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Portable Welder Shootout: Battery Power 101

Posted in How To on April 1, 2011 Comment (0)
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Contributors: Rick PéwéKevin McNultyAli Mansour
Photographers: Alan HuberAli MansourRick Péwé

You may have never thought of it, but a long time ago someone did. It probably happened when a mechanic dropped his wrench across the positive battery terminal and the body metal-ZZZZAP! But can a battery make a good, sound weld on the trail? Yes, and two 12V batteries are even better.

It's the cheapest and most compact way to weld together stuff on the trail. You already have one battery, and more than likely you have jumper cables and a buddy with a vehicle. Simply pack some good, fresh, dry welding rod and some eye protection and you are in business.

But first, the caveats and warnings. Regular lead/acid automotive batteries produce a lot of hydrogen gas, which can be ignited by an errant spark, exploding the battery and splattering you with acid. The easy way to avoid this is to use sealed batteries such as the Optimas shown here, and make the connections away from the battery. Also, on computer controlled vehicles, isolate the battery from the rig, otherwise the direct short (which is all welding really is) of current could fry your ride. Finally, while this works and can be done properly, always check your welds and vehicle after you make it back to civilization.

We took two Optima batteries out to show you how battery welding works. Using cheesy cables, we nearly fried the terminals off the batteries from the current. The best way is to use solid connections with short lengths of cables. By placing the batteries in series (positive to negative) you produce 24V with plenty of amps to weld up to 1/4-inch plate.

With a little practice you can stick-weld like a pro, and as long as you don't weld all day you still have enough battery power to start your ride and drive back home.

SPECS
BATTERY WELDING
Price Free if you already have
two good 12V batteries
Power 24V at whatever amperage
the batteries are rated for
Duty Cycle About an hour depending on welds
Thickness Sheet steel to 1/4-inch plate
Weight (lb) Maybe 40 for two batteries
and cable?
Dimensions Wherever you can fit
the cables and rod

Pros
•Cheapest way to weld
•Totally portable, not vehicle dependent
•Produces sound welds for an emergency
•Freaks out all your friends and enemies
•Use U.S. nickels in an emergency vs. rod

Cons
•Batteries must be charged
•Be careful with conventional batteries
•Must use dry welding rod for best results
•Need to carry cables for welding

View Slideshow

Sources

Optima Battery
Milwaukee, WI 53209
888-867-8462
www.optimabatteries.com

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