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Soldering ends of shift & brake cables

Old 05-05-14, 11:50 AM
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Soldering ends of shift & brake cables

I've got a soldering tool, and I've soldered a few things over the years. No expert, but can do.

So, what do I need to get a good job soldering the ends of my shift and brake cables?
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Old 05-05-14, 11:55 AM
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This has been discussed at length. You might have success with a search, or not.

Anyway, the basics are that's it's possible, but requires solder and flux suitable for stainless steel. Also it's only possible on new cables that have not been contaminated with any oil. If you oil or grease the housings and push the wire through, there's a decent chance that soldering will be problematic at best.
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Old 05-05-14, 12:02 PM
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I did it many times but not on stainless cables. As in all soldering, heat well and use a good flux. Also it helps to clean excess solder with a rag while still melt to avoid build up.
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Old 05-05-14, 12:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Reynolds View Post
I did it many times but not on stainless cables. As in all soldering, heat well and use a good flux. Also it helps to clean excess solder with a rag while still melt to avoid build up.
Yes, non stainless wires take solder well. However my experience has been that the folks finicky enough to solder are the same ones who use stainless wires only, at least for gear cables.
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Old 05-05-14, 12:44 PM
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I glue the strands together with a thin (wicking) grade of cyanoacrylate (Krazy) glue instead of solder. The wire will need to be thoroughly de-greased/de-oiled for either glue or solder to adhere.

The aggressive fluxes for stainless steel solders will need to be thoroughly removed after soldering lest they corrode the wires.

Where the wires have already been run through the housings I use heat-shrink tubing as an alternative to the crimp-on cable ends (aglets) to prevent the ends from raveling or stabbing flesh.
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Old 05-05-14, 12:55 PM
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there is a low temperature silver solder at welding supply shops , for stainless cables .. it has its own flux requirement.


the Zn treated steel is easier , Paste Flux the clean cable and regular electronics solder works .

Then I cut the cable, where it's soldered. It's what I use myself .. for the simplicity .

Last edited by fietsbob; 05-05-14 at 12:59 PM.
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Old 05-05-14, 12:55 PM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
Yes, non stainless wires take solder well. However my experience has been that the folks finicky enough to solder are the same ones who use stainless wires only, at least for gear cables.
Indeed. I only ever use stainless.

Some years ago I read about soldering the tips. Went out and bought a nice solder ******, and some silver solder (never lead), and some flux, and wasted a couple of hours trying to solder my tips before realizing that it just wasn't going to happen.

I could have bought so many cables for what I spent on all that soldering gear. Complete waste of my money to buy it all.
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Old 05-05-14, 02:20 PM
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Originally Posted by JonathanGennick View Post
Indeed. I only ever use stainless.

Some years ago I read about soldering the tips. Went out and bought a nice solder ******, and some silver solder (never lead), and some flux, and wasted a couple of hours trying to solder my tips before realizing that it just wasn't going to happen.

I could have bought so many cables for what I spent on all that soldering gear. Complete waste of my money to buy it all.
Glad I asked!

Yes, I only use stainless steel cables, unless I forget or unless the shop is out.

I thought it was tricky, but didn't know it was this tricky.

Think I'll take a pass on the soldered ends.

Thanks for all the replies and info.
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Old 05-05-14, 02:56 PM
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On stainless wire,you are brazing the wire not soldering.It needs to get red hot...use a crack torch....soldering irons/guns do not get hot enough.
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Old 05-05-14, 02:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Booger1 View Post
On stainless wire,you are brazing the wire not soldering.It needs to get red hot...use a crack torch....soldering irons/guns do not get hot enough.
....this ^^^^. Stainless needs a lot of heat. If you get it hot enough, almost any solder will run in there and do the job.
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Old 05-05-14, 03:17 PM
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Not sure why folks are experiencing difficulties soldering stainless steel. I used to do it constantly when I raced slot cars. With the right flux it was effortless and the results were rock solid.
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Old 05-05-14, 06:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Booger1 View Post
On stainless wire,you are brazing the wire not soldering.It needs to get red hot...use a crack torch....soldering irons/guns do not get hot enough.
Getting it red hot is the worst thing you can do unless you're silver brazing. I use a solder pot cause I have one but a soldering iron will do. The flux is key.
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Old 05-06-14, 06:59 AM
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Would you not need a heat sink on the cable to keep from damaging the cable housing with the hot cable?
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Old 05-06-14, 04:37 PM
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Originally Posted by easyupbug View Post
Would you not need a heat sink on the cable to keep from damaging the cable housing with the hot cable?
Generally there's a good 4 to 6 inches of cable hanging out the end of the housing to allow you to thread it through the caliper or derailleur. That's more than enough length to insulate the housing from the soldering location.

For my part I did not have any luck with soldering my stainless cable ends even using Kester paste and a propane torch. Whatever I did the solder just stayed beaded on the outside.

