Becoming a proficient, or at least a decent, welder is easier than most people think. It's also an extremely beneficial skill to acquire since it can open up to you a whole new world of vehicle modifications and repair. A typical wire-feed MIG welder outfit consists of the welder itself and several consumable items, such as electrodes, welding wire, and shielding gas. Depending on the diameter and type of welding wire, and the type of shielding gas, a MIG welder is capable of welding a variety of ferrous metals, including steel, aluminum, and stainless steel. For the purposes of this article, however, I'll focus primarily on the unit's steel welding capability using both flux-cored and mild steel wire.
So how does it work? How is it possible to wave this magic wand over metal and make it permanently adhere to another piece of metal? Simple physics, my friends. The MIG welding process, also known as gas metal arc welding (GMAW), welds steel together by heating the metals with an electric arc created between the continuously fed consumable electrode in the welding gun and the metal being welded. There's no waiting period for the metal heating up either. It's an instantaneous action where you can actually see the puddle of molten steel as you drag the welding gun across the work surface. It's a really cool process actually, and it still manages to bring a smile to my face every time I see it occur.
In order to create strong, long-lasting welds, some type of shielding element must be employed to keep the weld free from contaminants. Most MIG welders use a mix of gases to act as the shield, the most common being a blend of 75 percent argon and 25 percent CO2. This blend is also referred to as 75/25 and typically yields smoother arc characteristics, better puddle control, good bead wetting action, good bead contour, and minimal spatter. Self-shielding flux-cored wire doesn't require gas since the weld pool is protected by gas generated as the flux from the wire is burned. As a result, this type of wire is seemingly more portable for the fact that a gas bottle is not required, but flux-cored wires are often more expensive than standard welding wire so what you may save in gas will be absorbed by the cost of wire. Neither type of wire is superior to the other as each offers varying properties that work better for certain applications.
Eager to explore the world of welding, I contacted Hobart Welders about its new Hobart Handler 140 MIG welder package. The Handler 140 is an extremely efficient welder for home or small shop use, which made it a perfect fit to my one-car-garage capability. It operates off 115/120 volts on standard 20-amp household circuits and is ready to weld right out of the box with or without shielding gas. Since it runs on 115/120 volts, the Handler 140 can be used pretty much anywhere you can plug in, making it quite versatile for those times you can't get your broken vehicle to a professional shop or if your home isn't equipped with a 230-volt outlet. The 25- to 140-amp output range allows you to weld up to 24-gauge, 1/4-inch steel using 0.023- to 0.035-inch mild or stainless steel wire, 0.030- to 0.035-inch flux-cored wire, or 0.030-inch aluminum wire. The Hobart package includes a 1-pound spool of 0.030-inch self-shielded flux-cored welding wire as well as a gas regulator and hose so a shielding gas can be used. Four output voltage settings with wire feed tracking also make it very easy to set and adjust this unit to weld different metals of varying thickness.
If you've ever had the desire to fix or fabricate parts on your 4x4, welding is the skill that will help you achieve this goal. From repairing broken shock mounts to creating an underdash or overhead CB mount, the ability to weld will not only provide you with the satisfaction of doing it yourself, but you'll be saving the money you'd pay someone else to do the job for other desired vehicle modifications.