How to Fix Bad Pixels: Scotchloks vs. Solder Sleeves vs. Soldering

By Kari / January 23, 2020

When it comes to needing to repair a pixel or connecting new pixels there a few different methods you will be able to do yourself. In this post, I share the 3 most popular ways and compare them against each other.

Whether you are fixing a pixel or extending your pixel row you want to make sure you only need to this once and it’s done right so that you don’t have to go back later. In this tutorial, I’m going to walk you through 3 different approaches to fixing a bad pixel.

For each method, there are only a few tools that you’re going to need handy. We’re going to first look at soldering, the soldering sleeves, and lastly scotchloks.

Soldering

If you are repairing a pixel or even connecting a new row of pixels the first step when working with a soldering iron is making sure you let the tool warm up completely first.

How to fix bad pixels

The tools you would need for the soldering method are:

  • Soldering Iron
  • Solder
  • Wire Strippers
  • Heat Shrink
  • Scissors

With your pixels laid out, you first want to make sure you know where the data input it and the data output is. Next, you want to separate the wires and then using the wire stripper, strip wires on the ends you want to connect.

How to repair bad pixels

Once you’ve stripped the wires you will then use the soldering wire and begin to tin then. As mentioned earlier make sure to have your soldering iron heated up and ready to use.

Take each stripped wired and be sure to heat it up using the iron. You want the wires to be very warm before applying the soldering wire.

Next, you want to use heat shrink and cut the sizes the pieces that you need for the wires. If these are outdoor lights I would recommend using waterproof heat shrink.

If the wire is long enough, slip on the heat shrink piece before soldering the two wires together. Then, you can solder the wires together and have a strong connection. One thing that can go wrong with soldering is if the wires aren’t heated all the way it will make a poor connection.

Another note to add is that I do not recommend purchasing your pixels from Amazon or eBay because most products have the shortened wire so that they can reach a specific price point. This makes it difficult when wanting to repair a pixel or add to it.

Soldering, when done properly, makes a great connection and if the wire is long enough you can do it right with no issues. The downfall is that this method does require the most tools and can take up a good chunk of your time just doing a repair.

Solder Sleeves

The next method to fixing a bad pixel or adding to it is using a soldering sleeve. This is much easier than having to use a soldering iron.

I normally purchase these sleeves off of Amazon, you can see them here: Soldering Sleeves.

The tools you’ll need for this method:

  • Soldering Sleeves
  • Wire Stripper
  • Heat Gun

First, you’ll need to layout your connections and know which is the data input and the data output. Then, you’ll need to strip and separate your wires.

Then, taking your soldering sleeve and slip on the sleeve to one of the wires. With the stripped wires, you want to twist the two connections together so that they can hold their own.

This might take you a time or two to have this down but you just want to twist them together so that they can hold when you slip the sleeve over the connection.

Slip the soldering sleeve over the connections so that the silver strip on the sleeve is centered on the connection of the two wires, this is where the actual soldering will happen. The red strips are the adhesive line heat shrink and will block the water from getting to the connections.

Once you have the sleeve in place, you will then use the heat gun to solidify the connection.

Using the heat gun, I would start with heating the silver strip so that it will liquefy and melt the connections. Be sure to spend time on this and make sure it does melt and solidify your connections. Then, move over to the red strips and this will activate your adhesive to seal the connections.

To make sure the sleeve is used properly I always go back to the center strip and make sure it melted properly.

Soldering sleeves are great when working with thicker wires or even in a tight space. It’s not my favorite method but it’s much quicker and easier than using a soldering iron. As long as it’s done right, it will work just fine.

Scotchloks

The last method to use for fixing a pixel would be the Scotchlok method and is actually my favorite method to use.

With Scotchloks I only use the 3M brand and you only need one tool to do this method:

First, go ahead and spread your wires and be sure to know the data in and the data out just like the previous methods. Then, start with your first two wires and slip them into the scotchlok all the way in. There are three holes but it does not matter which two slots you slide the wires into.

Using the pliers you can just gently squeeze the Scotchlok with some pressure until the sealant comes out of the Scotchlok. The sealant that does come out is what is used to waterproof your connection.

The third slot on the scotchlok is used so that you can test the voltage on the connected wires.

When using the Scotchlok method it is the easiest and quickest method of the three methods. It also only needs just one tool to do it. The downfall to this is that by some chance if the wires get yanked on they can slip out of the Scotchlok and you would have to repair it again.

About the author

Kari


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