During recent years, gel blockage in engine coolant systems with aluminum heat exchangers produced by CAB has gotten more and more attention in the automotive industry. A general understanding of gel formation processes in engine coolants and the role that flux residues on internal surfaces of brazed heat exchangers may or may not have is of significant interest.

In everyday practice we can encounter problems connected with brazing imperfections – often manifested as leaking. In order to identify the failure root causes, usually a detailed examination needs to be perform. Optical metallography is one of the most important tools for such an analysis.

In everyday practice we can encounter problems connected with brazing imperfections – often manifested as leaking. In order to identify the failure root causes, usually a detailed examination needs to be perform. Optical metallography is one of the most important tools for such an analysis.


This section describes the necessary steps and control procedures to ensure a properly brazed joint.

1. Clean the Components

The joint area must be cleaned free of cutting and machining lubricants. Aqueous cleaning, solvent dipping or wiping are acceptable procedures.

Procedure Flame Brazing 1

2. Assemble the Components

The components are assembled with the filler alloy ring in place. There must be intimate contact between the two components to be joined and the alloy ring.

Procedure Flame Brazing 2

3. Apply the Flux

The flux is then applied with a small brush around the circumference of the joint at a loading of about 25 to 30 g/m2.

Procedure Flame Brazing 3

4. Dry the Flux

The flux should be allowed to dry before the application of intense heat to begin brazing. This can be done by allowing the joint to air dry or alternatively by gently heating the surrounding joint area with the flame, which will heat the metal and dry the flux. Intense heat should be avoided before the flux has dried, otherwise splattering and flux fall-off will occur.

Procedure Flame Brazing 4

5. Heating

Once the flux has dried, more intense heat to begin the actual braze sequence can be applied. The braze flame should not be allowed to impinge on any one area very long to avoid overheating and burnthrough. The component with the higher thermal mass should be heated more. The flame should not be allowed to rest on the flux or preform ring to avoid premature melting before the joint area is uniformly heated to braze temperature. The flame should be kept moving at all times, moving back and forth between the components of different mass in such a way as to bring the entire joint to temperature uniformly.

There are three temperature indications in NOCOLOK ® flux flame brazing. The first is the appearance of a yellow flame at the Al surface. This indicates that the surface is starting to overheat/burn, since the aluminum skin always runs hotter than the component center.
The flame must visit the area less frequently to avoid burning. The second indicator is the first sign of flux melting, that is the fluxed area turns from white to clear. This indicates that the joint temperature is about 565 °C.
At this point the flames can be played directly on the joint and filler metal ring. Very shortly after flux melting, the filler metal ring begins to loose shape (third temperature indicator) and begins to melt at 577 °C. The molten filler metal is quickly drawn into the joint by capillary action. As soon as the full preform ring is molten, the flame should be quickly removed and the brazed joint allowed to cool.

Procedure Flame Brazing 5a

Procedure Flame Brazing 5b

6. Post Braze Treatment

After cooling, no further treatment is required. The flux, although visible is non-hygroscopic and in standard applications non-corrosive. With the brazing conditions optimized, meaning minimal flux residue, the surfaces can be painted with relatively good paint adhesion over the flux residue.
If absolutely desired, the flux residue can be removed, but only by mechanical means such as wire brushing and grit blasting. Removing the flux residue is recommended only when joint cleanliness is absolutely imperative.

Procedure Flame Brazing 6


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Recommended equipment for flame brazing

Since the principles of flame brazing can be explained using the most basic equipment, only the equipment necessary for manual flame brazing is described. From the basic principles, all other equipment is only a matter of the degree of automation the end user wishes to achieve.



It is critical that the joint area is brought up to temperature uniformly. For this reason a dual headed torch capable of heating the joint from 2 sides is recommended. 

Double headed torch

Torch Tip

A multi-orifice tip generates a broader flame at the exit of the tip. This feature enhances component temperature uniformity during heat up. Pin-point flames should be avoided as burn-through can easily occur.
Torch tip



Most commercial gas mixtures are acceptable for flame brazing Al:

  • oxygen – propane
  • oxygen – methane
  • oxygen – natural gas
  • oxygen – acetylene (oxyacetylene)
  • Oxyacetylene combination produces the hottest flame and may be used, but with extreme care to avoid overheating and burn-through.

Filler Metal

The filler metal alloy most commonly used for flame brazing Al is AA4047 which contains 11 to 13 % Si. The Al-Si phase diagram shows the eutectic at 577 °C with 12.6 % Si. AA4047 filler alloy therefore has the lowest melting temperature with the highest fluidity, ideal properties for flame brazing Al.

