Once you have one, a welder is truly one of those tools that will pay for itself in the first couple projects. How much would you pay for an aftermarket bumper? Or what would it cost you to have a roll cage built? Or what would the bill be for a custom suspension? You’ll often pay more in labor than you would for a decent home hobby welding rig. And once you own the welder, every time you use it will be like putting money in your pocket.
But if you’re new to the welding game balancing the proper machine for your needs against a budget that won’t put you in the poor house can be a challenge. You want to select a machine that has enough power to properly burn in suspension brackets, rollcage tubing, and spring pads, has enough duty cycle to lay more than a couple inches of weld bead at a time, and doesn’t require a crane and three friends to move it around. You have to weigh your power supply capabilities: 115-volt or 230-volt, the max amperage your home wiring can support, if you require portability (from home to jobsite), and the thickness and type of metal you’ll be fusing together. Most of the welding jobs we encounter in the garage are 1⁄8- to 3⁄16-inch steel and have beads less than 1-foot long. That means a 180-amp welder with a 30-percent duty cycle (3 minutes of continuous welding and 7 minutes resting) is more than adequate to get the job done.
We have a bevy of larger 216-to-255-amp Lincoln Electric welding machines in our corporate workshop at Jp magazine headquarters. The only problem is we’re rarely there to use them. And when we are there, our sister magazines like Car Craft or Hot Rod have some non-running mullet-machine parked in front of ’em. So we started eyeballing Lincoln machines for our home workshop. We initially settled on the company’s Power Mig 180C, which can be had as of press time for $699 after rebate. It’s rated for 180 amps, which is plenty for anything we’d need to weld for automotive use, but requires a 208/230-volt input. The 230-volt input isn’t a deal-breaker for our home shop, but it does limit the flexibility of where you can use the welder. Not too many hotels or motorhomes feature 230-volt plugs.
But a week before we pulled the trigger on the Power Mig 180C, Lincoln unveiled its new Power Mig 180 Dual welder that can operate on either 115-volt or 208/230-volt current by quickly and simply changing the plug. At only 68 pounds it’s small and light enough to toss in a motorhome or stash in the hotel during wheeling trips in case unforeseen repairs are necessary. We can bring it to our buddys’ houses to weld on their junk, or run it anywhere off a 115- or 208/230-volt generator. So, using our new Lincoln Electric welder, check out some tips on shopping for your first welding rig and using it once it arrives. If you want more detail on learning to weld, Lincoln includes an informational DVD with the Power Mig 180 Dual that’s pretty good, or check out the website weldingtipsandtricks.com. MIG welding isn’t rocket science, so don’t be afraid to dive right in and get started!
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