Model Railroader warning that some soldering irons can leak current through tip and destroy electronics.

On page 67 of the Jan 2018 issue of Model Railroader the following warning appears: "It's recently come to light that some soldering irons can leak current through their tips and damage sensitive electronic parts on decoders during the soldering process."

Since I may have had this issue on one of Gunrunner Johns Chuff synchronizing circuits, I wonder what soldering irons would have adequately grounded tips.  I don't trust mine even though I have used it for many DCS and ERR upgrades without issue.

Thank you.

Original Post

Mine is butane. I am a GM dealership technician, we were warned about electric soldering irons on air bag systems years ago. We were told the small current can deploy the bags. I have not used electric on any circuit boards or electronics since I learned this.

Any AC device can leak current if not properly insulated or damaged.

If grounded correctly the breaker or GFI should trip for safety to protect the user, but not the electronics necessary.

UL labs tests designs for fire and electric safety not user errors.

Use USA made quality tools and most problems will be avoided.

Now were are my replacement Kidde Fire Extinguisers ?

 I brought this topic up a week ago and got a couple responses to the thread. Glad the topic found some legs. Clip an AC voltmeter to the tip of your cold soldering iron and the other clip on the voltmeter to a known good ground. Now plug in your iron and look at the reading on your meter.  Many irons even some advertised as ESD safe have a tip to ground voltage of a couple of volts caused by induction between the heating element and the iron in the tip. The WELLER and other soldering GUNS are REALLY BAD I use mine a lot and the tip to ground voltage on it is 35 VOLTS. On the other hand my supposed ESD safe iron puts nearly 3 volts on the tip.  I use a set of ground bracelets when handling electronics and use a seperate ground clip on the tip of the iron just to make sure.  Look at photos of Weller gun and my 25watt iron grounded and ungrounded.  J102_6200102_6201102_6202102_6204

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About ten years ago I sold a Heathkit Mono tube amp that I built when I was 16, to a guy in Moscow Russia for $400+ shipping. I still have an EICO Monoblock amp and an oscilloscope that I built in my early twenties along with a bunch of other test equipment.  And yes it was that same Weller gun in my photos that I used to build the kits.  J

Mine is butane. I am a GM dealership technician, we were warned about electric soldering irons on air bag systems years ago. We were told the small current can deploy the bags. I have not used electric on any circuit boards or electronics since I learned this.

A good friend is also a GM dealership mechanic. He told me that they would be help liable for the cost if they used an electric soldering tool on an air bag system and it went off. He used a butane iron on air bags too. Lots of mechanics also have Weller soldering guns for other uses.

Some of the old school Princess and Imperial soldering guns I own have a ground.

I have a couple of grounded Weller desoldering irons too. The desoldering irons have a hollow tip and a squeeze bulb to suck out the solder. Not much good to clean up terminals with excessive solder, but they work well on old printed circuit boards.

 

C.W. Burfle

Yep, I have no problems with the FX-888D.  If I were designing it, I'd add some legends to the control panel, I took the liberty of adding them myself.

My only gripe is trying to do too much with two buttons.  However, once I addressed this simply oversight, I've been nothing but pleased with my purchase.

You have a very handy calibration capability, but if you make a mistake and press the wrong button to enter the tip temperature setting mode, you end up screwing up the calibration.  Fortunately, I have the tip calibrator, so I could bring it back into calibration.

I love the idea that I can actually calibrate the tip temperature to the true tip temperature and not a guess like many soldering stations.  There's a reason that the FX-888D is used in countless industrial settings, it's a solid and reliable workstation.

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Another good reason why I like post-war trains.  No electronics to fry.  Oh and one more, my brain understands them.  

Dan Padova

 

"In the course of my life I have had to eat my words, and I must confess it was a wholesome diet"..........Winston Churchill

                                                                                                                                        

RJR posted:

Do note that the Weller gun has a transformer, which can induce a current in another circuit even without an electrical connection.

Virtually all of the quality soldering stations have a transformer, that isn't the issue.

   I have had a half dozen butane irons. My Weller lasted longest and is still kicking.

I put it's value right up there with a cordless drill.

  The two reasons for failure are usually; the heat deteriorated the screen than keeps the gas contains within the tips chamber. The usually still work, but without the red hot screen to ensure total ignition in at that point, flame can protude from the ports unexpectedly (small, hardly noticible by eye, but your piece or fingers may let you know )

....the other reason is poor quality butane plugging the filter. A pita to try and find or replace. Letting them sit valve open for a long period of time (weeks months+) may let moisture in the filter evaporate and breath new life into one. Other contaminants can plug them forever. I bought food/medical grade butane when I could.

Look for packages with multiple tip sizes, micro torch tip, & adjustible heat.

When you light one, flame will be outside the tip. Let the screen get red hot, and the flame will begin to ignite before leaving the ports. Sometimes turning the gas down is necessary to have the flame "turtle" it's way into the tip.

I also prefer a handy Bic for lighting vs. the flint/igniter wheel on the iron's caps. 

I kept one in my vehicles. You never know when you'll need flame or passive heat.

