The Ersa i-CON PICO is a 80W soldering station that uses the Ersa 0102 series of soldering tips. After three months of sporadic use, the station started showing Err8 (according to the manual, error code 8 translates to “change heating element”). Once I turned the station off and back on, however, it operated as if nothing had happened. So it didn’t seem like the heating element was really at fault (at least in my case).
Trying to work out at what moment the error occurred, I noticed that it mostly happened when I was placing the soldering iron back into the holder and touched the side walls of the holder during this process. At this time, the temperature reading on the screen also showed random values (between 120 and 440 degrees Celsius!) before displaying the error and shutting down. This rather hints at a poor connection somewhere between the temperature probe embedded in the heating element and the station.
So let’s take things apart and use some contact cleaner (I usually apply KONTAKT 60 first, let it soak for a bit, and then use KONTAKT WL spray wash) to see if the issue can be fixed.
The heating element is easy to remove: Simply pull it out of the handpiece (I did unscrew the soldering tip, but this isn’t strictly necessary). As you can see on the right, it features a five-pin connector, two pins of which are from a different material (they probably connect to the built-in thermocouple). Given that it’s virtually impossible to clean the socket in the handpiece directly, I applied the contact cleaner to both the heating element’s plugs and the socket inside the handpiece. Then I placed the heating element back in its socket, and moved it back and forth for a few seconds. Afterwards, I removed the excess contact cleaner with a wipe and repeated the same process with the spray wash.
I also cleaned the connector on the bottom of the soldering station, even though this is probably not required. After having cleaned it the same way as described above, I also used tweezers to pinch the contacts a little closer together.
At last, I used a cotton swab to clean both sides of the connector on the circuit board. By pushing down on the plastic clips (visible in the top-right of both images), the front panel can be moved out of the case for easier access.