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DO NOT buy capacitors from eBay!!!

February 7th, 2021 at 2:50 PM by Kugee
Category: Tech/Hardware

Blown counterfeit Rubycon capacitors

For those experienced in recapping, I suppose this should be obvious, but anyone new to this field should know about this before they even get started ordering replacement capacitors. It might sound convenient to buy capacitors off of eBay, the same place where you get those Asus motherboards and those 3dfx video cards... but make no mistake, if you buy any of them from there, you're in for some unrelenting frustration and nasty surprises.

You ever wonder why I never posted a follow-up to my Abit BP6? The capacitors were pathetic, being sold as part of a kit with some brands I really don't recognize. Sure, they could hold up for a while with two Celerons, but eventually they would start to lock up and you couldn't use the board again until the capacitors drained out enough. I'd say that's the best you can expect from these things; it's all gonna get worse from here.

The other thing I tried to recap was an Asus P4B533, an early Pentium 4 DDR board. For this task, I ordered some Rubycon capacitors! Lots of people know this brand as one of the best, right? But when you buy this stuff off eBay even from someone that seems like a reputable seller, it may very well be Rubycon's quality control rejects or not actually Rubycon at all.

The first issue after taking the capacitors out of the bag is the way those capacitors are held together by grabbing the pins with some adhesive paper strip. Technically, you don't have to worry about that too much since you're gonna have to snip off the excess leads after soldering, anyway, but I would very much prefer to have them clean from the get go. I don't know if genuine Rubycon caps are like that.

Then came the issue of getting those capacitors to make contact with the board... as I've been told, counterfeit capacitors have a tendency to have trouble doing that, but either way, it was making me despise through-hole soldering. SMD was a lot easier; you just put a blob of solder on one pad, heat it up as you put a component on, then attach the other end. Some caps absolutely refused to make contact no matter what I tried - different tips, flux paste, twisting the iron around, and whatever else I could come up with. I burned my finger in the process and had to stop for several weeks.

The main reason why I came back to this just now was because I wanted to get my soldering jobs out of the way so I could create a guide on adding a DIP-24 socket to a Dallas RTC board afterwards, in turn for a better guide on building a Socket 7 system to get me in the right mind for my eventual website for Project Cisco. I was still having so much trouble getting the caps stuck in place for another few hours. Eventually I got them in there just enough, having to force myself not to do anymore "wiggle testing" since that always managed to break contact. What I was in for next was a total spit in the face, perhaps in the literal sense.

I roughly put together the bare minimum components required for a motherboard to send any POST codes at all. Got a good power supply plugged in there, fired it up, nothing showing up on the diagnostic card two seconds later BOOM! Three capacitors vent out white smoke, and I find myself scrambling to open some windows, get a large fan running, and get outside for a minute in the blistering cold. This should serve as hard evidence that eBay capacitors are NOT to be trusted. I've had failed power supplies let out toxic fumes before, but this right here is just pure evil. It's like what happened to one of Victor Bart's dumpster finds, only a hundred times worse because it was the result of hours of struggles on my end.

It appears the smoke is all out of here by now, thankfully... but now I am forced to assume that all of the replacement capacitors I ordered are bad, and will have to start my stock over from scratch. The P4B533 is hidden away in a nicely closed box for now, and I'm not even gonna bother soldering anymore until spring comes. When I do, I think I'll start ordering caps from Mouser... other people have reported great experience with them.

Before I go, I should also note that capacitors aren't the only things that are regularly knocked off; so is soldering equipment. I was at least able to know this right from the start, and ordered much of my equipment through their official US site. Haven't had a single problem with any of the tools so far, at least not something that didn't turn out to be shady capacitors with sucky leads.