Best way to clean contacts on SB-900?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by lisa_b|4, Jan 28, 2015.

  1. So, I wanted to upgrade from my SB-600 in anticipation of some upcoming shoots. I found an SB-900 on Craigslist, met the seller, powered up and fired the flash, and then paid for it. However, upon getting it home the next day, I found some corrosion in one of the four battery slots. Needless to say, I feel pretty stupid for not pulling all the batteries and checking for corrosion--I know how easy it is to store things with batteries in them, only to have the batteries leak over time and damage, if not destroy the device. The flash appears to work just fine, and it does not appear that the corrosion went beyond the powdery type of corrosion. The metal contact in the bottom of the one battery slot has a fair amount of greenish-blue corrosion on it, and I'd like to clean that off ASAP to prevent any problems using the flash as well at to stop the metal tab from continuing to corrode and possibly break off at some point.
    I cleaned the little bit of powder from the battery slot wall with a q-tip with a little bit of rubbing alcohol on it, but this did not seem to have any effect on the corrosion that's on the metal contact. What would be the best way to clean the metal contact tab?
    Many thanks!
  2. If the batteries were alkaline batteries, then use a mild vinegar solution on the Q-tip. If the batteries were zinc-carbon (Leclanché cell), use a baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) solution on the Q-tip.
  3. Radio Shack and similar electronics stores carry commercial cleaners. CRC 101, 3M Novec Aerosol Cleaner, and Deoxit come to mind.
  4. i used this:
  5. Here I like "Kontakt 60" a spray sold by shops like Radio Shack or also glas fiber erasor pens made to brush of rust from your car where flying stones hit it and damaged the paint. - But I'd follow Brooks' instructions too.
  6. Remove any powder deposits using a Q-tip moistened with plain tap water, then immediately dry off with further dry cotton-buds. Whether the original battery electrolyte was alkaline or acid doesn't matter, it'll have turned itself to a neutral salt through corroding the metal contacts or absorbing carbon dioxide from the air. Some metal carbonates aren't easily dissolved in water, and any corrosion that can't be "washed" away needs to be mechanically removed by abrasion. The fibreglass brushes mentioned above are ideal, but gentle scraping with a sharpened wooden or plastic stick will often do the job. Follow up with a quick squirt of commercial contact cleaner. WD40 - is not a contact cleaner, rather a silicone insulator oil that'll make electrical contact worse rather than better. Besides which it penetrates everywhere. (That stuff should be a controlled substance IMHO!)
    Unfortunately, once corrosion has taken hold and eaten through the Nickel or Chrome plating of battery contacts the damage is done. The bare brass or steel revealed will readily corrode again and need frequent cleaning to maintain good battery contact. Here's hoping that the corrosion hasn't reached that stage.
  7. Try a stiff toothbrush. Just don't use it on your teeth afterwards. :) Or just stick your finger in their and scrape with your fingernail. A clean popsicle stick is also good for this. And the eraser on a pencil is a traditional tool for cleaning battery contacts. If you have an unsharpened wooden pencil, you can use the end of it to scrape also.

    Definitely stay away from WD-40. Great stuff for the garage but it has no place near any camera equipment (other than maybe a tripod or lightstand).
  8. Thanks for the advice everyone! Looks like I dodged a bullet--after cleaning with both a q-tip with white vinegar, and then a pencil eraser, it looks like I got 99% of the corrosion and the metal connector/tab seems fine after cleaning. Lesson learned though, I will always check by reoving batteries for any future used flash purchases.
  9. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Glad to hear. If it is working fine now and most of the corrosion is gone, I would leave that alone.
    For the SB-900, I would just switch off the thermostat as it is overly sensitive and may disable the flash prematurely. That happened to me once and it took a while before the flash re-enabled itself; it was quite annoying as I simply couldn't use the flash. However, you need to watch it yourself and don't over-push the flash such that it indeed overheats, which would shorten its life.
  10. Lisa,
    I'm glad the cleaning worked, and that your SB-900 is again usable. One more lesson: avoid using a pencil eraser to clean contacts in the future. I used to use them, and recommend their use, until this thread. Erasers will accelerate further corrosion. Hopefully you can just clean off any residue
  11. I was about to send in my sb-900 for repair when I came upon this thread...thankfully. I used straight white vinegar on a Q-Tip, let it dry and voila, the flash is working. Thanks all.
  12. I have to be nit-picky and say that most of the base stock in WD-40 is nothing more than straight deodorized white kerosene(or paraffin if you're from England).

    I agree on its general uselessness, though. In the garage, I've switched entirely over to PB-Blaster as my penetrating oil of choice. Even at that, PB-Blaster is applied liberally before I ever put a wrench on a fastener(usually starting a couple of days before, with daily or even twice daily application). During re-assembly in the garage, parts get the appropriate lubrication(if any is called for) for the application. Speaking of which-it's time to attack the front suspension on the MG, so I need to start hitting it with the PB Blaster.

    At the moment, I'm nursing a Vivitar 283 where I'm afraid I'll break contacts if I pull the batteries out of it. It came to me as a freebie, or at least I counted it as such since it came with a camera and I made an offer based only on how I valued the camera. For the time being, I'm hitting it with Deoxit once or twice a day with the hope that the battery holder will drop out and I can at least start clean-up on it. If I can't salvage it, it's no big deal but I like these as remote flashes since I have more or less the full "system" for them. I do have wall cords, so I probably should try to power this one up before I dig too deeply into even trying to salvage the battery compartment, especially since I'll likely ONLY use it plugged in anyway.

    As a side note, my first line of defense in cameras, flashes, or whatever else on battery contacts is a pencil eraser. It won't take care of heavy corrosion, but can clean up light stuff.
  13. Vinegar seems like a good choice, from a chemist's viewpoint. However I wouldn't spray anything wet into a flash unit or camera. Vinegar will attack soldered joints and who knows what else. A drop or two on a Q-tip should do the job for corroded battery terminals. A pencil eraser, loaded with pumice, is probably okay too, but never on gold-plated terminals. It will scrub right through the thin gold plating.

    I carry packets of alcohol swabs for low voltage contacts, like the flash shoe or lens contacts. They remove skin oils and other contaminants, and leave no lint.

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