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Cleaning Electrical Terminals


JeffR
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To all those who like electrickery.  Got some crusty terminals (Lucas type) that need cleaning. The majority are factory and tinned brass. Tin don't corrode easily , but the base metal does. If I abrasively clean the terminals, will this promote corrosion ? Can anyone recommend a good terminal cleaner in a can, most just seem to be an alcohol based degreaser.

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The old favourite for cleaning switch contacts and the like is Servisol Super 10. It won't have much effect on properly corroded contacts without some mechanical assistance though. My favourite way to do that is with a fibreglass pen intended for circuit board work.

If you need anything more agressive than that, the plating is probably beyond saving anyway.

Even with the plating scrubbed through, a good smear of vaseline over the terminals, before and after assembly, will keep air and water out and keep corrosion at bay. It flows away from pressure points, so it doesn't hurt electrical contact, but tends to keep an airtight seal around the contact points.

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As far as I can remember contact cleaner and brake cleaner are just alcohol that evaporates off removing residue. WD40 has a little cleaning ability and leaves a lot of residue but will expell water.

Most important is that the two halves of the contacts retain a good mechanical grip on each other otherwise they be intermittent or arc and generate heat.

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On 9/10/2021 at 6:41 AM, missingsid said:

As far as I can remember contact cleaner and brake cleaner are just alcohol that evaporates off removing residue. WD40 has a little cleaning ability and leaves a lot of residue but will expell water.

Most important is that the two halves of the contacts retain a good mechanical grip on each other otherwise they be intermittent or arc and generate heat.

Good contact cleaner is far better than brake cleaner or other alternatives - but you're right WD40 is definitely the wrong thing for the job.

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I once asked an electronics engineer about contact cleaners, and he told me that a proper/professional job consists of several stages. The actual cleaning is a slightly aggressive process which should be followed by protection measures. I remember that he talked about three stages, but I don't remember the third one. I couldn't find any multiple step products either when I looked for them to give this post validity. I did however found an interesting blog post where the researcher (with chemical experience) states that the actual cleaning agent in a popular cleaner is most likely naphta, or lighter fluid.

Also, its a process that can't be repeated endlessly.

Edited by Vogler
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I hitched up to someone else’s trailer the other day. His has a 13 to 7 pin adapter. My lights went haywire and as he was watching me, he said it was my side problem.

I knew it wouldn’t be and first sprayed the 7pin plug and socket with my Servisol. Nothing improved so then I pulled the other end at the 13 pin connection. He was a bit edgy about it ( maybe he’s never separated that joint!) but after a good spray and lots of pulling apart and pushing back together, the lights worked perfectly. 

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