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I have power supply for a vintage Timex Sinclair. The unit was sealed but the cable felt loose so I pried it open to inspect the connections. There was a knot on the other side so it was just the cable slipping between that and the outside and not on any solder joints themselves. But I also found the transformer to have a lot of rust on it.

Can this be cleaned off with vinegar and a wire brush or will I need to replace the whole thing?

enter image description here

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    \$\begingroup\$ Leave it as it is. \$\endgroup\$ – Marko Buršič Feb 11 at 11:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Furthermore, entry of any ionic liquid into a transformer's windings usually spells catastrophic failure. Avoid getting them wet at any cost. If wet, the only option is to bake the moisture out (takes a very long time) and then pray. \$\endgroup\$ – rdtsc Feb 11 at 12:44
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No, do not get vinegar on this part or you could cause it to fail. Vinegar and things like Naval Jelly (a thixotropic concoction of dilute phosphoric and sulphuric acids) are highly conductive electrically.

The rust causes no harm, just ignore it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Maybe just soap and water then? \$\endgroup\$ – Zhro Feb 11 at 11:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ I suggest ignoring it. You could probably paint it with a non-metallic acrylic paint if it makes you feel better. \$\endgroup\$ – Spehro Pefhany Feb 11 at 11:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well I think the rust does cause a little harm, in that the core has permanently lost a small percentage of it's effectiveness due to the lost iron. How small, maybe 1-2%. However removing the rust will be more damaging, especially if liquids are involved. If it really irked me, I'd brush the iron with a stiff wire brush, clean with compressed air, painter's tape to mask, then paint it black again. Careful of the dust though, as it likely contains silicon particles - another reason not to mess with it. \$\endgroup\$ – rdtsc Feb 11 at 12:57
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Leave the rust where it is, it's not doing any harm.

Do not put any liquids on the transformer, whether water based, oil based, or alcohol based.

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Yes. Rust does not alter the performance of the transformator as long as it is only on the surface. Strictly speaking the iron core of the transformer is not needed for its functioning principle. It "just" increases its efficiently, but it increases it so well, that it is worth to add anywhere where power loss and thus thermal dissipation is an issue.

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