And it's not like I don't have a lot of previous experience. I've soldered lots of steel and brass items of all sorts over the years.
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Old 05-06-14, 04:47 PM
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Would you not need a heat sink on the cable to keep from damaging the cable housing with the hot cable?

you assume you cannot take the cable back out do the solder job, then re install it .
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Old 05-06-14, 04:56 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
you assume you cannot take the cable back out do the solder job, then re install it .
That's the hard way, and not necessary.

Most people cut cables after installation. That would make the pinch bolt a heat sink, and if you can't work fast enough for this to work, give up solder, and use a crimp, shrink tubing, or super glue instead.
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Old 05-06-14, 05:10 PM
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yea , some people are in less of a hurry when old, retired, (or more ,.. put out to pasture... but not for Stud).

put it in, figure out where you will cut it, pull it out, solder it , then re-install it and Cut it in the middle of the soldered portion ..


Zn Steel is so much easier , there I grease the cable after I've soldered it.
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Old 05-07-14, 11:18 AM
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How about using some heated shrink wrap on the ends?
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Old 05-08-14, 10:32 PM
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Most of the time you're replacing an existing cable, so to get the length right, why not just lay the old cable next to the new one (or rather, pull them both through your hand)?

I'm keen on finding a solution to this, but given my soldering attempts so far and some of the testimony in this thread, I'm thinking doing it electrically like in the factory is the go; never mind solder, just weld the bastard.

Now I'm wondering what it'd take short of a welder... maybe you could rig up something with a car battery.
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Old 05-09-14, 05:39 AM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
and if you can't work fast enough for this to work, give up solder, and use a crimp, shrink tubing, or super glue instead.
I go the way of the crimp myself. Crimping is fast and easy.
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Old 05-09-14, 06:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Kimmo View Post
Most of the time you're replacing an existing cable, so to get the length right, why not just lay the old cable next to the new one (or rather, pull them both through your hand)?

I'm keen on finding a solution to this, but given my soldering attempts so far and some of the testimony in this thread, I'm thinking doing it electrically like in the factory is the go; never mind solder, just weld the bastard.

Now I'm wondering what it'd take short of a welder... maybe you could rig up something with a car battery.
I didn't have much luck when I tried it a few years ago either, even with acid flux, silver solder, various irons and torches, etc. I just ended up with blackened, unsoldered cable ends. Someone mentioned a solder pot above. That sounds interesting if you can get it hot enough. Just dip the cable end in the pot until the solder wicks in. In theory anyway. I've seen some cheap ones for around $50 USD, but they sound like a bit of a pain to use and maintain (have to keep skimming dross off the surface, for example, plus the safety implications of having a large blob of molten metal in front of you).

Last edited by Metaluna; 05-09-14 at 06:13 AM.
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Old 05-09-14, 06:10 AM
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I tried soldering and didn't work ... then realized these can add a touch of class, or bling depending on the color, and is soooo much more convenient. I have the gold color that came with my Jagwire cable kit looks pretty nice.

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Old 05-09-14, 06:32 AM
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Originally Posted by RoadTire View Post
I tried soldering and didn't work ... then realized these can add a touch of class, or bling depending on the color, and is soooo much more convenient. I have the gold color that came with my Jagwire cable kit looks pretty nice.

I agree. I've just been using black crimps. Black goes w/everything, right? But was just thinking last evening that I should buy a bottle of mixed colors for when I work on kids bikes, which is actually quite often, sometimes more often than my own. Kids like colors.

I also dropped by Michaels a few years ago and bought one of their crimping pliers:

Beadalon® Standard Crimper Tool

Those work great for setting a tight crimp that won't easily fall off.
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Old 05-09-14, 06:36 AM
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Originally Posted by JonathanGennick View Post
I agree. I've just been using black crimps. Black goes w/everything, right? But was just thinking last evening that I should buy a bottle of mixed colors for when I work on kids bikes, which is actually quite often, sometimes more often than my own. Kids like colors.

I also dropped by Michaels a few years ago and bought one of their crimping pliers:

Beadalon® Standard Crimper Tool

Those work great for setting a tight crimp that won't easily fall off.
Nice crimper. Better than the dull side cutters I've been using...
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Old 05-09-14, 07:24 AM
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Originally Posted by RoadTire View Post
I tried soldering and didn't work ... then realized these can add a touch of class, or bling depending on the color, and is soooo much more convenient. I have the gold color that came with my Jagwire cable kit looks pretty nice.

You're missing the point. It is true that soldering of cable ends would eliminate the need for the crimped cable tips, but wouldn't rule them out. The real purpose of soldering is to protect the cable end when there is no tip crimped onto it, like when feeding the cable through the levers or other parts of the system. Especially if the cable has been previously cut, it is very susceptible to fraying while installing it. Soldering (or super gluing) the end eliminates that risk.
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