before soldering, and afterward pull the tubing over the exposed connection and shrink it in place. This will both seal and insulate the connection.
A couple other things-
Don't use a bigger iron or gun thinking it is better, it isn't. Too much heat is worse than not enough, it will burn off the flux and allow everything to oxidize faster, and can also melt the insulation. The best results are actually obtained with a temperature-controlled soldering station rather than a simple uncontrolled iron or gun, the tip will maintain the proper temperature both during soldering and on standby, and will be easier to keep tinned and clean. The tip should be constantly cleaned using the wet sponge (or a wet folded paper towel if you don't have a sponge), to remove the burned flux deposits and keep it shiny.
Sanding the tip of the iron or gun is a mistake, as it will remove the plating and may render the tip useless.
The smoke is the rosin flux burning off and is normal, avoid breathing the smoke.
Since the solder contains lead, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly after handling it and before eating or smoking.
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Old 07-31-2004, 01:04 AM   #16
HamFist
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Well..crap...the tip is a copper color from where I scraped it. So...time for a new one? I'll go down to radioshack and get the right stuff. A buddy loaned me hit 50 watter, but the rosin core solder is really old. That stuff smelled like crap, but I had to stand there and take it to try and get the job done....which still isn't finished anyway. You're right about the shorts vs bad conductivity. It didn't produce an arc at all as it just seemed inconsistent with how it ran. Wiggling the wires made it die when it ran. I'm so praying I'm not screwed right now! The thing has been gone for a year and a half and I got in a hurry from just being impatient.
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Old 08-01-2004, 10:11 PM   #17
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Hung (STIbungy) is coming over to help out with this, but I'm trying to learn as much as I can anyway. I've never been so frustrated by four damn wires in my entire life. Going into a project dead cold on the subject and trying to learn along the way WHILE meeting a deadine.....I now know it's a recipe for disaster!!!

Cliffnotes:

1. 15/30w soldering iron (using 30w setting.)
2. 20 gauge thick strand of solder
3. Four wires cursed by Satan himself sitting on top of my intake manifold...so there's no bench for me to do this on.
4. I have to avoid melting anything with the iron, IE-coil pack, anything plastic. I shielded it all with aluminum foil.

I know soldering makes for good connections and less "questions" regarding the solidity of the connection. I just never learned the process. I got all kinds of advice on Nasioc that just doesn't seem to be working too well yet.

1. Heating the wires just makes me look stupid sitting there...waiting for something to happen...and it never does, even on 20 gauge wires. What gives? I sit there for a few minutes on my gun's highest setting and nothing happens. I was told to heat the wires from underneath, place the solder on top, and just let it melt and flow through the connection. It no workie!

2. I can get the solder to dab to the tip of the gun. Fine, I have a means of getting the puddled solder TO the cut wires...but all this advice I'm getting tells me NOT to do it that way. Why?

3. When I dab the solder onto the twisted-together wires, it just kind of globs up around it. It's like I'm rolling it in dough. I learned to play with it a bit and spread it around. It kind of fluffs up a bit when it's molten, so there's more there to use than what it looks like at first. The one good one I did, you can't pull apart and it's a big enough gob of completed solder, with visible air bubbles in it. I tried it out, piecing it into my stereo wiring upstairs, and it ran fine. Shaking the thing and pulling on it caused no static at all.

4. So...does it really just need a good sturdy connection when soldering? The wires are twisted together tightly, so I don't think the solder could do anything else BUT wrap around the join. Yes? No?

*sigh*
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