Product Test: Soldering irons

Product Test: Soldering irons

The more advanced cars become, the more power and wiring they need.

For many, electricity is a bit of a dark art, but working with it doesn’t actually need that much in the way of equipment.

With a decent multimeter, insulated drivers, wire strippers and crimpers and a solid soldering iron, you’re good to go.

While some might prefer to add junctions, soldering is a quick and easy way to splice in additional equipment such as extra lighting, alarms and start buttons, particularly on older vehicles.

We’ve been testing a variety of types of soldering iron to see which is the one we’d want with us to sort through the spaghetti of vehicle wiring.

How we tested them

We’ve been trialling the irons with precision soldering jobs and removal of old solder on a circuit board fished out of a defunct PC and a couple of strips of wire left over from a project car. How quickly the irons heat up and cool down was an important factor, but secondary to how they do the job in a cramped space like an engine bay.

Draper Gas Soldering Iron 78724

How much: £20.34 (inc VAT)
Where from: drapertools.co.uk

A decent little unit that takes a small butane charge just like a cigarette lighter. The compact size means it’s great for use in confined spaces – if you’re upside down beneath a steering column, for example – and it heat cycles quicker than the electric units, but is perhaps a little too small for serious use. The lack of accessories also marks it out as one for convenience rather than a workhorse.

Two stars

Senator MT500

How much: £21.62 (inc VAT)
Where from: cromwell.co.uk

Like the gas Sealey, the Senator is a clever little piece of kit. The reservoir isn’t quite as large and it feels a little more fragile – we’re not sure how it’d stand up to being dropped a couple of times – but it’s good enough for use over a decent length of time. We like the fact it has a stand, unlike the others here, and it has a few interchangeable bits that mean it can be used in a number of ways.

Four stars

Sealey Rechargeable Soldering Iron SDL6

How much: £70.14 (inc VAT)
Where from: sealey.co.uk

This is one of the neatest ideas we’ve seen in a while. It combines all of the convenience of the gas irons we see here with the traditional electric-powered soldering iron, by using lithium ion batteries that you find in other cordless tools. It does have a little chink in the armour, in that it takes by far the longest to heat up – a little over 20 seconds – but for a four-hour charge you’ll get well over an hour of use out of it. The charging dock doubles as a stand and a small LED perfectly lights up the target. It could probably do with a couple of accessories to make it absolutely spot-on.

Five stars

Draper 100W Soldering Gun 71420

How much: £24.30 (inc VAT)
Where from: drapertools.co.uk

This is the conventional soldering iron that everyone’s probably most familiar with and as such will be the easiest to get used to. The time taken to heat up and cool down again when not in operation is pretty quick but even so, we’d like to see some kind of stand for it. There’s a small LED that lights up the tip, but it doesn’t seem to quite align properly with all of the tips, casting a shadow where you’d probably rather not have one! The bulk of the unit makes it less than ideal, but the trigger action is considerably nicer to use than thumb-operated toggles of the other units here.

Four stars

Sealey AK2962

How much: £76.74 (inc VAT)
Where from: sealey.co.uk

Although it looks more like a kit for vaping than soldering, this can be considered as a much bigger version of the Draper gas torch and we’re really rather keen on it. It takes a larger charge with a bigger fuel tank, so you can use it for much longer, and is a much more substantial unit overall. The business end is no less precise though and it comes with a number of changeable tips and a soldering sponge into the bargain.

Four stars

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