Before finding the answer to the following question, “Why Is My Soldering Iron Not Heating Up” it’s important to understand How Hot a Soldering Iron Should Be?. Generally, soldering should occur between 316 and 371 degrees Celsius or 600 to 700 degrees Fahrenheit. The type of solder in question determines the specific temperature target.
Ideally, your soldering iron should reach temperatures above the melting point of solder (600 to 650 degrees Fahrenheit or 316 to 350 degrees Celsius) to be able to melt lead-based solder. If you are using lead-free solder, you should be looking for slightly higher temperatures i.e., 650 to 700 degrees Fahrenheit or 343 to 371 degrees Celsius.
How Do I Know My Soldering Iron Isn’t Hot Enough?
If you soldering iron doesn’t melt your solder on contact, it isn’t hot enough. It’s worth knowing that a soldering iron can get hot enough to burn your finger or working surface. However, it must reach and surpass the solder’s melting point for it to be deemed hot enough.
You can do a quick test by powering your soldering iron for a few minutes before initiating contact between the soldering iron tip and your solder. If the solder melts on contact, your soldering iron is hot enough. If that isn’t the case, you have a problem.
There are many reasons why a soldering iron would fail to heat up or reach the desired temperature for soldering. Here are the top reasons and troubleshooting tips.
Why Is My Soldering Iron Not Heating Up? ( 6 Troubleshooting Tips )
1. Soldering Iron Tip Oxidation
This is arguably the most common reason why your solder may not be heating up to the desired temperature. The soldering iron tip must be clear of any debris to allow perfect heat transfer. This calls for proper maintenance every time you use your soldering iron. If the tip is oxidized because the soldering iron isn’t cleaned and stored properly, it gets harder to reach desired temperatures.
Oxidation is easy to spot. If your soldering tip has turned black and seems to have deposits, it is probably oxidized. This is caused by iron oxide deposits on the tip, which happen naturally. The soldering iron may heat up but fail to reach the desired temperature. It may also heat up slowly.
Fixing the problem: You must get rid of the iron oxide to solve this problem. Luckily, this is as easy as scrapping the iron tip using sand 800 grit sandpaper or an abrasive surface. However, you must excise caution to avoid damaging the tip. Generally, you should aim for a shiny tip. What’s more, the tip should be cleaned and covered with a coat of flux before storage.
In unique cases, it isn’t possible to reverse the oxidation. If that’s the case, replacing the soldering iron tip will help.
2. Broken Heating Element
Your heating element could also be the cause of your problem. Soldering irons have a heating element that transforms electrical current to heat. If the element is broken, it won’t heat up at all or reach desired temperatures.
If your iron tip isn’t black, you can rule out oxidation and focus on your heating element. The issue can be linked to a bad connection i.e., you haven’t plugged in the soldering iron properly. It could also be a power issue. Make sure you have power, and your sockets are working before blaming your soldering iron.
If the source of your problem is the heating element, you may need to open up the soldering iron and identify the root cause of the problem. If you don’t have an electrical background, seek professional help. There are several issues that may be to blame ranging from a short circuit to a broken wire. An electrician can solve these problems quickly.
3. Soldering Iron is Disconnected from the Power Outlet
A soldering iron that isn’t connected to the power source won’t heat up. While this may appear obvious to many, some people face this issue, especially when the powering cord is short, and there is a lot of movement. You can disconnect your soldering iron by mistake. Before blaming oxidation or your heating element, make sure the soldering iron is connected properly.
Having a working surface that is far from the power outlet can cause this problem. Working alongside other people is also to blame. Your co-workers may disconnect your soldering iron by mistake. Ensure your power cord is perfectly plugged to deal with this problem. What’s more, it’s advisable to avoid crowded workspaces with a lot of movement.
Troubleshooting could also be as simple as checking your status light. However, this applies only to soldering irons with status lights. It also helps to use a power outlet located higher to avoid accidental removal. Moreover, ensuring your cord isn’t tangled up can help to create as much length as possible since short cords are more susceptible to removal. If your soldering iron isn’t plugged in properly or completely, plugging it back should solve the problem.
4. Soldering Iron Need More Time to Heat Up
The answer to “why is my soldering iron not heating up” could also revolve around the time it takes for your iron to heat up. Different soldering irons will require different times. While most soldering irons will take a few minutes to reach the desired temperature, some may take longer due to many factors ranging from their size to power needs.
When dealing with a soldering iron that has a unique start-up time, you’ll be forced to wait longer. Patience is important when troubleshooting this problem. It’s not practical to want your iron to heat up in a few seconds. Check the manufacturer’s instructions to know precisely how much time it takes. If your wait for the specified time and your soldering iron isn’t heating up, you can consider other problems like oxidation, a broken heating element, disconnection, etc.
If your soldering iron doesn’t specify the timing, you can record the time it takes typically. If you’ve been using the soldering iron in the past with no problems, you’ll know if it’s taking longer than before to heat up. When patience isn’t working, you can seek professional help. However, make sure you consider all the above troubleshooting tips.
5. You’re Using the Wrong Solder
The solder in question could also be the source of your trouble. As mentioned above, there are different types of solders. The soldering process also varies i.e., hard soldering, soft soldering, and brazing. Different soldering types have their own applications.
What’s more, every soldering process has unique temperature requirements. For instance, soft soldering is done at 90 to 450 degrees Celsius or 190 to 842 degrees Fahrenheit. The process requires solder containing tin and lead. If different soldering is used, it may not melt.
Hard soldering requires a hotter temperature i.e., 450 degrees Celsius or 842 degrees Fahrenheit. The ideal solder in this process is made largely of brass or silver. A typical soldering iron may fail to reach the required temperatures. In fact, hard soldering usually requires blowtorches capable of reaching over 450 degrees Celsius.
Brazing also demands temperatures that match the hard soldering process i.e., 450 degrees Celsius. So, if a soft soldering process is done with solder required for brazing or hard soldering, the solder may not melt. In a nutshell, before you blame your soldering iron for not melting the solder, ensure you are using the right solder.
The thickness of your solder could also be to blame. You can have the right solder. However, if it’s too thick, it may not melt as required. This problem is evident when the solder in question is visibly thick but not melting, yet your soldering iron appears to be hot and working properly. The required temperature increases as the thickness of the solder increases.
You should buy the right solder for your application. Knowing if you will do hard soldering, soft soldering, or brazing is a great place to start. It also helps to purchase solder that is thinner in diameter as such solder melts easily.
6. Your Using Low-Quality Solder and Soldering Iron
Substandard solder could also be to blame. Like everything else, solder varies in quality. Cheaper options packed with impurities can be harder to melt. They also result in bad/weak joints. While cost is a critical issue in the soldering process, you shouldn’t compromise on solder quality.
Using a cheap soldering iron could also cause heating issues. While expensive solder and soldering irons aren’t necessarily the best, you must pay for quality. Ideally, try getting solder and a soldering iron that is reasonably priced. You can check for solder reviews online or soldering iron reviews online to have a decent price range in mind.
Summary: Why Is My Soldering Iron Not Heating Up
It could be many factors, from oxidation to an improper connection, low-quality solder and soldering iron, the wrong solder, a broken heating element, and lack of patience. The above information discusses these problems in detail and their corresponding solutions. It also helps to practice good soldering iron maintenance to avoid common problems.