Motorcycle Gear: Milwaukee M12 Cordless Soldering Iron

I was elated to see this new Milwaukee battery-operated soldering iron hit the market.

People couldn’t understand why I was so stoked, but I was. To me, it’s liberating to not plug a soldering iron into a wall outlet or unravel yards of extension cord. The portability of a self-powered tool just makes it more valuable to me.

Cordless Soldering Iron from Milwaukee tools
Adjustable cordless soldering Iron from Milwaukee tools.

Now this is not the first time a soldering iron has been made sans power cord. I’ve seen some that run on butane like a cigarette lighter. But even that version has limitations. Buying the fuel and refilling the iron just seemed like a chore to me, and that’s why I never acquired one. But this Milwaukee version, powered by its popular M12 lithium battery pack system, makes total sense. Best of all, I already have the battery and charger in my toolbox. The M12 tool system includes over 80 different tools and accessories. I already own and regularly use the M12 drill, bit driver, and jig saw in my garage.

Cordless Soldering Iron from Milwaukee tools
A steady green LED shows the cordless soldering Iron is ready-to-use.

The Milwaukee M12 soldering iron heats quickly—like 18 seconds quick—and maintains optimal temperature during use. It offers 750 F max temperature and 90 watts of heat output. Two trick features you won’t find on conventional wired soldering irons are the built-in ready-to-use (steady green LED) and safe-to-store indicator lights (a red LED indicates the tool is off but still hot). So, no more scorched fingertips trying to figure out if the tool is ready.

The body of the soldering iron flexes and locks in one of three positions. So, you can now have a straight 180-degree soldering iron, a 45-degree tool, or a 90-degree version; just choose the orientation depending on where it’s needed and click the pivoting head in place. No more struggling to point the soldering iron in tight confines. It’s about 10″ long and weighs under half a pound. There’s a built-in LED worklight, too. The tool comes with two different soldering tips: one pointed and one chisel tip. And changing from one to the other is a snap with its tool-free bit change design. A threaded collar holds the tip in place.

Cordless Soldering Iron from Milwaukee tools
A red LED indicates the cordless soldering Iron is off but still hot.

Because I already own an M12 battery and charger, I opted for the tool-only version, which comes with two soldering tips. But you can also get a complete kit with soldering iron, battery, case, charger, and two tips. The M12 soldering iron comes with a five-year warranty.

The Milwaukee M12 soldering iron makes a nice addition to my power tool arsenal, and my old-fashioned pencil-style hardwired soldering iron has a new home­—the trash can. RC

Motorcycle Tech: Motorcycle Spring Prep Tips

As I write this, snow is still on the ground here in Connecticut. A thick sheet of ice covers the driveway in front of my garage. But the urge to ride surpasses anything Mother Nature may dish out, so I’m preparing my bike for that glorious day when temperatures reach double digits and the ice has melted.

Spring motorcycle prep is a great way to evaluate your machine each year before that first ride of the season. Make sure everything is in working order and hopefully get your bike ready with little cost and minimal effort.

Now, if you’ve winterized your bike by adding stabilizer to the fuel, removed or hooked your battery up to a tender, changed the oil, gave the bike a good wash, and kept it covered all winter, you’ll be on the road in no time. But not all of us are as strict when it comes to bike hibernation. If your idea of winterizing involves parking the bike and turning it off, well, a little more effort may be needed.

Motorcycle Spring Prep Tips -
New set of rubber getting scrubbed in. The manufacture date, 4517 (arrow) lets me know these tires were made the 45th week of 2117.

I like to start from the ground up, first with a motorcycle tire inspection. Look for any cracking and make sure the tread isn’t worn. Find any flat spots or uneven wear. Tires will form a flat spot in the center from long, straight-up runs on highways. Also check the date on your tire. This can usually be found on the sidewall after the DOT stamp. My tires, bought and installed just before the end of last season, are fairly new; the manufacture date stamp says 4517, meaning the 45th week of 2017. Also, check the tire pressure. Your owners manual will have an optimal psi listed. It’s a good idea to do this pressure check before every ride, as I’m sure you do.

Work your inspection up to the brakes. Check the pads to see how much meat is left. You should be able to do this without removing the caliper. Next, check for uneven wear and any warping of the rotor, plus any rust that may have formed from moisture over the winter. The rust can easily be removed using water and fine-grit sandpaper. Go easy when doing this, you’re just removing the rust, not resurfacing the rotor. Also check the brake fluid front and back and top off if needed. Always refer to your owners manual to find out exactly what brake fluid your bike manufacturer recommends.

