DIY Maintenance – Soldering Solutions

Situation:  Somewhere, somehow, one of your trailer light lenses has been damaged.  For the life of you, you cannot find a matching set of trailer lights sold at any of your marine and automotive retail shops because they are selling a different type or brand each month.  Because of this you decide to purchase a set of submersible LED trailer lights and replace the existing set.  It should only take an hour to remove the existing lights, fit the new ones, then connect and solder the wiring right?  Well until you discover that the wiring has been exposed to the elements and has started to corrode and when you try and solder the new lights in, the solder won’t stick.

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Wiring not fit for soldering

As an ex Marine Mechanic, I guess I have done my fair share working with wiring on boats and trailers.  My pet hate would have to be the ‘scotch locks’ or the twist and tape method, especially in places where the wiring will be subject to the salty marine atmosphere.

In the professional workplace there are all different types of ways to overcome the corrosion when carrying out repairs, but for the DIY folk at home, generally your options are pretty limited.  There is always the scrape and sand method but this doesn’t always work too well.  The other option is to rewire completely which generally isn’t too practical either.

The other weekend, I was doing a wiring repair on my boat at home and I came across corroded wiring which didn’t have a hope in being soldered.  Because my garage, tools and supplies are currently scattered across a couple of storage locations, I was forced to think outside the square so that I could make this repair.  A bit of research and I came across a solution which most households will have the ingredients for and best of all it worked, cleaning the wiring to a state where it could be soldered.

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Household ingredients

Salt, Vinegar, Sodium Bicarbonate and water are the ingredients required to make two separate solutions.  Firstly I took a cup with some vinegar and dissolved a tablespoon of salt in it to make an acidic solution and then another cup contained a tablespoon of Sodium Bicarbonate and water to make a neutralizing solution.  Really – it is that simple.

It was then just a mater of soaking the effected end of the wiring in the acidic solution for a few minutes (the longer the better.  You can almost watch the wiring clean itself).  Then rinse the wiring in the neutralizing solution.  Hit it pretty much straight away with the soldering iron to dry the wiring (before the corrosion process commences again) and then the wiring is ready to be soldered.

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Ready to solder

Of course there are other methods and commercially produced acids available but this is intended for the home DIY’er to achieve a workable solutions with household products.

One last note – Remember to keep your eyes clear of any splashes, after all it is, although mild, an acidic solution and can give a good sting to your eyes.

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