as simple as a broken wire can ruin a great ride. The nature of repairs
you can do when you discover a broken or damaged wire will depend upon
the resources available to you at the time. A roadside repair could
be as simple as wrapping a band aide from your first aid kid around a
bit of chaffed insulation. That, of course, is not the recommended fix,
but sometimes you have to make due with what you have.
you're on the roadside, a better choice is to carry a simple repair kit.
These easily fit into the corner of a saddlebag, and they consist of a
pair of wire strippers, different sized wire connectors and some wire
terminals. You'll find these kits at auto parts shops and sometimes at
places like K-Mart, Wal-Mart, or Target. It's also a good idea to carry
an extra bit of wire in case you have to replace a section that's been
damaged beyond repair. Oh, and don't forget to include a roll of electricians
tape. It's great for temporarily holding wire bundles together, and you
can use it to wrap your repair if you have nothing better at the time.
A knife can be used instead of a wire stripper, but it's very easy to
cut yourself trying to cleanly remove insulation.
repair a broken wire with your kit, begin by disconnecting your battery
so you don't fry yourself or your tools if the wire is hot. Once you know
you don't have a live wire, then clip the wire at the point of damage
if it's not already broken in two. Trim both ends to the point that you
have clean wire, then use your wire stripping tool to remove the last
¼ to ½ inch of the insulation. If using a wire connector, place
both wires side by side, twist the ends together just a bit to hold them
in place, then screw on your wire connector until it seats. No bare wire should
show below the connector.
better alternative to using a wire connector, and something a bit more permanent,
is to use a crimp type connector (these are sometimes included in a repair
kit). A connector has the advantage of requiring less space than a wire
connector, but once attached you cannot remove it and reuse it if you've made
a mistake. To use a connector, prepare the end of your wire in the same
manner as above, then insert it into the splice. Use your crimping tool
to firmly clamp the splice onto the wire. When you're done, give it a
tug to make sure it's secure. As with a wire connector, no bare wire should
you find a broken wire at home, or if you've made it home with a roadside
repair and wish to fix it properly, the best repair is to solder your
wires back together. Before using a soldering iron, however, keep in mind
that some electronic components can be damaged by the current of the iron.
Make sure the wire you repair is electrically isolated from such components.
If you've ever tried to solder something, you know it's not as easy as
it looks. It is, however, something almost anyone can learn to do, and
you can be successful on your first project. The first secret to success
is simply cleanliness, and there's an easy helper to make it happen. That
helper is called "flux". Soldering flux looks like firm grease
and works as a cleaner. Without it you're nearly dead in the water before
you start. You'll also need three other tools: The first is a soldering
gun or iron (the kind that looks like a little wood burning kit works
just fine for wiring repairs), the second - some small gauge rosin solder,
and the last; a wet towel or sponge.
solder wires together, begin by turning on your iron. Once it's hot, dip
the tip in flux. It will sizzle a bit, and it may pop, so make sure your
work area is clear of flammables and that you are wearing eye protection.
Wipe the tip of the iron on a wet sponge, then dip it in the flux again.
Apply just a bit of solder to the tip, and if it spreads evenly around
the tip you know your iron is clean and ready to go. If it doesn't, repeat
the process until it does. If the tip of your iron already has solder
on it, clean it as described anyway. It really does make a difference.
process to prepare your wires is basically the same as for joining with
a wire connector, but you may need a bit more of the wire exposed. Place the
wires end to end with the exposed area overlapping. If you can give them
a little twist to hold them together long enough for soldering they should
be just about right.
Dab a bit of flux onto the exposed ends of your wire, then heat them
briefly with your soldering iron. If you've started with clean wire, this
should assure any minor contaminants from handing are neutralized. Once
satisfied that everything is clean and in position, heat the joint with
your iron. The idea here is to get the joint hot enough to melt the solder,
but not so hot as to melt the nearby insulation. Now here's the second
secret to success - don't heat the solder, at least not with your iron.
Heat the joint, touch the solder to the joint near the iron, and let the
heat of the joint melt the solder and draw it into the joint. If you use
your iron to melt the solder and let it drip down on the wires your joint
will most likely fail. As soon as the solder has flowed into the joint
and covered the exposed wire remove the iron and let the joint cool. You're
done, and the joint you've created is nearly as strong as the wire. Don't
add more solder - it's just a waste and will make putting on the heat
shrink insulation more difficult.
heat shrink insulation? It's the stuff that will cover the nice new soldered
joint you just made. It comes in different sizes and looks sort of like
a little plastic hose. Before joining your wires, slip a bit onto one
of the wires and push it back out of the way (Cut the heat shrink so you'll
have about a half inch overlap on each end of your joint.). Once your
joint is complete, slide it up over the joint then give it a bit of heat
from a match or your soldering iron. The heat will shrink the diameter
of the tube and collapse it down on your joint. Great stuff - get it at
Radio Shack or other electronics repair shop.
The band aide may get you down the road, and it will surely give you
a story to tell, but with minimal supplies and a little effort you can
create a permanent repair that won't leave you in the lurch.