Recapping Woes

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    • Recapping Woes

      Everyone and their mom, including people who have never touched a soldering iron in their life will tell you how important recapping our retro machines is. I have been amateur soldering since 2005, and now own a decent quality Weller soldering station and Aoyue desoldering station, however, due to a lack of patience, neatness and steady hands, I'm never going to be great at soldering. That's why my wife has learned to help me with desoldering and the finer detailed stuff.

      Anyway, getting to the point, recapping looks simple enough for most equipment -- just tedious. That, however, has not been my experience. I just starting recapping my later revision PGM (the one without the coin cell) and only managed 4 of 13 caps. Despite having the desoldering station in working order, we couldn't for the life of us cleanly desolder a cap, and ended up quitting after 4 for fear of burning up the board and breaking something. I followed GC8TECH's recapping video, and although I think our Aoyue desoldering station is good, we were unable to achieve the same results.

      The same happened last year, when I recapped my brother's childhood Turbo Duo, which I managed to fix the audio problems on by recapping the audio caps only, but did not complete a full recap. The Duo works fine now, but fills the room with a strange fishy smell when powered on.

      Anyway, the PGM appears to be still working properly, but I'm concerned that if we did manage to burn or lift a pad on the board, I wouldn't know it, since I can't see a good way to test connectivity to the caps with my multimeter. I have no plans to complete either recapping project, which is a shame, since I wanted to recap some Game Gears and install the GGTV I bought a long time ago. It's just too destructive of a process. I just wanted to share my frustration with recapping in general, and get some feedback. Everyone says how important it is, with no regard for how difficult or dangerous it is for the hardware.
    • I would agree, Neo.

      For me, it is hit and miss. I successfully recapped a few PCBs so far and up until recently have not had any issues. My most recent board I seem to have screwed something up after a recap.

      My struggle is when the thing I am trying to desolder is near the ground plane and needs a ton of heat. I have had success with applying more solder and being careful around those troublesome ones but I do still get nervous I might lift a pad or burn something. I watched a bunch of videos (Voultar, etc..) on Youtube. They definitely help with tips and advice on this stuff.

      What I have learned is I am not going to recap anything "just because" until I am 100% confident in my skills.
    • Any through hole that's connected to a ground plane can be a total ass to desolder. There's two things that usually work for me, usually in combination. First is running new solder to the hole. Second is heating it up from one side with a regular soldering iron and using the desoldering tool on the other side.

      Maybe there's an easier way, but I don't know it.

      Also, I have no idea how some people apparently manage to do everything with a desoldering pump and some wick.
    • nem wrote:

      Also, I have no idea how some people apparently manage to do everything with a desoldering pump and some wick.
      Right?!

      Friend and I recapped a PC Engine Duo with desoldering braid and a pumps. I hated it and never wanted to use those again.

      I invested in a desoldering gun early on and haven't regretted it since. The hours of frustration I've avoid has paid for itself, and has made doing HiDef NES and general through-hole recap jobs a relative breeze.


      Neo-Alec wrote:

      Anyway, the PGM appears to be still working properly, but I'm concerned that if we did manage to burn or lift a pad on the board, I wouldn't know it, since I can't see a good way to test connectivity to the caps with my multimeter. I have no plans to complete either recapping project, which is a shame, since I wanted to recap some Game Gears and install the GGTV I bought a long time ago. It's just too destructive of a process. I just wanted to share my frustration with recapping in general, and get some feedback. Everyone says how important it is, with no regard for how difficult or dangerous it is for the hardware.

      Getting a junk board to practice with can be a big help. Play around with the temperature settings (for soldering and desoldering), get a sense for how long to apply heat before pads lift, components get burned, etc.
    • First a shameless plug:
      Rewrite's Recaps - Your monitor and PSU recapping service center

      If your Duo smells like fish oil, something leaked and it's still there. Take it apart and clean the board before it eats traces.

      I'm not sure what you're using for tools, but please anyone who's new to doing this: don't use hot air to remove through-hole capacitors. And clip the caps off of the legs before you start.

      Desoldering pump is great! I was doing NES repro's for a while years ago and put out batches of 50 at a time with only a pump and wick. But I have wrist issues now, so maybe they're related, haha.

      For stubborn non-ground-plane caps it can help to put new solder on both sides of the hole. I'm also a fan of taking a fine pair of ESD safe tweezers and grabbing the leg and while desoldering from the other side. It almost always just effortlessly detaches from the board, most of the time before you've even pulled the trigger for suction. Just don't pull/tug on it or you'll lift vias. Just hold it in place gently.
      On the hunt for: Dinoking, Mushiking, Love & Berry, Egret 29, Grand Am Q25, Capcom New Concept 2, and Naomi guncabs.
    • nem wrote:


      Maybe there's an easier way, but I don't know it.
      if it’s super stubborn I warm the whole ground plane up a bit with a heat gun first.

      smd decapping is also easy with a heat gun. Re-capping from there is admittedly not my strong suit though.
      multis: cps* ttx1/2 gnet f3 mvs sega st-v/16b/24/c2/naomi(netboot) sys2x6 m72
      cabs: sega blast city x2 | taito vewlix c + egret ii
      links: klov/vaps games list | custom fight sticks
      projects: conversions, fixing Fighting Bujutsu
    • ekorz wrote:

      if it’s super stubborn I warm the whole ground plane up a bit with a heat gun first.
      I tried this method on an AV Famicom years ago. I now own an NT Mini. These two facts are 100% tied to one another.

