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I'm currently attempting to replace some bloated caps on an old PC motherboard but am currently having problems with some specific points.

Here's a pic of the motherboard: my mobo.

The area outlined in fuchsia are the series of caps I am trying to desolder. Notice they are in pairs of square and round solder points. The round solder points are no problem to desolder. It's the square ones that won't desolder. No matter how much I heat them up, the solder on the points just won't melt and so I can't pull the caps off!

Is there a special technique or tool I need to perform this task?

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Now you know why one should always use thermal relief when connecting pads to ground planes. \$\endgroup\$ – Dmitry Grigoryev Jul 10 '17 at 12:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you don't have a pre-heater just bake it in the oven at maybe 150 degC, then proceed to remove caps with soldering iron \$\endgroup\$ – sstobbe Jul 12 '17 at 0:16
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You need a bigger soldering iron, as in "more power."

The square connections are in the ground plane of the board. That is the large yellow area they are embedded in. That is a large piece of copper, and there are probably also large copper surfaces on the internal layers of the board.

Copper conducts heat very well, and it also radiates it away.

The large copper areas are basically sucking up all the heat your iron can provide and radiating it away fast enough that it can't get hot enough to melt solder.

The solution is an iron that can put in heat faster than the board can dissipate it.

So, you need an iron with more power.

Many irons are only around 30 watts. You'll need much more than that.

When I've had to do that kind of thing, I borrowed a huge 150 watt iron from my father in law. It isn't intended for electronics, but it has the raw power needed for large copper surfaces.


As for technique, high wattage irons often have wide tips.

I apply some extra solder to the heavy joint with the iron heating just the ground connection.

When that finally melts, I rotate the tip of the iron to heat both pads for that part.

The solder melts pretty quickly, then I can pull the part out. Afterwards (if you need to to replace the part) you can clean the holes with a solder sucker or solder wick.

While you are removing the part, you actually want as much solder as possible on the connection. Removing solder makes it harder to get the part out, not easier.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Worth checking the ground on those big irons but good answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Solar Mike Jul 9 '17 at 7:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ Another thing to consider is the solder used. The original solder most likely is 100% Sn for ROHS reasons. That one has a very high melting point. When removing a multi-pin part which an iron, you can make your life easier by resoldering it with Sn60Pb38Cu2 (hobbyist electronics solder) instead of completely desoldering, then heat up all pins at once and pull out the still soldered, hot part. This method doesn't work with the original solder because of its high melting point. \$\endgroup\$ – Janka Jul 9 '17 at 9:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Janka: Already mentioned adding solder to the joint when desoldering. \$\endgroup\$ – JRE Jul 9 '17 at 10:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you very much! My iron was indeed only 30w. Time to get a more powerful iron, looks like. \$\endgroup\$ – toadhall Jul 9 '17 at 11:37
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Is there a special technique or tool I need to perform this task?

Nothing special but try to get hold of a rework station with blower. As pointed out by others, the square ones are indeed ground plane which require a bit more time to heat up due to the large surface area. Using the blower adjust the blow speed and temperature (such that the board doesn't burn up). Apply flux, heat the desired location and with the help of tweezers plug out the caps.

I have also experienced the same problem before, so I plan on dividing my ground plane into smaller sections during routing.

Edit: In Eagle, there is an option of enabling thermals for a pad(enabled by default). Enabling this keeps a bit of gap between the pad and the surrounding plane. This helps in quickly heating the pad before the heat dissipates.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Many PCB design libraries include pad styles with thermal relief to solve this problem out of the box. \$\endgroup\$ – KalleMP Jul 9 '17 at 21:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ My personal favorite is the 851D hot-air gun. The hand-held hot-air blower can put out several hundred of watts of heat. After applying some tin-lead solder to "contaminate" the joints and good quality flux, circle around the general location for awhile to get the whole area nice and hot, then narrow in on the two pins, back and forth until the solder melts - and pull the part out. Be gentle pulling it - a PC motherboard has anywhere between 6-12 layers and pulling the part out with partially un-soldered connection can destroy an inner layer connection and render the PCB useless. \$\endgroup\$ – rdtsc Jul 10 '17 at 2:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @rdtsc Well described! I too have used 851D, really good piece. But I continue to work on the Chinese rip offs of Hakko, bit light on the wallet! \$\endgroup\$ – abhi Jul 11 '17 at 11:54
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Most likely both pins are connected to planes. The ground plane on bottom layer is obvious, but there is probably a power plane on the other pin as well. So the solder will melt half way through the board (and visually, from your side, it looks melted) however there will still be solid solder inside.

The solution is:

  • Clamp the board to something solid.
  • Have someone grab the cap from the other side with a pair of pliers and pull GENTLY.
  • Apply one >90W soldering iron with flat wide tip to each pin, adding leaded solder to lower the melting point. Yes you need two irons and two hands.

Another method is:

  • Cut a piece of thick (like 4mm2) copper wire long enough to span both of the cap's pin.
  • Place it across the cap's pins.
  • Heat it with a powerful iron (like an instant-on 100W soldering pistol).
  • The copper will spread the heat to both pins. Apply a generous helping of leaded solder to lower the melting point.
  • This method only requires one iron (albeit a beefy one) and two hands, so it is more practical than the previous one.
  • A cut piece of copper wire bent and shaped properly also works wonders to heat all the pins on big SMD chips, connectors, etc, and makes desoldering a lot easier. With a bit of practice, desoldering QFPs without damaging the board is rather simple.

This are the simplest "ghetto" method. If you have a hot air rework station, you can preheat the board, which will make your job a lot easier. Don't use something like a 2000W hot air gun, this is very effective at burning and delaminating boards (after all it is intended to strip paint...)

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Butcher the capacitor off and solder the replacement to the stub of the leg that remains. This is known as the RAG technique (Rough As Guts).

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Always use silver solder and to get any difficult component out, always use FLUX. Only the last answer even mentioned flux. Flux and a little bit of solder will get just about any component I have ever come across out with no damage to the eyes or board because only a 25-30 watt iron is required. I have never had to use higher wattage using the technique I described. Rosin core solder does NOT replace FLUX.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Silver solder has a high melting point, which is counterproductive in this situation. You want good, old-fashioned tin-lead (eutectic) solder for this. \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Tweed Jul 10 '17 at 5:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Flux does nada for removing solder, and silver solder makes the job harder, not easier. \$\endgroup\$ – JRE Jul 10 '17 at 5:44
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  1. You can use a de-solder pump, which is commonly available. Melt some solder over the joints and while the joint is hot, use your pump to pull the solder out. Though this should be used only when you need to remove the component and not replace it, because inexperience of using de-soldering pump can cause the destruction.

  2. Another method would be to add a lot of solder on the pads and place your iron such that it touches both pads (keep your board as parallel to the iron as possible) and use your other hand to pull the component out with a tweezer. This method might/might not leave some solder on the pads. But if you need to replace the component there, you can simply heat the pads and push your component inside. Then you can solder on the pad a bit, if necessary.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Desolder pumps are for removing the solder AFTER the part is out, not before. \$\endgroup\$ – JRE Jul 10 '17 at 5:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've done what I've said to good effect and enough number of times and it's worked for me. \$\endgroup\$ – Sachin Jul 10 '17 at 5:45

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