How to Fix a Trace on a Circuit Board

Written by jerry walch Google
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Printed circuit boards are easily damaged. All it takes to crack a trace is a little rough handling during installation or removal. It doesn't even have to be deliberate roughness, some of the plug-in boards just don't want to enter or exit their sockets without the use of a little force. Apply a little bit too much heat for a little too long during the installing or removal of components and the copper trace will lift free of the board's substrate.

Finding a microscopic crack in the trace is the most part of making the repair. Once you have located the break, here's the way to fix the board.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • DMM (Digital Multimeter)
  • 35 Watt soldering iron or soldering station
  • Sponge
  • Rosin core solder
  • Fine grit emery cloth
  • AWG 18 solid hookup wire
  • Diagonal pliers/wire cutters
  • Wire strippers
  • Silver conductive pen
  • Green Overcoat pen
  • Flux pen

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Locate the broken trace to be repaired.

  2. 2

    Using the Emory cloth, remove the protective green overcoat from the broken trace. Clean the trace ½ inch to both sides of the break until it shows a bright copper colour.

  3. 3

    Using the Silver Conductive Ink pen, apply a liberal coating of ink across the break and let the board set until the ink is completely dry. Different inks have different drying times so read the data sheet that came with your pen.

  4. 4

    Using the Green Overcoat pen, apply a generous coating of the protective coating and let the board set until dry.

  5. 5

    Set your DMM to the Ohms range and take a reading across the repaired section of the trace. The meter should read 0 Ohms. Some meters will read the resistance of their internal fuse so if you get a reading 0.5 Ohms or less your repair was a success.

    If the circuit board is subject to vibration or flexing, conductivity ink or paint isn't the repair method of choice.

  1. 1

    Locate and prep the broken trace as you did in steps one and two of the first section.

  2. 2

    Plug in the soldering iron or turn on the soldering station. When hot, clean the tip on the wet sponge.

  3. 3

    "Tin" the freshly cleaned tip by applying a thin coating of Rosin Core solder. A properly tinned tip will appear bright, silver in colour. A properly-tinned tip conducts heat faster and you are less apt to do further damage to the PC Board during the repair.

  4. 4

    Tin the trace to be repaired by coating the copper trace with solder.

  5. 5

    Cut a short piece of hookup wire and strip ¼ inches of insulation from each end.

  6. 6

    Tin the bare copper ends of the jumper.

  7. 7

    Solder the jumper across the break in the trace.

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