How to Identify an Electronic Component for Replacement

With most of the world revolving around electronics, it’s only natural to have replacement parts when original pieces break down. From resistors to capacitors, each device has a different configuration of components. Identifying these components can be difficult at times, requiring a sharp eye and some cross-referencing talent.

Part Number Simplicity

If your device is relatively new, you might be lucky to find the component with a visible part number. Composed of both letters and numbers, these part numbers can literally be on any part of the component. Wipe it down, if necessary, to see if dust covers the imprint. Part numbers are cross-referenced within the electronic industry, making it simple to find through a major database. However, some manufacturers may not place the number on the part. There may even be a number only referencing the wire portion, for instance, instead of the entire assembly.

Physical Matching

Today’s camera and phone technology allows you to email or post a picture of a component for identification. Contact an electronics part company and send a clear email of the part. For electronics experts, they’ll be able to identify the part by just a glance at the pins, construction or color. If one technician isn’t able to answer the question, their networking contacts help them out to solve the mystery part’s identification.

Schematics Help

If you have a service manual for the mystery part, such as at a repair facility, schematics can be your best friend. Locate the device in the manual. Unlike a basic user manual, service manuals break down the device to its core printed circuit board components. Engineers use these schematics to keep track of all their part numbers and quantities. Locate the part’s sketch within the schematic to cross reference the part number.

Desoldering for Verification

When you have a circuit board component, the part number could be on the board itself or on the part facing the board. In either case, you must desolder the component from the board. Using a heated soldering iron, carefully loosen the solder from the component. It should simply slide out of the attachment hole. Look at the component and the board area. If a part number is visible, you’re ready to find a replacement.

When Replacement isn’t Possible

If you have a complicated device with tiny circuit board components, there is almost no way to replace them by hand. Surface-mounted components are attached by machines, making a desoldering strategy impossible. When you have a bad surface-mounted component, it’s necessary to replace the entire circuit board. Its part number is normally along the edging, making your replacement much easier than soldering itself. However, the repair will be more expensive because it’s the entire board being replaced.

Whether you have electronics experience or not, replacing components takes some attention to detail and perseverance to find the right schematics. If you’re in doubt, contact a component professional to verify your needs. Just one replacement part can make an entire machine come alive.

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