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Soldering Iron Troubles & Questions

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scwhiteley

New Member
Hello! Quick soldering iron question here.

First off, I have a 30 Watt radio shack soldering iron that inexplicably stopped working after about two weeks of use... I really wish I would have hung on to that receipt. Is this common? Is there an easy fix for this?

Anyhow, that was long ago, and I've since been using a 45 Watt Craftsman soldering iron. It works well, but I seem to go through tips pretty quickly. They only seem to last a week or so before I need to replace them, which is unfortunate, because getting replacement tips from Sears is like pulling teeth. Is 45 watts too hot or is it normal to burn through tips this quickly?

At this point, I'm considering investing in a new soldering iron, and I'm open to suggestions. All of the soldering I do is on electronics, and I'm not one hundred percent sure what wattage of iron I should be using.

Thanks again,
Chad
 

Birdman Adam

New Member
When ever I get a new tip I immediately tin the whole thing so no part loses its heating (turns darker & cant melt lead). Doing this allow my tips to last a quite a long time. Its a lot easier too. Honestly, I use a crap 30 watt no-name iron, but it works great!
 

JimB

Super Moderator
Most Helpful Member
Hello! Quick soldering iron question here.

First off, I have a 30 Watt radio shack soldering iron that inexplicably stopped working after about two weeks of use... I really wish I would have hung on to that receipt. Is this common? Is there an easy fix for this?
You get what you pay for!

Anyhow, that was long ago, and I've since been using a 45 Watt Craftsman soldering iron. It works well, but I seem to go through tips pretty quickly. They only seem to last a week or so before I need to replace them, which is unfortunate, because getting replacement tips from Sears is like pulling teeth. Is 45 watts too hot or is it normal to burn through tips this quickly?
45 watts is too much for an iron which is not temperature controlled.
The best tips are iron plated and if treated properly will last a very long time (years)
Plain copper tips are dissolved by solder.
Many years ago when I used an iron which not temperature controlled and had a plain copper tip, I used a grade of solder called "Savebit", it may still be available. This solder had a small amount of copper in the alloy with the lead and tin so that there was no tendency to dissolve the copper from the tip, and it worked quite well.

At this point, I'm considering investing in a new soldering iron, and I'm open to suggestions. All of the soldering I do is on electronics, and I'm not one hundred percent sure what wattage of iron I should be using.
For a plain iron which is not temperature controlled, 15 to 25 watts is plenty for most electronics tasks.

If your budget can stretch to a temperature controlled iron, dont worry too much about the power (my Weller temperature controlled iron is 50 watts), the temperature control takes care of things.

It is also useful to have several tips, I have four different sizes for different sized joints, although most of the time I just use the second smallest tip for general work.

JimB
 

Hero999

Banned
If your iron is not temperature controlled, you can make a crude temperature controller by connecting a lamp dimmer switch in series with the iron.

Also beware that some cheap temperature controlled irons just use a lamp dimmer. You need a real temperature controlled iron which actually monitors the temperature of the bit and keeps it at the temperature you've set it to.

You can buy dimmer plugs which can be used for this.
Lutron 300W Credenza Plug-In Lamp Dimmer - Black
Heat Lamps for Animals | Plug in dimmer to control heat lamps
 

smanches

New Member
Even at 45W you should not be running through tips that quickly. Tips should last years.

ALWAYS make sure there is solder on the tip. Do NOT leave it hot without there being a big gob of solder smoldering on it. Only clean it off right before soldering something, then put another gob of solder on it when you're done. Do NOT sand or scrub it ever. Only every use a wet sponge and solder with flux to clean the tip.

Do not let the iron sit around for more than 5-10 minutes of non-use. And make sure there is a fresh gob of solder on it before you turn it off.
 
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Vizier87

Active Member
Do not let the iron sit around for more than 5-10 minutes of non-use. And make sure there is a fresh gob of solder on it before you turn it off.
I've always received advice that sounds similar... is it related to electrochemical corrosion?

Anyway... my Hakko ceramic heater soldering iron works great even after being left heated for a while.
 
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smanches

New Member
I don't think it's electrochemical, but the heat accelerates the normal oxidation that happens. Which is also why you want it sealed with solder all the time.
 

audioguru

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
The tip on my 45 years old Weller temperature-controlled soldering iron sets its temperature. I have never needed to change the temperature and it is always correct. It is still made. The tips last for years.
 
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