Maintaining Your Desoldering Tools
“There’s birth, there’s death, and in between there’s maintenance.” A quote by American novelist Tom Robbins on every minute we must surrender to the routine of upkeep. Although Tom Robbins wasn’t a fan of maintenance, it is a critical factor in extending the life of your tools and to keep them working at peak performance. In the same way we should all maintain our bodies, our homes, and our cars, so should you maintain your desoldering tools as well.
So how exactly do you maintain your desoldering tools, and how do you know when it’s time to clean them? If you find that the tool is no longer sucking solder, you have likely encountered a clog in either the nozzle and/or the heater core. Failure to change or maintain these parts can result in a loss in performance from your desoldering tool.
There are special tools specifically designed to help maintain your desoldering tools, and Hakko includes these cleaning tools standard with many of our products. But this all depends on what type of desoldering tool you’re using. There are a few different types, such as the manual PD-03-D, the portable FR-301, and the station type FR-410 (and FM-204/FM-205s). The PD-03-D is a low-cost, manual desoldering tool which is spring activated, referred to as a “Solder Sucker”. The second is the FR-301, a gun-style, portable desoldering tool with a built-in vacuum pump. The third kind of desoldering tool is the station type desoldering system, which has additional benefits/features such as Preset temperatures, Sleep function, Auto-Shutoff function, Clogging Indicators letting you know when it is time to do the maintenance, and Password Lockout features to name a few. The FM-205 is our “shop air” desoldering station which requires connecting an external air supply to operate the unit.
Different Types of Desoldering Tools
Our most popular type of desoldering tool used in the DIY/Hobby market is the FR-301, and the FR-410 is our most popular desoldering station used by many customers in the electronics manufacturing industry. The FR-410 station can be used on various applications with either a gun-style handpiece, or a pencil-type handpiece, depending on preference.
The low-cost, manual type of desoldering tool is easy to maintain, requires minimal effort, and only consists of a single process. The only requirement is emptying the collection chamber as it becomes full of solidified solder debris. Manual desoldering tools do not require tinning/maintenance of the nozzle and are easily portable for use while on the go, but require an additional source of heat (such as a soldering iron) to melt the solder before it can be sucked away from the solder joint.
The portable and station type (also shop air) desoldering tools will also require emptying the collection chamber of solder debris. There are ceramic filters (which protect the station vacuum system) which must be monitored and periodically replaced when servicing your tool. The only exception to this is the Hakko FM-2024 desoldering tool (used on the FM-204), which use a similar but non-serviceable - disposable filter pipe assembly.
How to Maintain your FR-301
Along with the maintenance of the filter pipe assembly, the key to a smoothly running desoldering tool is to periodically clean and maintain the desoldering nozzle and heating element. To clean your desoldering nozzle, simply insert the appropriate cleaning pin, such as the B1086 (a 0.8mm cleaning pin should be used on a 0.8mm nozzle) into the nozzle to clear out any debris back through the heater core, and into the collection chamber. In cases when the nozzle has tough build up from solder/flux, a separate cleaning drill such as the B1302 may be used gently on the nozzle first to clear up the nozzle opening. After the nozzle opening has been cleared with the cleaning drill, use the cleaning pin (like the B1086) to clear the debris out into the collection chamber.
It is important to not only clear the debris from the inner portions of the nozzle, but to also clear any debris that may have accumulated in the heater core. There is a separate cleaning pin called the B1215 (for the FR-410) and the B1085 (for the FR-301) which resembles a flat head screw driver that is used to specifically clean the heater core when the nozzle has been removed. Like the other cleaning pins, you insert the B1215 (or B1085) cleaning pin through the ‘working end’ of the desoldering tool and push any debris out of the back into the collection chamber. This process should be conducted whenever your tools become clogged, and while your tools are powered ON to ensure that the solder is molten and free to move.
Remember, the smaller the diameter of the nozzle, the less space it has for the solder to pass through, so it will most likely result in more frequency for the maintenance. Frequency of maintenance all depends on your application (temperature, solder, flux, number of joints, etc.), but a simple recommendation would be to do some maintenance on your tool every 10-15 desolder joints.
Remember, if you wish to keep your desoldering tools running smoothly for years, maintenance is the key!
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