The filler metal is available in a variety of shapes and forms including wire, rings, foil and powder. When used as a powder, it is usually mixed with flux and a carrier to form a paste (more on pastes below). The filler metal wire is also available commercially either cored or coated with flux, precluding the application of flux.
Filler metal
Brazing Paste

Commercially available brazing pastes consist of the flux, powdered filler metal and a binder/carrier to keep everything in uniform suspension. This paste is all inclusive, there is no need to supply flux or filler metal to the joint separately. Brazing pastes can also be applied with automatic dispensers, with syringes or by brush application.

Flux Paste

This is very similar to brazing pastes except that there is no powdered filler metal present, meaning that flux pastes requires filler metal in one form or another to be added to the joint separately. The advantage of using a flux paste is that the end user does not have to prepare his own paste. 

In-House Paste Preparation

The least expensive and most common is the in-house preparation of flux pastes. The flux is mixed with either water or alcohol and/or water at 40 % to 60 % solids. Using some alcohol in the paste formulation allows for quicker drying. Using pastes prepared in-house of course requires that the filler metal be supplied to the joint separately.
These pastes are not easily dispensable automatically and are most often applied with a brush.

For brazing a tube-to-tube joint, the table below summarizes the complexity level in applying the flux and filler metal in their various forms:

Flux Cored or Coated Wire Brazing Pastes Flux Pastes In-House Paste Preparation
1. Preplace ring at the joint 1. Apply or dispense paste
   at the joint
1. Preplace ring at the joint 1. Prepare paste
2. Braze 2. Dry 2. Apply or dispense paste
   at the joint
2. Preplace ring at the joint
3. Braze 3. Dry 3. Apply paste at the joint
4. Braze 4. Dry
5. Braze

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Flame brazing of aluminum is not new. In fact the very first brazed aluminum assemblies were produced using a chloride based flux and a flame as the heat source. What has changed over the years is the sophistication of the types of fluxes available and to a certain extent the alloy selection.


However, even if one returns to the absolute basics of a flame, filler metal and flux, there remains a great deal to be learned about the fundamentals of flame brazing of aluminum. This becomes especially evident when the brazing engineer applies his techniques and equipment to NOCOLOK  ® Flux flame brazing and years of learned practice seem to fail. This is largely due to the fact that the years of acquired knowledge of flame brazing aluminum has come from corrosive chloride-based flux brazing. Unfortunately, the same techniques can not be directly applied to NOCOLOK  ® Flux flame brazing. It is therefore the intention of this article to re-familiarize the brazing engineer with the fundamentals of flame brazing aluminum and use those fundamentals to realize all the advantages of NOCOLOK ® Flux brazing.

Flame Brazing

What is Flame Brazing?

According to the American Welding Society, brazing is the joining of metals using a molten filler metal, which on cooling forms a joint. The filler metal melting temperature is above 450 °C, but below the melting point of the metals.
Flame brazing then implies the use of a flame as the heat source to accomplish what is described above.

Flame brazing lends itself well to joining components with simple configurations such as tube-to-tube, tube-to-fitting and joints having large thermal mass differences. Since much faster heating rates are possible than in furnace brazing, flame brazing is versatile and as will be explained in more detail later, can braze some Mg containing alloys.

What is NOCOLOK ® Flux?

NOCOLOK ® flux is a white powder consisting of a mixture of potassium fluroaluminate salts of the general formula K1-3 Al‑F4-6. The flux has a defined melting point range of 565 °C to 572 °C, below the melting point of the Al-Si brazing alloy. The flux is non-corrosive and non-hygroscopic and is only very slightly soluble in water (0.2 % to 0.4 %). The shelf and pot life of the flux is therefore indefinite. The flux does not react with Al at room temperature or at brazing temperature and only becomes reactive when molten.

Role of the Flux

Once molten the flux works by dissolving the oxide film on the Al surfaces to be joined and prevents further oxidation. The flux wets the Al surfaces and allows the filler metal to flow freely into the joints by capillary action. Upon cooling, the flux solidifies and remains on the surfaces as a thin, tightly adherent film, which need not be removed.

Joint Clearances

The recommended gap tolerances for flame brazing range from 0.1 mm to 0.15 mm. Larger gap clearances can be tolerated, but capillary action is reduced, gravity activity is increased and more filler metal may be required. Friction fits should also be avoided as this will restrict filler metal flow and result in discontinuities in the brazed joint area.

Flame Brazing

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Powder Fluidity Indicator

Definition of the Variables and Calculation of the Results

Preliminary remark:
The spraying factor Rm is a relative value for the evaluation of powders used for dry fluxing – especially when the material transport in the used equipment depends on the fluidization property of the powder.
Expansion factor:

Expansion factor [cm/cm] = Hfluid [cm] / H0 [cm]

For the calculation of the expansion factor, the mean values for Hfluid and H0 are used. The data for the mean values results from measurements of the powder height at 5 points.

