The common perception of the soldering iron is that of a very simple and straightforward tool. Granted, it’s the best and most handy choice for any soldering-related task. But even the most resilient soldering irons can underperform and eventually fail, if not used properly.
One of the most important things to remember if you want your tools to serve you for a long time is that you have to clean and maintain them well. In the case of soldering iron, tip requires most of your attention and care.
However, there are other things you need to consider to ensure the longevity of soldering iron. Thus, we have compiled a detailed list of useful advice and soldering iron tips that can make it function flawlessly for a much more extended time:
1. Buy a High-Quality Product
A cheap soldering iron can contain impurities, which will eventually build up on the tool’s most important part, the tip. It will intervene with the heat transfer process, making the soldering work a lot more complicated.
That’s why you should always go for the best soldering iron you can find. Look out for reputable brands, and always test before purchasing. You can easily do this by heating it first, then observing how easily the soldering iron melts. Most good-quality solders out there should melt with no difficulty at 460 Fahrenheit. And since we’re talking quality, nowadays you can opt for microprocessor-controlled irons, which control the temperature automatically, eliminating possible spikes that can affect the heating coil.
2. Turn Off the Soldering Iron when Done
When it comes to prolonging the lifetime, this is one of the essential soldering iron tips you need to put in practice. Leaving the unit can cause the temperature to rise very high. Overheating can lead to oxidation, which can damage the tool and things you are working on. Whenever you’re not using it, or you have just finished your work, always make sure to turn off the soldering iron, as this will save its components from wearing off, and will considerably extend its life.
Moreover, if you’re prone to forget stuff like this quickly, some models out there feature an auto-sleep function, which will also make your work environment much safer.
3. Check the Temperature before Changing Solder Types
Each type of solder requires a different temperature degree for optimal operation. Different types of solder also have different effects, so it’s essential to know which one to use and how. The lead-free type will require higher temperatures, as opposed to the standard one. However, if you don’t change the heat when you are using a standard tip, it can cause an increase in the oxidation rate. This will damage the tip and can also destroy the work. Whenever you switch solder types, make sure to adjust your soldering iron to the adequate temperature. Otherwise, you will be putting the heating element’s life at serious risk.
4. Keep the Soldering Iron’s Power Cord Safe
One of the most sensitive and prone to damaging parts of your soldering station is the power cord. Thus, you should make sure at all times that your soldering iron’s power cord is stored correctly at a safe distance from your work area. If by any means, the power cord will come in contact with the hot iron, the result might be hazardous. It will not only harm the metal and damage the cable, but it might also prove fatal for its life.
Moreover, while we’re talking safety soldering iron tips, the same precaution goes for various other items. Long strokes of hair, falling clothes, falling hats, your skin, and your clothes should never come in direct contact with the soldering iron. To prevent any of these from happening, you should conduct a thorough analysis and organization of your work area first.
5. Keep your Soldering Station Clean
Anyone who has used a soldering iron knows that the most critical and sensitive component is the tip. As such, to ensure a safe and clean soldering operation, you need to check if the tip is clean and protected by solder whenever you store it. The best ways to clean the tip are with a sponge or brass wool. When you are using the wet sponge, make sure that the tip returns to the adequate temperature between each wipe. Using brass wool is quite popular mainly because it is simple to clean the tip without risk of damaging it. And the same goes for the entire iron. Even though you keep the tip protected, unwanted material might still stick to the hot part of your iron, and this, too, will noticeably affect its performance.
6. Be Extra Careful When Changing Parts
If you properly maintain the components of your soldering iron, they will last you a long life of service. However, nothing lasts forever, and the most likely parts to need replacement first, will be the tips and the cartridges. Depending on the model of your iron, this might prove quite tricky. Before changing the tip, you might want to consult the manual of instructions first, to understand how it gets attached to your iron. Only afterward, you should proceed, moving with extreme caution so that you don’t damage the screw.
Final Soldering Iron Tips
The guidelines we’ve walked through so far should protect your soldering iron and keep it fully functional for an extended period of service. Even so, nothing lasts forever, and no matter how good you take care of your soldering station, at one point or another, it’s bound to reach the limits of its lifespan. It is usually the case after repeated years of constant use and, when this happens, it’s essential to acknowledge that your tool needs replacing, instead of stretching it for just a little bit longer. A damaged overused iron could lead to any number of hazardous accidents, so our last tip for the day is always to inspect the condition your soldering iron is in, before use.