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  1. #1
    Senior Member spectastic's Avatar
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    soldering bike cable

    I'm using a 45W iron on my cables. But I can't for the life of me get this thing to stick. The solder melts upon contact with the iron, but leaves a black residue. And the wire never gets hot enough to melt the solder.

    Am I not getting enough power in my iron, or do I need to use real flux from home depot? (I tried to substitute white vinegar)
    5/20

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    Senior Member Mr. Fly's Avatar
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    I don't think it's the heat that's causing you problems. The cable is likely stainless so you'll need special flux for it. Maybe something with zinc chloride in it.

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    Senior Member spectastic's Avatar
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    ok I will get the flux I need. but I'm still concerned about the temperature. the solder should be melting, but it's not.


    Also, I just realized that I need to clean my iron with the flux as well, because the solder won't stick on the iron either. this was a cheap iron.
    Last edited by spectastic; 03-01-14 at 10:26 PM.
    5/20

  4. #4
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    Many cables these days are stainless steel. Even regular steel is not necessarily straightforward. Get a soldering kit with silver bearing solder, for stainless steel, and it tends to be useful not only with cables and necessarily stainless steel. Sometimes they get called speciality soldering kits, etc. Stay-Brite is particularly good.

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    Not quite there yet Matariki's Avatar
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    The key is getting the cable up to the required temperature for the solder you are using. Hold the iron against the cable until you can touch the solder to the cable and it melts. As the others have said, you have to use the right solder and flux. BTW, I am not sure that a 45 watt iron is powerful enough to heat up the end of the cable sufficiently before the heat is sucked away by the rest of the cable.
    Any information, no matter how good, will always under-represent reality.
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    Iron tip needs to be tight and cleaned (tinned) with a file . Along with what others said . I use a 325 watt *** . I've tried a mepp gas torch but that blows the solder out of the wire.
    Trick is to get the heat transfer into just the wire .

    Good luck

  7. #7
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    The soldering iron is not used to melt the solder. It is used to get the wire itself hot enough to melt the solder. As mentioned, even used properly, stainless steel cables require a specific type of solder.

  8. #8
    Senior Member chriskmurray's Avatar
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    A much easier way to keep your cables from fraying is to clamp them in a pair of vice grips just a bit longer than you want the cable to be, lightly twist in the same direction the cable is wound and heat them with a small torch until the cable starts to glow, once it starts to glow you just twist until the cable basically cuts itself the the end of the cable is essentially welded. This can be done in seconds after you get the hang on it.

    Obviously you have to own a torch or be willing to buy one, I used a propane or map gas torch at the shop and at home have used a small butane torch but that is slightly slower.

  9. #9
    Senior Member onbike 1939's Avatar
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    Shrink tubing is much easier and can be easily removed if necessary. It doesn't squash the cable ends also which makes removal of the cable a breeze.

  10. #10
    Member melloveloyellow's Avatar
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    You can get a "torch" butane lighter, such as this:

    http://www.lightersdirect.com/Cigar+...ack.14573.html

    ..and use it to heat the cable end red-hot. Then dab on a bit of solder (I don't use any flux). I do this to feed a new cable thru SRAM twistie shifters. They're tricky, IME.

    (I don't prefer this lighter, but grabbed a quick link to demonstrate the low cost )

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    "Iron tip needs to be tight and cleaned (tinned) with a file"

    DO NOT do this to a modern plated tip, you will take the plating off and ruin the tip. It is marginally acceptable for unplated copper tips (like on soldering guns) which have been neglected but it is better to keep the tip properly tinned in the first place. Apply flux and solder alternately to the heated tip until the dross is removed and the solder properly wets the tip. There are also little pots of tip cleaner available into which you plunge the tip to clean and tin it, like this: https://www.sparkfun.com/products/8966

  12. #12
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    I got a Low temperature silver solder at the welding supply shop , low in this case is about 400F..

    Zn treated cable is easier to solder acid core solder is made for soldering together steel & Galvanized stuff..

    oh, and any oils are a handicap to a good solder joint , clean metal is required .

    My last Zn-steel cable was installed marked , pulled , soldered, re installed then cut,
    where the solder was ..
    then removed again a bit of grease applied .
    Last edited by fietsbob; 03-02-14 at 12:48 PM.

  13. #13
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    Wouldn't SuperGlue work? I've had to solder several things to copper grounding plates in guitar amplifiers and I use a 100w iron. If you're sticking with the soldering route I would suggest placing some alligator clips up along the cable so that when it heats it doesn't melt any of the plastic.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by spectastic View Post
    I'm using a 45W iron on my cables. But I can't for the life of me get this thing to stick. The solder melts upon contact with the iron, but leaves a black residue. And the wire never gets hot enough to melt the solder.

    Am I not getting enough power in my iron, or do I need to use real flux from home depot? (I tried to substitute white vinegar)
    First rule of soldering is that the iron heats the wire or what ever material, and the material melts the solder. In your case, the cable acts like a heat sink and conducts the heat away. You need a larger iron. For this I'd use something like this: http://www.homedepot.com/p/Weller-10...0PKS/100085564. It heats very quickly when you pull the trigger. You might also try using acid core solder, such as used for plumbing. Just be sure to never use acid core for electrical soldering.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by onbike 1939 View Post
    Shrink tubing is much easier and can be easily removed if necessary. It doesn't squash the cable ends also which makes removal of the cable a breeze.
    Yes , but shrink tubing doesn't help cable to be inserted in a brifter for example , negotiate the turn and find its way into the housing that is butted up into the brifter without the end shredding. The shrink tubing wouldn't allow that manipulation.
    Robert

    "Wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then." (Bob Seger, "Against the Wind")

  16. #16
    I WILL BE YOUR LARRY arex's Avatar
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    Flux is very important for getting the solder to flow. Even with a flux-core solder, it's good to use additional flux to ensure good flow and adhesion.

    I've only soldered electronics and copper pipe, not steel cable...however, the others' recommendation of special solder and flux is very important for good results.
    "Ahab knew, baby...I lust." -- Vet-san

  17. #17
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    A borax slurry will work on stainless,along with silver solder.Use a crack torch for heat.
    Everything should be as simple as possible...But not more so.---Albert Einstein

  18. #18
    Senior Member squirtdad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rpenmanparker View Post
    Yes , but shrink tubing doesn't help cable to be inserted in a brifter for example , negotiate the turn and find its way into the housing that is butted up into the brifter without the end shredding. The shrink tubing wouldn't allow that manipulation.
    Why would you need/want to do this....new cables come out of the box with the end fused/welded. and are pretty cheap. So just use a new cable....good preventative maintenance.
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  19. #19
    Senior Member NatUp's Avatar
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    Soldering sounds like a lot of headache for a very minor issue. I've had decent luck with a little dab of super glue on the end, but even better luck with a "flexible" glue like E6000 or Shoo Goo. Less time and fuss than soldering for sure.

    And, you know, there are always, um, cable ends...

  20. #20
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    not sure why you are soldering, but stainless steel can be soldered, it sounds like you are having a clean surface issue. rubbing alcohol and a flux pen does wonders from isolating whatever you are soldering from contaminants and the atmosphere. always heat the piece and use it to get the solder molten. make sure your solder tips are tinned and proper. soldering wire to wire can be tricky, especially as the gauge gets thicker.

  21. #21
    Senior Member spectastic's Avatar
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    yea, this is turning out to be more trouble than I had anticipated. I'm just going to use a strip of duct tape lol
    5/20

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