Soldering is an automotive-adjacent skill that’s relatively easy to pick up, useful for working on vehicles, and applicable to a wide range of industries and hobbies. But what is soldering, and how can you get started? Once you know the basics, you might just decide to make a few new additions to your toolbox.
What Is Soldering?
Soldering is a process that uses a melted metal alloy to join two components together, most often to allow an electric current to flow between them. Soldering is used in electronics, where it enables small components to be joined together on a circuit board and communicate with one another. Soldering can provide a stable mechanical connection in tight spaces where wires can’t fit. It’s also used in plumbing, art, jewelry and automotive applications. It doesn’t always take the place of wire connections, but it can be used to strengthen them. Soldering is different from welding, which involves melting the underlying metals and joining them together.
Tools You’ll Need
There are only a few items you’ll need to get started with soldering. The most important is a soldering iron. These range from the very basic to high-end irons with holsters, tip-cleaning sponges and adjustable temperature settings. You’ll also need the solder itself. These vary in diameter and composition to handle different melting points, project sizes and bond strengths.
Some varieties contain lead, so make sure to take extra safety precautions. Many types of solder contain a resin core, which helps improve electrical contact. Different iron tips can be swapped in for different applications or simply to replace old pitted ends. You may also want to invest in a “helping hand,” an instrument that helps hold small projects in place while you work.
Getting Started With Soldering
If you’re just getting started, you can find soldering kits for beginners online. These are fun because they let you disassemble old junk electronics and measure your soldering progress along the way. Make sure to wear protective gear to guard against the irons, which can reach temperatures above 600 degrees Fahrenheit. One key secret to a good solder — and to maintaining the life of your soldering iron — is to heat the component itself rather than melting the solder directly onto the iron.
Soldering can be a fun and useful skill. Once you’ve done some research on proper technique and invested in a few basic tools, you’ll be set to start repairing or creating.
Check out all the soldering products available on NAPA Online, or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on soldering, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photos courtesy of Blair Lampe.
Blair Lampe is a New York-based professional mechanic, blogger, theater technician, and speechwriter. In her downtime she enjoys backpacking wherever her boots will carry her, rock climbing, experimental theatre, a crisp rosé , and showering love on her 2001 Sierra truck.