How is automotive solder used today and why it’s important

Cars and trucks have been built and repaired with solder for decades.  Today, however, some aspects of this use are changing as the type of vehicles change, and how they are constructed continues to evolve.

Today, solder is typically used in the creation and operation of electronic systems for vehicles. That’s where the biggest change comes in. Vehicles today and moving forward contain many more sensitive electronic components than in years past. This has created a critical issue for manufacturers as newer systems need newer solder formulations.

But while the electronics of today’s modern vehicles use wire solder in a variety of ways, some automotive uses remain standard, such as radiator solder repair, while other uses become part of the world of high-end custom car building and repair.  

Radiator repair is quite a common use of solder, but it’s not just any kind of solder.

Automotive solder is used to repair holes, tears or breaks in both the inner and outer workings of a radiator. Radiators in vehicles are used to cool the power systems down for the most efficient running temperature. There are a vast number of radiator designs, and all of them disperse heat at slightly different rates. The heating properties of the metal parts of the radiator play a role in that system, and when using solder for repair, the heating properties of the solder must match the metal of the radiator in order to maintain the correct cooling process.

Solder is also commonly used in auto body repair and in high-end custom car building.

Body repair using automotive solder is called Leading, and for many years, it was the primary way to fix dents in car body parts such as doors, fenders and hoods. Today, however, it’s a bondo world, and most automotive repair shops use plastic filler rather than lead solder. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best choice. Lead solders’ low melting point makes it easier to use. The use of solder in body repair is still favored by high-end body or custom car manufacturers and repair shops.  

One issue with plastic fillers is, they crack with any reshaping of a fender. You can’t “pound out” the dents when using plastic filler. Leading heats the solder until it flows over the area being repaired, and then can be shaped for the perfect repair without cracking.

Leading a vehicle’s body may not be as prevalent as in years past, but the reasons that make it superior to plastic still exist.

Solder remains a vital component of the automotive industry, despite the many changes that the industry has seen in the last few years. As the car world continues to evolve, so will the materials used in their manufacture, including automotive solder.


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