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This page is intended to familiarize you with some of the basic tools to have handy when doing electronics and electrical upgrades to your vehicle. While you don't need all of these or can make do with an alternative, these tools definitely make things go a little smoother. Most of these pics are of my own tools & a few are 'catalog' pictures when the item isn't something I normally use. (Most likely, you won't "need" it either...)

With soldering irons - keep in mind that bigger isn't always better! Too much heat can cook neighboring components on circuit boards, or fry insulation. Keep the heat hot & focused and you'll be fine. I highly recommend practicing on some junk electronics prior to tackling something expensive! Snag a broken radio and just practice soldering without cooking parts.

And once ya fill up that tool-kit with equipment... Learn How To Solder! (Off-site link.)

25 watt pen style soldering iron. Great for most applications but you'll find it hard to get a good soldering joint outside on windy days.:

Butane soldering iron. FANTASTIC for most soldering jobs! Focused heat melts solder quickly without overheating nearby components. Perfect for circuits boards. Variable heat.:

Hi-wattage soldering iron. Good for general purpose automotive soldering with 12 - 16 guage wire. Has a 'hi/lo' output that lets you vary the heat but beware using on circuit boards! This gun puts out a lot of excess heat that can cook the traces right off of a circuit board! Use a butane iron for circuit boards!:

Propane torch with solderin tip. Good for HEAVY gage wire such as 04, 02, 00 etc. (... and roasting marshmallows.)

.032 diameter - 60/40 Rosin core electronics solder. General usage for most electronics projects.

95/5 Rosin core solder. Fancy-schmancy rosin core solder with antimony... Also lead free in case you were thinking of eating some. Made in Ohio, as if that matters.

Heavy guage elecronics solder. Takes more heat to melt but is intended for heavier guage wires. Match the solder to the wire... or just make sure you feed the correct amount of solder.

BAD! Avoid acid core solder for ALL electronics use... unless yer out of the other. Acid can damage components so use it at YOUR OWN RISK. (Think 'long term corrosion' with some components.):
Butane for the butane soldering iron. Got this at the drug store across the street from the Radio Shack. Maybe $2 a can.
Desolder tool. Mostly used when removing components from a circuit board. Uses vacuum to suck up holten solder. Not to be used as a substitute for a girlfriend.:
Helping hands. Two aligator clips on adjustable arms used to hold components / wires for easier soldering.
Digital volt meter. Replacement leads and lead clips from Radio Shack. (The new leads cost more than the meter did from Harbour Freight!)
Analog test meter. Great for testing voltage fluctuations that a digital meter would 'average out'. The needle gives a visual indication of intermittant or 'pulsing' conditions that a dvm would otherwise not show. (A good example of how an analog meter comes in handy would be for testing distributor 'stator' / sync-pulse generator function.) 12volt test light. I added an extra long wire and new alligator clip. Use clip to ground light and then use probe end to look for 'hot' circuits. When you find a 'hot' circuit, the probe lights up.
Deluxe wire strippers... ok, a cheap one from Harbour Freight but it's nice and shiny. It also strips fine guage wire more readily than the 'pliar' type wire strippers.
Wire stripper / terminal crimp tools. Blue handle one is a heavy duty electrician's version that will crimp most any terminal you'll use for automotive use. Yellow handle crimper / stripper is generic to most wire terminal 'kits' you'll find in automotive stores. Yellow ones are generally more than adequate.
Wire terminal assortment plus some extra packs of terminals. Home Depot has better prices on the replacement 'packs' than the local auto parts stores. You get a much better deal on them getting the bulk packs but expect to pay around $5 or so for each pack.

Fuse Puller

Solder flux:

Desolder wick:

Electrical Tape & Heat Shrink insulation.

Wire gages & types.

Zip ties. Baling wire for the 21st century.

If you have pics of your own repairs or can suggest other methods - please contribute your ideas (and pictures) to this article!

Revised on: May 27th, 2007

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