"Still trying to not shoot my eye out"

 

"Nursing insomnia one railcar at a time"

My aroma therapy? Smoke Pellets.

 





Post is a bit misleading. First of all, who uses a soldering gun on small electronic circuit boards?

I've worked on tens of thousands of electronic items using Weller WTCP irons for over 40 years now, never had an issue. Hakko is generally the dominant and safe iron used in today's facilities. If people took a deeper dive into todays electronic BGA's & protection circuits, they wouldn't be assuming and generalizing such things.

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SIRT posted:

Post is a bit misleading. First of all, who uses a soldering gun on small electronic circuit boards?

I've worked on tens of thousands of electronic items using Weller WTCP irons for over 40 years now, never had an issue. Hakko is generally the dominant and safe iron used in today's facilities. If people took a deeper dive into todays electronic BGA's & protection circuits, they wouldn't be assuming and generalizing such things.

I see daily posts on this forum with questions to which I knew the answer when I was sixteen years old. People come here without any background in electronics and ask questions which I don't doubt you knew the answer to long before I did. These people with just as much love of toy trains as you and I, come here for help, many not knowing what a wire nut is.       AND I USE A WELLER GUN, when I have to remove a large component from a board and my ESD safe irons just cannot provide the necessary heat.  I connect a ground wire to the tip of the Weller and a known good ground. (see my photos early in this discussion) This ground wire will drop the potential at the tip of a Weller gun from 35VAC to well under 1V  better than the tip potential of both my ESD safe irons.  I brought this topic of damaging soldering iron tip potentials up on the forum a week or so ago and got a couple of responses. Though that thread never grew legs I did get several likes to that post and take that to mean that at least some of the forum members did not know of these dangers. I was very happy when member CTR renewed this topic two days ago.  J

JOHNACTON,

l am glad to see your response about the diversity of experience of all kinds that we see here. The OGR Forum is an extremely valuable resource and there are many members that have the patience to help everyone including the bumblers like me.

Thank you all.

 

SIRT posted:

Post is a bit misleading. First of all, who uses a soldering gun on small electronic circuit boards?

I've worked on tens of thousands of electronic items using Weller WTCP irons for over 40 years now, never had an issue. Hakko is generally the dominant and safe iron used in today's facilities. If people took a deeper dive into todays electronic BGA's & protection circuits, they wouldn't be assuming and generalizing such things.

With my curiosity piqued i checked the RoHS iron in my lab (Haako FP102) and found the tip satisfactorily grounded.  I asked one of our manufacturing engineers about this subject and our expectation is that the tips are grounded, period.  We have 30 or 40 Haako irons on the manufacturing floor and they are calibrated annually.  There is nothing specific in FDA good manufacturing practices, SMTA, or IPC, or even our own Quality Manufacturing Procedures that indicate anything to the otherwise.  

I wonder if the author of the MR article was soldering a powered board?!

For BGA;s and QFN's we use a variety of specialized heat guns.

Lou N

Lou, seems that one should be able to take for granted that any iron with an ESD safe rating would have a well grounded tip. However taking it for granted may not be advisable. I have two Weller TC-552 55W  irons that have grounded tips yet I can get a volt or two when I read tip voltage to a copper water pipe that my ground bracelets connect to. This makes me want to check the ground in my outlet. I just checked my small Ungar and the lowest reading I can get between it's ground prong and the tip is  3 ohms. Thats the small 25W iron in my photo that I use a lot. Guess as long as I am connecting the tip to my bracelets it's OK.  My object when I brought this topic up a week or so ago was to warn others on the group not to take for granted that your iron was safe on modern electronics. I hate to buy a new iron since I must have ten or more around here and running a separate ground from the tip does work. More $ for trains.  J

You get what you pay for John.  I bought one of those inexpensive stations a few years ago, mine was a combined soldering station and hot air rework station.  Neither function worked all that well for the intended purpose.  The soldering iron was truly unimpressive in maintaining the proper temperature.

In my case, I'm getting some utility out of it as I use the hot air rework with a fine nozzle for heatshrink, it works great for that.

If you're going to do any volume of soldering, bite the bullet and buy the Hakko, you will not be sorry!

An earth ground. The ground of your household plugs is supposed to go to an earth ground.

  Because the 3 hole grounded plugs of today were not always the "standard", some folks "cheated" to use the 3 prong outlets with only two wires, tying that ground hole to the nuetral. (not right, but better than nothing at all) l. Sometimes done to avoid adptors, or because they wanted to fool inspectors (rather than run new wire).. etc.,. Anyhow, you can't be 100% shure without checking. Some cheap "plug check tools", don't work well. Make sure you buy quality or have an electrician check to see if you are truley earth grounded at all outlets. 

"Still trying to not shoot my eye out"

 

"Nursing insomnia one railcar at a time"

My aroma therapy? Smoke Pellets.

 





Adriatic, at the risk of going too far afield from the subject of soldering tools, many household ground rods (that provide the "earth ground" of which you speak) are galvanized, which gives a 10-15 year life.  These can be checked, and if need be, for a few dollars more can be replaced with copper that has a very long life.

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