Car Lights For Reflow Heat Source

If you only have a car and you need to unsolder some tricky surface mount components: what would you do? If you’re Kasyan TV, you’d remove your car’s halogen lights and get to town. That’s right: car lights for reflow.

When the friend of the host of Kasyan TV needed to remove some roasted toasted FETs from his motherboard but didn’t have anything for reflowing, she took some headlights and used them as an infrared source to desolder the FETs. Powered by a lab supply (although car batteries work too), the process works with 60 and 100-watt bulbs.

Now, reflowing with halogen bulbs isn’t new, and we’ve seen it done with the run of the mill 100-watt bulbs and a halogen floodlight. However, what we really like about using car lights is that they’re available everywhere and we already own some that we could (temporarily) repurpose. Now, don’t get us wrong – if you’re going to be reflowing more than just a little, there are plenty of alternative methods that don’t involve staring at “rather bright lights” for extended periods of time.

People ’round these parts can’t seem to get enough of reflow: from open source reflow oven controllers to reflowing with a hair straightener we’ve seen quite a bit. If you’re new to the reflow arena, we’ve got zero to hero: reflow style just for you. And if DIY at home reflow isn’t intense enough for you, we’ve got next level reflowing as well.

The full video is after the break, complete with Kasyan TV’s sponsored segment in the middle..

26 thoughts on “Car Lights For Reflow Heat Source

  1. Certainly looks sketchy, but if somebody rigged up a decent handle/enclosure for it, I could see it having some use. Can’t deny it plows through those SMD components pretty quickly.

  2. Shame that most of the heat goes into the black chip package rather than where it is needed, would putting the light into an improvised blowpipe give you more control? May the fzzzzts be with you.

    1. Just a thought. I’m not in a position to check this out. Would it help if a piece of aluminum tape or the like on the package help to reduce the heat the package soaks up? something sort of reflective.

  3. Small mirrors from a party ball… mounted on a grasping rod, fix over the chip to reflect heat to the side. Rod end is bent to a U to grasp the mirror. I usually see 1/4 square size. If a photographer wishes to under expose part of a print he acts similarly but merely blocks the light… old school.

    1. I use a butane lighter more often than a heat gun to shrink the stuff. Especially where my source of 230VAC is only an inverter, but also often at home, when the heat gun is in the basement. A blue-flame wind-proof lighter is very good for this.

  4. I do prefer the heat-gun when you don’t need to reuse the board afterwards (it may work, but has the precision of a bazooka with quad damage).
    Otherwise, I do use a clothes iron held in a vise for pre-heating the back of the board to 150~200°C, and then, the soldering iron on the top face (which needs much less power) for soldering/unsoldering components on a ground plane.

    But harvesting SMD components always make me thing about this evil genius toaster:

    1. “Otherwise, I do use a clothes iron held in a vise for pre-heating the back of the board ”

      But then you can’t make toasted cheese sandwiches while you have a PCB on the iron.


    1. Except that typical domestic small 50w halogens have a dichroic reflector specially fitted to stop the focusing of IR. Perhaps some tinfoil at the back of the reflector will help focus the IR in the direction needed.

  5. Just goes to show that making heat is easier than making light.

    Where are my Hackaday commenteers bringing up prior art? looks well thought-out. looks ill-advised, but fun.

    On a totally different technology, I saw a small, round ceramic heater element ages ago that would make a great SMD reflower for parts that aren’t bigger than 10 cm^2 or so, but I can’t find the link. Anyone?

  6. “However, what we really like about using car lights is that they’re available everywhere and we already own some that we could (temporarily) repurpose”
    But are power sources in the home available to run 100W at 12v and connect that to a car light?

    Also, the last years I can’t go outside for more than 15 minutes without seeing at least one car with a busted light. Seems the spares are more sparse than you would think.

  7. Hrmpf. Now we payed good money for an Ersa HR 100 Infrared Reflow Station and could have used a cheap car lamp… :^)
    Next step up will probably be to buy some Galden LS230 (PFPE) and try vapour phase reflow soldering in a cooking pot.

  8. A lot of H4 bulb failures are only one element (dip beam is used far more than full beam) so if you’re being very thrifty, “half-blown” H4’s are still good for a few things.

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