There are essentially two types of ways a neon sign can break down. One is when the smaller parts of it break, and the other is when the tubes themselves develop cracks. The former is easily fixed, while the latter is not. Here is how you can fix most of your neon signs with a little knowledge.
We all are well aware about the luminous tube signs that are made of low pressure neon gas. When the neon gas is subjected to a high voltage difference, it glows in brilliant and eye-catching lights. The best uses of neon signs are in commercial advertisements. Most of the bright and glittering boards that we tend to see are tubes filled with neon gas, mixed with some other gases. From the auto repair to beer, all fall under the same category! Neon signs are the best visual impact one can have on a mind as compared to many other forms of advertising. And they are highly durable with limited maintenance requirements.
But even these advertising aids can break down and leave the owners wondering what to do. Actually, neon sign maintenance and repair is not that difficult a task, and one can definitely master it with a little knowledge of it. A few basic things like cleaning and scraping are required, along with tube re-pumping and welding.
Neon Sign Repair Instructions
- You need to make a similar pattern of the neon sign which you are working on. In case you are not able to repair it properly, you don’t want to regret breaking the last remaining sign available with that pattern in the neon sign store. For making the pattern, take a pattern paper and trace the neon tube on it. You can also use a bending material for making the pattern. You must fill in the part that is missing in the broken sign; as best as the original one. A past picture of the same neon sign would be better for reminding you about it. Your pattern is ready. Moving on, here are the repair instructions.
- Once you are done with drawing the pattern, scrape off the old insulators. You will also have to block the paint. Both these steps will stop the unnecessary fuming while you go ahead with your repair project. It will also make it easy for you to determine whether you are working on a neon tube or a mercury tube.
- If you already know that you are dealing with a mercury tube, then I would suggest you to take help from a professional, right away. Because heated mercury can produce really harmful fumes, which must be handled by an expert. There can be cases when even professionals may refuse to handle tubes that include mercury, simply because of the dangers involved.
- You need to wipe the tube clean, so that, the dust won’t get inserted inside the tube while you are repairing the neon signs. After that, check for the vacuum of the tube. You can do that with a tube tester or a spark coil. If the tube lights, then know that it is under vacuum and cutting it will give way to air to enter the tube.
- If the air rushes inside the tube, then it can blow the powder coating and lead to total wastage of the neon tube. To ease the air into the tube, you need to heat the sealed tube tip, with help of a hand torch. This way, it will get easily cracked. Once the cracked seal is cooled, you need to break it apart.
- Make sure that you are wearing protective gear (especially safety glasses) while performing the job. Remember that the old coating tube will light differently than the newer one. If the sign is too old, then consider replacing rather than repairing it.
- You need to use a tube with the same diameter as the existing one, because mismatch in the size of the tubes is easy to recognize! Now, the most difficult part, which is called the glassblowing. Before getting on with glassblowing, dab the tube and snuff out the loose coating of phosphor and dust particles.
- Heat a ring of tubing and draw in the glass, when it is well molten. Let it cool and your crack repair is done! The important part which still remains, is the replacement of the electrodes. Though the older ones are still working, I would suggest you to get the new electrodes for the safety and durability of your neon signs.
Replacing Minor Parts
- This includes replacing more than anything else. Ordinary nuts and bolts can be removed, cleaned, and replaced as necessary. But you need to be very careful with the transformer, which produces an output voltage from 4,000 to 12,000 volts. Never handle any component of the neon sign while the sign is still being powered.
- Never try and shake the glass to check if it’s broken. You will only end up creating either a new crack, or making the old one bigger.
- If you have an old neon sign that appears broken, do not try to repair it yourself, instead, take it straight to a pro. The main reason for this is that older neon signs were not created according to regulation, simply because there were none at the time. The older transformers ran at very high voltages (around 15,000 volts) and are therefore life-threatening if mishandled. Another reason is that the glass used back then was leaded. Now, if you replace this with modern non-leaded glass, the collector value of the neon sign will be lowered.
Don’t forget to check that the insulators, wiring, electrode housing, chains, bolts, nuts, and all the other tube supports are rust free and are in working condition.
As a friendly advice, I would suggest you to get professional help for the repair if you don’t know anything about neon signs. It would be worth the money to have an enduring neon sign; rather than wasting your time on a lost cause.