A well-maintained tip delivers an exceptional performance as long as the iron plating remains intact. However, even the best-maintained solder tip needs to be replaced once it exhausts its useful life. The most obvious sign that it needs replacement is the formation of holes or cracks on the iron plating.
These imperfections leave the copper underneath exposed, causing it to dissolve into the solder rapidly.
It is this rapid wear of the copper that prevents the proper flow of heat and causes the iron to develop thermally erratic behavior.
Remedies such as tinning will not fix the problem; you need to replace it with a new one. Here’s how:
- Small pliers
- Soldering iron
- The right tip
Disassemble the Soldering Iron
Be sure to turn off the soldering iron before disassembling the parts. Allow it to cool down before attempting to change the tips. Handling the iron while still hot results in severe burns.
Proceed to unscrew the locking nut holding the tip and the sleeve. You can do this by hand or using a small set of pliers if the locking nut gets stuck. Then, slide the retaining sleeve and the nut off the iron and remove the tip.
Choose the Right Tip
Numerous soldering applications use different sizes and styles of soldering tips. Small soldering applications use small tips, while tasks involving integrated circuit chips require specialized tips. Large soldering applications like soldering large cables require large tips. As such, it is essential to choose the right tip for the task. Here’s how to distinguish the tips:
- B series tip: This kind has a round shape allowing you to solder surfaces at any angle. Thus, the B series tip is ideal for general purpose soldering applications, including point and drag soldering. You may need a different tip for specific soldering tasks
- C series tip: This tip is ideal for jobs that need drag soldering. It has a slightly curved face that allows the user to spread solder over the tip and apply small amounts of solder evenly over different components in close proximity
- D series tip: This kind has a chisel-like shape and is also used for general-purpose soldering just as the B series tip. However, it has a larger surface area at the tip, making it easy to transfer more heat from the iron to the electrical component. This way, solder flows more readily making the D series tip ideal for quick solder applications
- I series tip: The tip is designed for needle-point soldering tasks or those that need detailed work. Since the tip is tiny, it does not transfer as much heat to the surface. It explains why the tip is not suitable for soldering large components
- K series tip: It has a slanting shape at the end, which allows you to perform drag soldering, point soldering, as well as fixing solder bridges. However, its vast surface area makes it challenging to perform point soldering in confined spaces
Fit the Desired Tip
Fit the new tip into the retaining sleeve and screw it back to the heating element. Then, slide the retaining nut over the tip and sleeve and tighten it using your hands. Be careful not to over-tighten the locking nut. This is because as the soldering iron expands and contracts quickly. Thus, over-tightening causes the nut to get attached to the surface, which makes changing the tips extremely difficult.
How to Maintain the New Soldering Tip
You need to keep the new tip in good condition by:
- Using high-quality solder to prevent the accumulation of impurities. Good solder melts at the right melting point and does not clump during application. Contaminated solder, on the other hand, does not melt at its melting point due to oxide build-up
- Cleaning the tip after every soldering session
- Tinning in between sessions and after soldering
- Bring the tip into direct contact with the soldering iron. Flux is corrosive and causes damage to the tip
- Maintaining the right operating temperature, i.e., 320 C
- Cover the tip with solder during idle time
- Avoid using low-residue flux or dirty flux
- Use the right size of solder wire when tinning
- Wipe the tip using a wet cellulose sponge
- Wipe off bad solder