Hfluid: powder height in fluidized condition
H0: powder height not fluidized and vibrator shut down
Hfluid = (Hfluid1+ Hfluid2+ Hfluid3+ Hfluid4+ Hfluid5) / 5
H0 = (H01 + H02 + H03+ H04+ H05) / 5

Powder flow (m) [g/ 0,5 min]
The mass (weight) of powder flowing out through the calibrated hole in 0.5 minutes calculated as median from 10 measurements.

Calculation of the median:

Median = m9+m2 / 2 for 10 single measures of m and m5< m3< m1< m7< m9< m2< m4< m8< m10< m6

Spray factor (Rm)

Rm [g/ 0.5 min] = m [g/0.5min]* expansion factor

The Spray factor results from the median of powder flow multiplied with the calculated expansion factor.

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End of the article.



Flux Transfer Systems in Electrostatic NOCOLOK® Flux Application

For these experiments, a fluxing booth from Nordson designed for semi-continuous production was used. This unit’s (216 cm height, 143 cm width, 270 cm depth) key components are a hopper, a spray gun, two filter cartridges and the necessary control units.
The work piece is placed on a grating, which can be manually moved back and forth. The spray gun automatically progresses from left to right and back in intervals of approximately 21 seconds (21 seconds for 65 cm; 3.1 cm/s).
Responding to recent market developments, a second flux transfer system was installed in this fluxer. An ITW/Gema hopper including spray gun and control unit were added to the booth.
The distance between the spray nozzles and the grating is 34 cm

Principles of Flux Transfer Systems in Electrostatic NOCOLOK® Flux Application

The Nordson hopper utilizes the principle of powder fluidization to convey the flux via a Venturi pump and a feed hose to the spray gun. An agitator in the hopper supports flux fluidization.
The ITW/Gema system has a hopper with a helix screw conveyor to mechanically transfer the powder into a funnel. From there, a Venturi pump transports the flux through a hose to the spray gun.
Both systems are equipped with vibrators in some positions to reduce flux buildup. The spray guns are operated with 100 kV to charge the powder.
The design of the Venturi pump and the electrical spray gun of the two systems are very different from each other. However, in view of the experiments described here, this was only of minor influence. The focus is on trends of flux behavior when samples with fine and coarse particle size distributions are compared. Using the technology type rather than the manufacturer’s name is even more in line with the objectives.

Experiments with Flux Transfer Systems:

Trials to determine the consistency of flux flow and deposition on radiators were performed, using sample 1 and sample 2 in the powder fluidization (Nordson) and the mechanical transfer (ITW/Gema) equipment.
As the first step, the control units (for flow air and/or helix speed) needed to be adjusted for each test to a flow rate that provided a flux loading of approximately 5 g/m². The experiment was then continued for 30 minutes without changing the equipment settings. In intervals of two to four minutes, radiators were placed on the grating for coating, and then weighed to determine flux loading. Each test series included ten or eleven units.
The results are summarized in the table ”Flux Deposition on a Heat Exchanger”. Material of sample 1 (”coarse” material) showed relatively consistent behavior in both systems. Variations are in a range of 0.7 g/m² with powder fluidization and 0.5 g/m² with mechanical transfer. For sample 2 (”fine” material), the findings indicate more significant fluctuation with powder fluidization. The range is 1.4 g/m². In the mechanical transfer system, the variations of sample 2 are lower, 0.5 g/m².
Due to the influence (and statistical variances) of the experimental conditions with different Venturi pump designs and different spray guns in both systems, the results only provide information on trends. As could be expected, the equipment relying on powder fluidization showed lower consistency with fine material. It is more difficult to fluidize fine material, and consequently it is more difficult to transfer flux powder by fluidization.
Sample 1, which has better fluidization properties, has lower fluctuations in both systems. This indicates a more beneficial performance of a flux powder with good fluidizing capabilities.

Mechanical Transfer System – Sample 1



Mechanical Transfer System – Sample 2



Table 3: Flux Deposition on a Heat Exchanger (30 Minutes Test)



Powder Fluidization System – Sample 1



Powder Fluidization System – Sample 2



These results were confirmed by other observations made during additional trials. Material with spray factors of approximately 45 g/0.5 min and higher (with good fluidization) flowed through the equipment pipes and hoses with less material buildup and created lower amounts of residue buildup on the spray nozzles. Large particles also partially compensate for the Faraday Effect, which makes it difficult for the electrostatically applied flux to penetrate the fin package (center of heat exchanger with tubes and fins).


The experimental work for this paper identified and evaluated essential performance characteristics for electrostatic flux application:

  • Powder fluidization
  • Powder adhesion

The flux particle size distribution and the relative ratio of fine particles in the flux powder are key factors in dry fluxing.
A specific proportion of fine material in the flux is important for adequate adhesion.
Larger particles contribute to proper fluidization.
Equipment parameters for electrostatic fluxing must be adjusted to suit the specific flux properties.
Fluxes utilized for electrostatic application need improved fluidization characteristics, but not at the expense of adherence performance.

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To be continued …