      But yes, SMD decapping is lovely with a heatgun, they just push off nicely. I've gotten really good at recapping SMD stuff on a functional level, but it /looks/ like a train wreck.
      On the hunt for: Dinoking, Mushiking, Love & Berry, Egret 29, Grand Am Q25, Capcom New Concept 2, and Naomi guncabs.
    • We added no-clean liquid flux and more solder. Ended up heating on one side with the regular iron while gently pulling on the other when the desoldering station didn't work. We have a practice PCB we always use to make sure the desoldering station is working before working on any real PCB's. I don't know how some of you do it without someone else to help.

      I had the Duo open at the time when the smell began. I could not locate any leak or damage on the board. Perhaps I simply failed to clean the mess from the audio caps well.
    • It's hard to say without being present, you know? But some good tips:

      Most of that no-clean stuff evaporates /very/ quickly, so only put it on the solder joint you're working on next, and get right to it.

      If you're adding new solder, and you can be very sure you're only touching the solder with the iron and not the via: hold it there and make sure you can see on the opposite side that it liquifies. And then give it a few more seconds. On very very stubborn ones I will wait until you can see it bubble.

      Finding a good way to balance the board upright helps a lot when needing to see both sides without assistance. With monitor chassis you can usually put them on their side with the metal cage around the flyback supporting them. Sometimes I'll use boxes that are nearby to lean PCB's against. I've used the magnifying lamp I have for balance too. Worst case scenario I've sat them in my lap and hunched over it.

      I always see people going on about those helping hands holder things, but I've never found one stable/large enough to be of any real use. I'm sure they're good for things like a GBA or something, but for arcade: not so great.

      As for the duo, if it still smells, something is there. :/
      On the hunt for: Dinoking, Mushiking, Love & Berry, Egret 29, Grand Am Q25, Capcom New Concept 2, and Naomi guncabs.
    • rewrite wrote:

      Finding a good way to balance the board upright helps a lot when needing to see both sides without assistance. With monitor chassis you can usually put them on their side with the metal cage around the flyback supporting them. Sometimes I'll use boxes that are nearby to lean PCB's against. I've used the magnifying lamp I have for balance too. Worst case scenario I've sat them in my lap and hunched over it.
      I personally use a Panavise 305 and Panavise 315 mounted to a 12x12 1/2" plywood board that way it's not permanently mounted to my workspace. Works really well for most boards I've encountered and monitor chassis.
    • Applying flux + new solder is what I always do to troublesome through hole plates. In my repertoire I always do this step preemptively.

      With this in mind maybe you weren't properly wetting the solder when applying new solder.Might be due to your soldering gun losing thermal mass on big ground planes. In my experience soldering irons with the heating element separate from the tip (vs ones with the heating element built into the tip) kinda suck on big ground planes and could be why it didn't. They lose a lot of heat on big ground planes which makes solder not flow good or not at all.

      Only problem with soldering stations with heating element built into it is that they cost quite a bit more than the ones people often recommend (like a Hakko FX888 and other similar ones etc).

      Below is a pretty good demonstration on the difference in technology. Like Voultar states good tools go a long way, but skill triumphs all. With that said sometimes the right tool can be the key difference.



      Not sure how long PGMs were in production, but did they all use lead solder? If they used lead-free solder you would need to use higher heat.

      The post was edited 4 times, last by ChuChu Flamingo ().

    • For troublesome desoldering, I've found that "regular" flux works a lot better than the "no clean" stuff which evaporates very quickly.

      If using a desoldering gun, make sure you have good suction. In my experience there's a few places the guns will start to clog and unless you maintain and constantly clean them, once they start to gunk up performance is severely impacted. Using the best size desoldering tip for your application can also help get a good "grab" on the solder.

      If you have a given soldering joint that's causing you grief, it's best to simply move on and skip it then circle back. This will give it some time to cool back down and you lessen the risk of pulling a pad, burning something, or getting overly frustrated.
    • I just finally re-capped my model 1 sega CD a few days ago. It took 8 hours total. What I’ve seen in the solder porn videos was not what was transpiring before me, lol.

      I kept at it though. Used hot air and aluminum foil to isolate and pull the old SMD caps, and a combination of hot air, cheap solder sucker and soldering iron to remove the 2-3 through hole caps. (This was not fun but I don’t have a desoldering tool yet)

      I chose not to use SMD caps to replace and instead used through hole caps and blobs of solder on the pads. I did not have no clean flux but continually applied the goop flux to my tip and surfaces. I did all the stuff voultar does, add new solder to through hole caps first, wick up old solder from pads, flux before adding new solder etc

      I feel like in retrospect there were things I could have done differently, and it was a pain in the dick, but the condition of the old SMD caps was atrocious and it absolutely needed to be done. now my sega CD is working 100% with more vibrant colors.
    • Wraith wrote:


      Used hot air and aluminum foil to isolate and pull the old SMD caps
      You should pick up some kapton tape for this; aluminum foil will still conduct heat, but kapton tape is made to withstand and not conduct high heat.

      Also, I'd be wary of using radial or axial, can-type caps in place of SMD caps. Seems like a good way to accidentally rip the pads off if they get bumped.