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Author Topic: HELP! PL-259/RG-58 coax jumpers keep failing!  (Read 4294 times)
K8GU
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« Reply #15 on: January 09, 2008, 05:29:32 PM »

Yup...it's all about the right amount of heat.  You'll find that RG-213 is easy to do with the right iron.

I sometimes do use my WES51 temperature-controlled 50W soldering station for making jumpers (RG-8X).  I've never had one fail and I've been doing them this way for years.
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K7STO
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« Reply #16 on: January 09, 2008, 05:59:44 PM »

If you need a good and real cheap soldering iron go to this site.

http://www.mcgillswarehouse.com/default.aspx

 Last year I bought one each of the 100, 200, 300-watt irons and one iron stand.  I think I spend a total of forty dollars, which included shipping. These irons are cheap with wooden handles, but will do and excellent job heating PL259 connectors. I made up 6 new jumpers with RG-213 with no problems. If I were to buy only one iron, I would recommend the 200-watt iron.  When soldering the connectors, I clamped the iron in a bench vise for hands free to hold the coax and solder.

73 Mike
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WA4DOU
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« Reply #17 on: January 09, 2008, 06:35:38 PM »

Coax jumpers are relatively fragile when they are composed of RG-58/RG-8X, even when made up properly and skillfully. They are subject to flexing. A solid center conductor is subject to breakage quicker than stranded. Forces that act to twist the braid at the connector are working to cause the demise of the jumper as well. Inexpensive imported connectors, once totally satisfactory, are appearing with production tolerance variations that impede proper and satisfactory installation and sabotage long term reliability.

Silver plated connectors are easier to solder on. Nickel plated are difficult unless you use lots of heat. I recommend filing the plating enough to expose brass and pretining. Better yet, avoid them completely. Foam dielectric cables are more fragile than polyethylene.

RG-8/RG-213 cables are the easiest to install connectors on and are likely to enjoy longer term reliability than smaller cables because their method of attachment does not disturb the braid nor place it in close proximity to the center conductor. Also the cable is stiffer and resists the flexing that smaller cables experience.

There are crimp on connectors and then there are crimp on connectors. Some are excellent and some are atrocious. Some crimp on connectors can easily achieve a life expectancy on jumpers measured in decades while others are crap 5 minutes after being applied. Good crimp on connectors often employ solder on center pins/conductors and the braid is secured via a crimp on sleeve. The tools that do the crimpling can be expensive but are very reasonable when the cost is amortized over decades.  

I cannot remember the last time I experienced trouble with a jumper or any type of connector on coax but it can take years and hundreds of installations to fully appreciate and apply the best techniques.
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AG4DG
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« Reply #18 on: January 09, 2008, 07:41:12 PM »

< I sometimes do use my WES51 temperature-controlled 50W soldering station for making jumpers (RG-8X). I've never had one fail and I've been doing them this way for years. >

KG8U: I have the Weller WES51 soldering station as well.  Why are you able to make such consistently great jumpers with a 50W iron when my jumper quality is hit-or-miss and everyone else insists that 50W isn't enough?  How do you tell if you're doing it right?
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KZ1X
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« Reply #19 on: January 09, 2008, 07:42:52 PM »

Here's my short list of
"Things You Can't Learn To Do (at least, not well) From A Book, Or On The Internet" ...

Ballroom dancing
Playing the piano
Riding a bicycle
Kissing a girl
Flying an airplane
Morse Code
Swimming
Omelet making
Ice hockey
Barbershop Quartet
Soldering a PL-259

Lots of local hams where you live ...

http://cvarc.rf.org

ONE of them has to be able to teach you how to do this properly!  ;-)
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K8GU
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« Reply #20 on: January 09, 2008, 08:16:16 PM »

I don't do anything special that I know of.  I use the PL-259's with the silver-plated body.  The shell and reducer are nickel-plated.  I measure the cuts for stripping the coax by eyeball...each connector is a unique work of art.  I crank the heat up all the way on the iron and use an ETA tip with a little glob of solder to help heat transfer.  It's quick...no more than one second per joint...all four holes and the pin.

I always do a continuity test after each connector and sometimes plug my antenna analyzer into one end and a dummy load in the other end.  The continuity test is always enough.  

I have one of these whipping around in the wind on my 40-meter dipole at 45 feet and it still works fine.  

I won't mince words:  the hefty "Black Beauty" type iron is definitely the right tool for this job; but, the WES51 has worked very well for me...  
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WA9SVD
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« Reply #21 on: January 09, 2008, 08:32:45 PM »

Heck, I've installed PL-259's with a 25 Watt iron in the past, so don't tell me it can't be done.

    Come to think of it, I've had to replace all those connectors because they had poor contacts or intermittent contacts... But the 25 Watt iron got the job done!
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G3RZP
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« Reply #22 on: January 09, 2008, 09:50:55 PM »

I get excellent results using a 40 watt Weller, but I pre-heat the body of the PL259 using a hot air paint stripping gun. That gets the body hot enough to melt the solder and the Weller keeps it hot enough while you finish the job.
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VE3EFJ
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« Reply #23 on: January 10, 2008, 12:31:16 AM »

The most common problem with failed PL259 adaptors or straight RG8 is simply not enough heat. I've had poor results with any kind of soldering tool - you simply cannot get the quantity of heat required to the area in question. The PL259 needs to be heated quickly, soldered and then allowed to cool.

