This isolating (desoldering) tool is amazingly simple and amazingly handy at the same time.
I always work servicing electronic equipment and the most I work with are automotive Engine Control Modules or ECMs.
Most of these ECMs use surface-mount technology for mounting and interconnecting their internal electronic components. That is not a problem for an experienced tech when it comes to replacing parts. But on the other hand, when it is about replacing the ECM’s terminal for example, it is commonly installed in the ECM as a through-hole component, which means that it uses the good old method of connecting to the circuit, by passing the leads or pins through a hole in the circuit board and then it is soldered to the other side of the same board.
While replacing through-hole parts is not a problem by itself, the issue is that the ECM’s circuit is a multi-layered board, meaning that it has connections on top, on the bottom and in between the circuit board and that makes it considerably difficult when it comes to desolder and remove a through-hole component. In this example, the ECM terminal.
In my search for tools for that kind of desoldering job, I found a simple tool that does it in the simplest, but most effective way. This simple tool does not do a conventional vacuum desoldering nor absorb the soldering like the desoldering wick does. Instead, it completely isolates the connection from the circuit when it is inserted around the pin to be disconnected, while the soldering is still molten. Then you spin and pull back the tool and the connection will completely disconnected or isolated.
You simply heat the specific pin with your soldering iron for a few seconds, insert the right isolator (there are seven different sizes), spin it and pull it back. The pin of the component will be completely disconnected and isolated from the circuit board. Very, very simple. When you finish with all the pins, the terminal will just separate from the circuit.
Other tools are less effective because those tools rely on suction force, while melting the solder in ALL internal connections of ALL layers in a specific pin of the circuit board. Also, the vacuum itself generates air that will quickly cool and solidify the solder. That is why with other tools, the circuit will mostly end up with broken copper traces and/or broken links, which are the ones that interconnect among the circuit board layers. This situation may introduce new problems to the ECM which will vary from moderate to difficult to fix.
Of course, you surely may do the job with other tools, complex or not, but these simple tool has a very low cost and will do it perfectly
- Includes seven diameter sizes: 0.8mm, 1.0mm, 1.2mm, 1.4mm, 1.6mm, 1.8mm and 2.0mm
- The stainless-steel alloy isolator tip does not stick to the solder
- Heat does not affect the isolator tip, as it would happen with Teflon vacuum pump tips
- No parts to replace, as would happen with a desoldering stations
- Very easy and simple to use
- Small sized
- Can be done with a simple 35-watt soldering iron
- So cheap that you can order several as spare
How does this work?
First, start by choosing the right diameter isolator. The isolator’s tip must fit exactly around the pin to be desoldered, but must not be too wide that it does not pass through the hole around the pin in the circuit board.
In this example, I used a 2004-2005 Toyota Rav4 ECM. The 1.2mm isolator fitted perfectly to the pins of the terminal.
Now with your soldering iron, apply some soldering to the pins to be removed in order to “renew” the existing solder. This will allow the heat from your soldering iron to be transferred quicker to the pin when isolating it.
Now start by heating one of the “refreshed” pins and keep the soldering iron there for 3 to 5 seconds until all solder is molten and flowing. Connections tied to small copper traces will be done very quick (about 3 seconds), while connections tied to larger copper traces, like grounds, will take up to 5 seconds.
Finally, take the isolator and insert it around the pin to be disconnected (isolated) and gently push it all the way through the hole in the circuit board until it stops. Remove the soldering iron while spinning the isolator tool with your fingers and then pull it up. The pin will be completely isolated from the circuit. Do the same with all pins and you will be able to cleanly remove the terminal or any other part you are working with.
It takes only some minutes to get the grip of it. So if you like, you may first try in any scrap circuit board you may have sitting around, but if you don’t, do not worry. It took me only about three pins to rapidly master how to use it.
In the above pictures, no solder was removed with any too. That is how this tool works. This is the direct instant result as soon as you pull back the tool. Looks like solder was removed, but it is all there. It is only out of the way.