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Soldering or welding cable ends? ... I *HATE* crimp-on caps(20 posts)

Soldering or welding cable ends? ... I *HATE* crimp-on capsAllUpHill
Mar 16, 2003 12:05 PM
Have you ever noticed how a new shifter or brake cable (inner wire) from Shimano comes with the end capped off? It looks like they use a dab of solder or a quick weld to hold the end and prevent it fraying. What is more, this termination is still petit enough to slip through the inside of the shifter and through cable housing.

Does anyone know how I'd do this to cables that have to be trimed? I was pretty sure it looked like a dab of solder on the end, so I bought a little Radio Shack soldering kit and attempted to duplicate the ending. Maybe I wasn't doing it right or used the wrong type of solder but I couldn't get any solder to stick. Then someone suggested that they're welding the cable ends like that. I don't have plans to buy welding equipment just for capping my cables, but if someone could fill me in on how it's done at the factory ... and if you have soldering skills, maybe you could try this on a scrap of cable and tell me how to do it.

I'm sick of having to crimp on a new metal cable cap--or struggle to reuse the previous one--everytime I have to pull a cable out for something. I've started capping the ends in masking tape, but that's not a clean solution.
Super glue works for me. nmDave Hickey
Mar 16, 2003 12:34 PM
News flash. Super glue may just be the ticketAllUpHill
Mar 16, 2003 12:35 PM
I just had the idea to attempt bonding the end with a bit of super glue. First, I gently unravled the tip of a scrap of brake cable, and smeared glue in among the wires on the last 5 mm or so. Then pinched the end and twisted to restore the spiral, removed excess glue with a tissue and put a small dab on the very tip. I let it sit 5 minutes and have not been able to unravel the end despite my most viscious effots. The cable even slides through housing as the glue is pretty much just in among the wires, not crusted on the outside.

Now to glue up my bikes and see how well it holds in the field ... stay tuned, fellow crimp-cap haters... (I feel so original and brilliant. I've never heard of anyone else trying this ;-)
Darn. A minute shy of being original. (nm)AllUpHill
Mar 16, 2003 12:37 PM
LOL. been there many times(nm)Dave Hickey
Mar 16, 2003 2:13 PM
You'll need a solder with a high silver content.High Gear
Mar 16, 2003 12:51 PM
You can find a little kit at any welding supply store.
Get a proper crimp tool, never a problem.the Phantom
Mar 16, 2003 12:57 PM
$10.00 at an electronics store. The tool will dimple one side only. Never a problem in twenty years...
Soldering always worked for me...did you use proper technique?Dad Man Walking
Mar 16, 2003 1:37 PM
Are you sure you used the soldering iron properly? You have to get the cable (or anything you are soldering, for that matter) hot enough so that it is what melts the solder. If you melt the solder on the iron, the cable might not be hot enough and you will get just the results you described.

A small "electronics repair" soldering iron does not put out a lot of heat, and it may take a long time for it to get the cable hot enough. The rest of the cable is acting as a heat sink, drawing some of the heat away. It will work, however...just give it a few minutes. I got it to work by pressing the iron against one side of the cable and holding the solder to the other side of the cable. When the cable gets hot enough, the solder should flow into the cable right where you want it.

I used regular flux-core solder; nothing fancy. (I did this on my old-school 80's bikes--I presume that there is nothing that different about new cables, but I am sure I will be corrected if there is.)
Soldering always worked for me...did you use proper technique?AllUpHill
Mar 16, 2003 2:21 PM
I'm no soldering expert but I'd always heard one melts the solder with the heated object, rather than the iron, as you said. I was using a fairly small iron (25W or something) but when the cable finally heated enough to start melting solder, it just wouldn't adhere... the bead would tend to roll off onto the table rather flowing into the cable. Apparently I was doing something wrong.

I'll have to try some high silver content solder as mentioned above, although the superglue may hold well enough to be a long-term solution as well.
Soldering always worked for me...did you use proper technique?daniell
Mar 16, 2003 2:50 PM
You cannot solder the cables because they are stainless steel.
I used to solder cables, but when I changed to the stainless steel ones, I could no longer do it.
All fluxed up?Humma Hah
Mar 16, 2003 4:14 PM
Electronics solder flux is not the best stuff for soldering steel. Usually it won't make the solder flow properly, although it will work on some steels depending on how clean they are or what they're plated with.

Acid core solder fluxes or chloride fluxes will allow you to solder to steel. Silver solders usually come with chloride flux. The problem with these is they are corrosive. Don't get it on the bike, do try to remove it from the cable. The cable end will eventually become brittle if these aggressive fluxes are used, so leave some extra.
I have the BEST solution!dave woof
Mar 16, 2003 3:59 PM
Use heat shrink tubing - the kind you use to shrink over soldered electrical connections. I use the small stuff from Fry's electronics. I used to solder, too difficult. Cut about a centimeter of small diameter shrink tubing, slip it over the cable and heat it - use a match or whatever. It will not come off, put it will peel off if you pull on it just right. Plus it's lighter than an end cap! hehhe

I have the BEST solution!AllUpHill
Mar 16, 2003 6:40 PM
Good idea ... we have a stock pile of the stuff at work in all sizes. But would it survive getting pulled back through the housing and brifter? I'll have to try it.
Mar 17, 2003 12:32 AM
The shrink wrap insulation won't survive being dragged back through shifters and housing, but it takes five seconds to remove the old with a knife and about the same to cut and put a new piece on.
It is the best solution in IMHO.
YupMel Erickson
Mar 17, 2003 6:30 AM
I've used this solution for several years. Only way to go, IMHO. No special tools. A couple of bucks buys a lifetime supply. Easy. Fast. Looks very neat and clean. Goes with any color scheme (black goes with everything, don't ya know?). What more could you want?
My latest trick is to cut 'em with an oxygen torch ...Humma Hah
Mar 16, 2003 4:10 PM
... burning the cable thru with an oxgyen/MAPP gas torch is my latest trick, and it leaves the ends fused very nicely. Do it in a very well ventilated area and stand upwind ... no telling what kind of fumes will come off.

I used to solder, but lately I've gotten fond of teflon-lined cables, and they're not so great for soldering. On the other hand, if you cut them off cleanly with an abrasive tool such as a Moto-Tool, teflon-coated cables will hang together by themselves.

My wife thinks I have to many tools.
Monster Garage and Cycling collide nmbigrider
Mar 17, 2003 6:42 AM
trying too hard?burdiman
Mar 16, 2003 4:56 PM
Dude, just cut and twist. My cables never unravel and I don't do a thing to them. If you have to take the cable out for some reason just replace. Viola.
Your cables must be pretty special.AllUpHill
Mar 16, 2003 6:33 PM
Mine have gotten frayed a number of times by neglecting the cap or having it come off while riding. No big deal, except it looks messy and it has to get tossed if you take it out for some reason.
Seems like you are making work for yourselfLive Steam
Mar 16, 2003 5:56 PM
I build up my bikes and generally leave enough cable exposed for one or two more cuts. It looks just fine. The pros cables are cut really short. I guess it is a weight issue, though how much does an inch or two of cable weigh anyway? Crimping on cable ends is a lot easier than messing with solder IMO.

If you really have to solder them, you may want to try solder paste. It comes in a tube. You would dip the cable end in it and then use a heat source like a mini torch or cigar lighter to heat the solder and cause it to melt. I am not sure how well it will work on SS though. Good luck? :O)

One more point! (pun intended :O) Cable ends serve another purpose besides keeping the cable from unraveling. They blunt the end, thus preventing you, the user from getting stuck or scratched by the sharp end of the cable.