Submitted By Member: Terrykc

Forty years or so ago, Plessey built Ford car radios were frequent visitors to our workshop about ten miles away from Ford’s Dagenham plant. The PCB was soldered onto the rear of the casing in several places. Not only was it a pig to remove, but it couldn’t be operated after you’d done so! (I suppose if I’d known how many of them I would see, I would probably have considered making some sort of a jig to resolve the problem!)

However, the problem was invariably one of the IF transistors, which could be diagnosed in situ. After the first couple, I became more confident that they would work after they were reassembled! I wonder if Plessey got hold of a bad batch because I never repaired the same radio twice, so it doesn’t point to a design problem …Perhaps it was an early outbreak of the dreaded tin whisker problem – but nobody had heard of that in those days …

I was discussing these radios one day with a friend who told me why I saw so many of them. Security at Ford’s spares division at Aveley (only a few miles away) was very strict, he said, and it was virtually impossible to get anything out of there. But, he said, the faulty sets that were returned for replacement under guarantee were just slung in a heap away from the main secure area and it was relatively easy to pick one up … Of course, this could just have been urban myth, except … One of our customers was the Chief Inspector at the local nick. He was usually in civvies when he popped in but, on one occasion, we got the full treatment – silver buttons and sparkling braid, the works – not for our benefit, he pointed out, but he was on his way over to Chelmsford to see the Chief Constable.

While he was chatting away, I became aware of the workshop door opening behind him and a chap came in with a Ford car radio in his hand. He instantly clocked the uniform, then silently span 180° on the balls of his feet before creeping out again. It was so comical to watch, I don’t know how I kept a straight face!

The strange thing is, I don’t think I ever saw another faulty Ford car radio after that!

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Eric Flack
Eric Flack
5 years ago

Found the above.
I worked at Plessey in late 1960s and they had one of the first “wave” soldering machines for the PCBs on the car radio “line” Gave a lot of trouble setting the thing up. I had to measure the temperature of the metal to get to the right temperature before they could start the line. There were a lot of rejects due to soldering defects. Other PCBs went down that “line”.

5 years ago

Yes, the tin whisker thing has become a pain in the backside since solder went lead free. With cars full of PCBs these days it’s not only radio problems they have! I am thankful you can still get the good ol’ 60/40. I worked for a while in an electronics plant with flow soldering for PCBs. All pretty good until lead free came and spoilt the game! It’s also a pain in the neck to use for hand soldering. I now refuse to use or guarantee the reliability of lead free solder. There used to be a special board equipped with thermocouples that was routinely run through the flow soldering machine to check the temperature of the solder wave. Too low and the solder wouldn’t wet the boards, too high and it frazzles the components.

4 years ago

Lead free solder is a pain in many ways. I even keep special bits for the times I have to deal with it. Oddly, the kind containing silver is more convenient than the kind without – the opposite is true with lead solder.

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