Basics of soldering wire connections in your car

There's never a good time for a short circuit in your car. When you rely on your vehicle to get to work, school or the store, any car problem can be a setback.

But if you have the right skills, materials and tools to solve an electrical problem in your car, you can be back on the road in no time.

What type of solder to use

The first thing you'll need is the right wire to repair the problem. Not any wire will do, and finding the right kind is crucial if you want to avoid bigger problems down the road.

"Be sure to use automotive-grade stranded wire."

You'll want a 60-40 rosin-core solder, Popular Mechanics explained. This means it is 60 percent tin and 40 percent lead. The rosin core contains a flux, which will melt before the metal begins to. As the flux melts, it will coat the wire and allow it to weld together smoothly and strongly. Without it, the wire is more likely to melt into a ball of metal that's extremely difficult to work with.

How to melt the wire

To turn the wire into a malleable and useful material, you'll need to apply some heat. The best tool for the job is a soldering iron, such as Master Appliance's EconoIron. Aside from your solder and soldering iron, you'll also need:

  • Wire strippers.
  • Automotive-grade stranded wire that's the same gage as the old wire.
  • Electrical tape or PVC shrink tube.
  • Sponge.

First, strip the sections of wire you plan on soldering together. Then twist them around each other until secure. If you're using PVC shrink tube, slip this over one of the wires.

Next, get ready with your solder and iron. Before you start working on the wire, you'll need to prepare the tip. Heat up the tip until it's hot enough to steam when wet, then clean off any old solder by wiping it with a damp sponge. After it's clean, tin the tip of the wire. This means coating it with the solder. You want to have some solder on the tip because it improves conductivity, which makes the task go faster, according to Instructables. It's best to get the wires soldered together quickly to avoid damaging the wires.

When your soldering iron is all prepped and ready to go, it's time to solder the wires. Apply the solder directly to the joined wires rather than the tip. Be sure there's enough consistent solder left on the tip. You may need to re-tin at some point during the process.

Once coated sufficiently, move the shrink tube and heat it so it makes a snug fit around the wire. If  you're using electrical tape instead, apply it once the solder has cooled naturally.

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