Motorcycle Spring Prep Tips -
Not too loose, but not too tight. A well-adjusted, clean, and maintained chain will make a huge impact on your bike’s performance.

Drive Chain
There are a few key checkpoints with the drive chain. The first thing to check, of course, is wear. Are the links sloppy, allowing movement side to side and front to back? Chains do stretch—well, sort of. Gaps form between the links, lengthening the chain and causing unwanted horizontal and lateral movement. If you’ve maxed your bike’s chain adjuster and the chain exhibits these issues, it’s time for a replacement. Also check the front and rear sprocket for excessive wear. If the teeth start to resemble shark fins or come to a fine point, it’s time to replace them as well. I run steel sprockets and usually replace them and the chain as a set. If the chain and sprockets are in good shape, it’s time to clean off the old grease. I use a degreaser from Spectro Oils that’s fast drying and O-ring safe. Depending on the kind of chain you have—standard, O-ring, X-ring, etc.—you’ll need to find a cleaner that removes the grime without damaging the chain. Simple kerosene works wonders at removing grease, but there are tons of available options. Finally, adjust the chain, somewhere between 1″-1.5″ of slack, but again refer to your owners manual when making this adjustment.

Motorcycle Spring Prep Tips -
Critters love to find their way into air cleaners or any inviting areas that may provide shelter. Check for nesting and evict these unwanted guests as often as possible.

Air Cleaner
There are countless air cleaner sizes and shapes, but the function always remains the same: provide clean air to the motor. If a small amount of dirt or dust has built up in the fins, use an air compressor to remove the debris. If it’s a substantial amount or you see any holes in the filter, it’s time to replace. Also, air cleaners are a notorious go-to spot for nesting critters, so always check and evict any unwanted squatters immediately. Check for any damage they may have caused.

Engine Oil and Coolant
Oil is the lifeblood of your ride. If you didn’t change it when putting the bike into hibernation, now is the time. I usually change my oil before every season along with the oil filter. But if it looks clean and the fill levels are met, you may want to hold off until later in the season. If you do change the oil, let it drain for a while. The old oil is cold and thick, which will take longer than usual to drain. Check your machine’s manual for oil and filter specs and purchase a quality brand. They’ll cost a little more but keep the heart of your bike running smoothly and strongly. Also, for those of you with water-cooled bikes, check your coolant level and top off if needed. My filler and overflow tank are located under the seat and have clear fill-level markings.

Motorcycle Spring Prep Tips -
Tighten your battery terminals often, not just once a season. Loose terminals are a common issue, but a simple fix on both new and old bikes.

If you’re one of the conscientious ones who removed the battery and hooked it up to a trickle charger in a warm, climate-controlled room, you’ll only need to reinstall the battery. If you simply turned the bike off and walked away, you may have to hook it up to a charger for a while, maybe even need a jumpstart, or replace the battery. A dead battery is common if left in the cold without a trickle charger for a few months. Been there, done that. After reinstalling or using a voltage meter to assure you have a strong charge, make sure your terminal connections are tight. Even brand-new bikes loose power or shut down seemingly out of nowhere due to loose terminal connections. It’s also a good practice to check these connections often throughout the season. Now that power is plentiful, check the headlight, taillight, brake light, and turn signals.

Motorcycle Spring Prep Tips -
Following these simple steps, my Honda 919 has been cleaned and prepped for another riding season.

Cleaning, Fuel & Start up
Before start up, while the bike’s still cold, wash and detail to your heart’s content. This also provides a great way to do a final once-over, finding any loose connections or other critter condos. This is a good time to check your fuel. Hopefully you’ve conditioned the fuel with an additive before putting it to bed for the winter. If not, add it now. Some additives, like Spectro’s Ethanol Fuel Conditioner, suggest using this product with every fill-up. After completing the mechanical checklist, washing the bike, and conditioning your fuel, it’s time for the season’s first start. Keep your idle low at first, let the engine components get a fresh coat of oil before increasing rpm. While the bike warms up, grab a can of silicone spray and give a shot to all hinged components, such as the control levers, footpegs, rear brake lever, and gear shifter.

Now you’re ready for another season on the road. Unless, of course, you live in a warm climate year-round, in which case you’ve read this story and now have a sinking feeling that a generation of chipmunks may live within your beloved scoots’ breather. Either way, enjoy the ride! RC