The solution that works for me is a butane torch. These are the small torches that are charged from a lighter refuel can. The usual prep is required. The torch will oxidize the soldering area so you must be extra careful in prep. You also need to clamp the PL259 in a vise, apply heat, solder and then leave it alone until the connector cools. It is in the last stage - cooling down - where the coax insulation is in a gooey state from the heat where shorts are "encouraged" if the connector is flexed. Give the connector 15 mins to cool down, and you should be good.

The solder is important too. I use 67/33 since its melt temp is lower.

The torch works fine with the larger coax and with N connectors. The flip side is that if you are using a soldering gun or a small iron ur pretty well doomed. You just cannot transfer enough heat fast enough to solder before the insulation goes to jelly. Irons will work and will work well too, but you'll need a 300 watt Black Beauty. Stick with the butane torch.

Summary: Coax connectors need heat to solder. The success rate improves with use of sufficient heat, quick application, prep and allowance for proper cooling after soldering.

Wayne
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K5YF
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« Reply #24 on: January 10, 2008, 01:14:43 AM »

20 years back the Department of Defense certified (it was a nice certificate) that I was good enough to solder wires which allowed some things to go pop, other things go vroom, and a few things  to go beep. In training to earn that certificate I remember something about "adequate heat and wetting." Fortunately for you they were talking about soldering and not beer consumption.

Here is a link to a site that explains a few of the finer details of soldering electronics... http://engr.nmsu.edu/~etti/fall97/electronics/solder.html

Here is one about PL-259's specifically...
http://www.seed-solutions.com/gregordy/Amateur%20Radio/Experimentation/SolderCoax.htm

...and one from Alan
http://www.eham.net/articles/5071

...and one more for good measure
http://www.hcarc.us/articles/soldering%20PL-259%20connectors.htm

.....but seriously, this wasn't about soldering connectors was it? It took google all of 0.46 seconds to come up with 5390 hits in English with the search of "solder pl-259" [without the quotes]. Me thinks you be trolling there laddie.

-b
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N3EF
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« Reply #25 on: January 10, 2008, 03:45:48 AM »

  Although I use Amphenol crimp connectors most of the time for rg58, I also use an alternative method of soldering with the "standard" pl-259 and reducer. I made this little web page to show how it's done.

http://home.comcast.net/~fairbank56/pl259.html

Eric N3EF
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W8JI
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« Reply #26 on: January 10, 2008, 04:15:41 AM »

The USUAL failure with coax that is otherwise reasonably installed is a short, not an open.

I've seen dozens of cable NEVER soldered that worked fine.

Also an ohmmeter test is about next to worthless.

What you need to do is get some sort of small high pot tester if you are going to make lots of cables. Then measured from shield to center pin and see what the breakdown is. A properly made connection will handle about 5000 volts between the center pin and the shield, even on RG-58. Good Teflon connectors and larger cables will arc at 7000 volts or more, and the arc will be from center pin across the connector face insulator to ground.

I suspect what you are doing is using a reducer that is too long. There has been a trend by connector manufacturers to extend the reducer length over the years. I think their thought might be to pinch the shield to front insulator. The problem is this forces the shield up near the flare of the center pin inside the connector.

What I do when making cable requiring a reducer is to space the reducer back a little with a brass washer that fits over the reducer, or to cut the reducer off a bit.  This will then allow  the cable shield to make the turn over the end without forcing it against the insulator.


Be sure you use a very hot large iron when soldering, and to lay the connetor on a damp sponge just as soon as you are done with each connection.

73 Tom

 
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W8JI
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« Reply #27 on: January 10, 2008, 04:29:43 AM »

I disagree strong with suggestions that the common problem is lack of heat.

I would say that is the rarer of problems.

The most common problems are stray strands that get in the wrong place (shorts), pushing the shield on small diameter cables up against the flare of the center pin by having a reducer that almost constacts the front insulator, or melting the insulation.

In all the hundreds of connectors we use here the vast majority of failures are shorts. An ohmmeter won't tell you when that is going to happen because it tests at a few volts. That's why we use a low current high voltage supply to test conductor spacing.

In a pinch we have just stripped and stuck a connector on a cable without soldering. Never had a single problem, although they are redone as soon as possible (usually within a month or two).

On the other hand in jumpers we collected from other stations and failures in tests from people who install connectors here the bad ones have ALWAYS, without fail, been shorts from the above reasons. Either the reducer is too long, the installer left stray strands, or he heated the connector too much and melted the insulation.

The local Sheriff bought a dozen cables from AES made by Van Gordon and out of them only ONE cable held off 500 volts or more. Some failed at a hundred volts or less. All had the shields pushed right into the PL-259 insulator and were heated in soldering.

We remade the very same cables and they high potted to at least 4kV.

73 Tom



 
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AA4PB
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« Reply #28 on: January 10, 2008, 05:26:52 AM »

It just takes a lot of care and a lot of practice, especially with RG58. Too much heat can be worse than not enough heat.

Back when I was making hundreds of RG59/BNC video cables I found that crimp connectors were much more reliable. Of course I had a professional $300 crimping tool. The biggest problem with soldered connectors was stray shield strands shorting to the center pin.
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AD4U
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« Reply #29 on: January 10, 2008, 05:34:04 AM »

Your eham BIO does not say where you live and having a 4 in your call sign does not mean anything any more.  If you live within driving distance of me, come on over and I will SHOW you how to make jumpers.  An hour doing it (IMO) is worth a week of discussion on the internet.

Dick  AD4U
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