How do you prevent Solder Escape/Wick?

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Understanding Solder Escape and Wick

Solder escape, also known as Solder wicking, is a common issue encountered during soldering processes. It occurs when molten solder flows away from the intended joint, often traveling along component leads or PCB traces. This undesirable phenomenon can lead to poor solder joint formation, short circuits, and reduced reliability of the electronic assembly. In this article, we will explore the causes of solder escape and discuss effective methods to prevent it.

What is Solder Escape?

Solder escape, or solder wicking, refers to the unintended flow of molten solder away from the desired solder joint. Instead of remaining confined to the pad and component lead, the solder travels along the surface of the PCB or the component lead. This unwanted solder flow can create bridges between adjacent pads, cause short circuits, and result in suboptimal solder joint formation.

Causes of Solder Escape

Several factors can contribute to the occurrence of solder escape:

  1. Excessive heat: Applying too much heat during the soldering process can cause the solder to become overly fluid, increasing the likelihood of it flowing away from the joint.

  2. Inadequate flux: Flux plays a crucial role in promoting solder flow and preventing oxidation. If insufficient flux is used or if the flux is not activated properly, the solder may not flow as intended, leading to escape.

  3. Contamination: Dirt, grease, or other contaminants on the PCB or component leads can hinder proper solder flow and cause the solder to wick away from the joint.

  4. Improper pad design: Pads that are too small or have inadequate solder mask clearance can make it easier for solder to escape and flow along the PCB traces.

  5. Incorrect soldering technique: Poor soldering practices, such as using excessive solder, applying the soldering iron for too long, or not maintaining the proper angle, can contribute to solder escape.

Preventing Solder Escape

To minimize the occurrence of solder escape and ensure high-quality solder joints, follow these best practices:

1. Temperature Control

Proper temperature control is essential for preventing solder escape. Use a soldering iron with adjustable temperature settings and set it to the appropriate temperature for the solder and components being used. Typically, lead-free solder requires higher temperatures compared to leaded solder. Consult the solder manufacturer’s specifications for recommended temperature ranges.

Solder Type Recommended Temperature Range
Leaded 300°C – 350°C (572°F – 662°F)
Lead-free 350°C – 400°C (662°F – 752°F)

Avoid applying excessive heat, as it can cause the solder to become too fluid and increase the risk of escape. Use a soldering iron with a suitable tip size for the job to ensure efficient heat transfer without overheating the joint.

2. Flux Selection and Application

Choosing the right flux is crucial for preventing solder escape. Flux helps to remove oxides from the surfaces being soldered, promotes solder flow, and prevents re-oxidation during the soldering process. Use a high-quality, active flux that is compatible with the solder alloy and the PCB Surface Finish.

Apply flux to the solder joint area before soldering. Ensure that the flux is evenly distributed and covers the pad and component lead adequately. Avoid using excessive flux, as it can lead to solder balling and other issues.

3. Surface Preparation

Proper surface preparation is essential for achieving good solder joints and preventing solder escape. Clean the PCB and component leads thoroughly to remove any dirt, grease, or oxidation. Use isopropyl alcohol or a dedicated PCB cleaner to ensure a clean and contamination-free surface.

If the PCB has been exposed to moisture or has been stored for an extended period, consider baking it to remove any absorbed moisture. Moisture can cause solder to spatter and lead to escape during soldering.

4. Pad Design and Solder Mask

Proper pad design and solder mask application can help prevent solder escape. Ensure that the pads are appropriately sized for the component leads and provide adequate space for solder fillets. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for pad dimensions and spacing.

Apply solder mask around the pads to define the solderable area and prevent solder from flowing along the PCB traces. Solder mask acts as a barrier, confining the solder to the desired location. Ensure that there is sufficient solder mask clearance around the pads to accommodate the solder fillet.

5. Soldering Technique

Employing the correct soldering technique is crucial for preventing solder escape. Follow these guidelines:

  • Use the appropriate solder wire diameter for the job. A thinner solder wire allows for more precise control and reduces the risk of applying excessive solder.
  • Apply the soldering iron to the pad and component lead simultaneously, allowing them to heat up evenly. Avoid touching the solder directly with the iron tip.
  • Feed the solder wire to the joint from the opposite side of the soldering iron. Allow the solder to flow naturally onto the heated surfaces.
  • Maintain a steady hand and avoid excessive movement of the soldering iron. Keep the iron at a 45-degree angle to the joint.
  • Remove the soldering iron and solder wire swiftly once a sufficient amount of solder has been applied. Avoid dwelling on the joint for too long.
  • Allow the solder joint to cool naturally. Do not blow on the joint or use cooling aids, as rapid cooling can cause stress and weaken the joint.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  1. Q: What is the main cause of solder escape?
    A: The main cause of solder escape is excessive heat application during the soldering process. When the solder becomes overly fluid due to high temperatures, it tends to flow away from the intended joint and along component leads or PCB traces.

  2. Q: How can I tell if my soldering iron is at the right temperature?
    A: Most modern soldering irons have adjustable temperature settings and a built-in temperature display. Refer to the solder manufacturer’s specifications for the recommended temperature range for the specific solder alloy you are using. You can also use a temperature-sensitive label or a thermocouple to verify the iron’s temperature.

  3. Q: Can I use any type of flux to prevent solder escape?
    A: It’s important to choose a flux that is compatible with the solder alloy and the PCB surface finish. Different fluxes have varying levels of activity and residue characteristics. Use a high-quality, active flux that is specifically designed for the type of soldering you are performing. Consult the flux manufacturer’s guidelines for recommendations.

  4. Q: What should I do if I notice solder escape on my PCB?
    A: If you notice solder escape on your PCB, you should remove the excess solder using a desoldering tool such as a solder wick or a desoldering pump. Clean the affected area thoroughly and ensure that the pads and component leads are free from any solder bridges or short circuits. Re-solder the joint using the proper techniques and temperature control to achieve a reliable connection.

  5. Q: Can solder escape be completely eliminated?
    A: While it may not be possible to completely eliminate solder escape in every situation, following best practices and proper techniques can significantly reduce its occurrence. By maintaining temperature control, using appropriate flux, preparing surfaces properly, designing pads correctly, and employing correct soldering techniques, you can minimize the risk of solder escape and achieve high-quality solder joints.


Preventing solder escape is crucial for achieving reliable and high-quality solder joints in electronic assemblies. By understanding the causes of solder escape and implementing best practices, you can minimize its occurrence and ensure optimal performance of your soldered connections.

Remember to control the soldering temperature, use appropriate flux, prepare surfaces properly, design pads with adequate solder mask clearance, and employ correct soldering techniques. By following these guidelines, you can effectively prevent solder escape and achieve consistent, reliable solder joints.

Regular practice and attention to detail will help you refine your soldering skills and minimize the risk of solder escape. With experience and adherence to best practices, you can produce high-quality soldered assemblies with confidence.