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Thread: Cheap Welder?

  1. #1

    Default Cheap Welder?

    Okay, so I've been doing this car for years without a welder. It certainly would be handy to have one though. I've always just assumed the only way to go with a welder is to get like a $5000 Lincoln or something like that, which I would never be able to justify. I'm wondering what experiences you guys have with affordable ones though. I saw that youtube guy Scotty Kilmer has one from Harbor Freight, and he's a pretty experienced mechanic. That's what got me thinking about this. I wouldn't have anything too extreme to use one for, little brackets for this or that... exhaust tubing... I guess I'd like to be able to weld a seat brace to my floor... stuff like that. Would a harbor freight special work for that?

    Thanks!
    Brad

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    FEP Member brianj's Avatar
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    I assume you are looking for a mig. I would bite the bullet and buy something like the Hobart handler, with gas. Do not go with flux core wire, you will be very unhappy with the results, especially on sheet metal. A harbor freight welder would probably last a bit, but the cheaper welders are also harder to learn on and use, because, well, they are cheap. My Hobart handler was a bit pricey, but 20 years later I still use it constantly. A cheap welder i would have had to replace several times already.
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    FEP Supporter 4-barrel Mike's Avatar
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    Brad, I very much agree with brianj. But, welding is NOT something you can just start to do successfully. I strongly suggest you take an evening welding course at your local community college, or whatever, before you buy a welder.

    Mike
    Last edited by 4-barrel Mike; 06-09-2018 at 12:00 PM.
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    Moderator wraithracing's Avatar
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    My .02 for what it's worth . . .

    The HF stuff is getting better all the time, so that's an option. Years ago (25 yrs or so to be exact) Dad and I bought a Daytona Mig and Plasma cutter. They were inexpensive and worked pretty well for the $$. Not great units and both were 120v. Still have them although I never use them anymore. I do have an older again about 20 year old Miller 180 Mig here at the shop in TX. She's still a beast and works like a champ. Not the easiest unit to move around, but she works great and has never left me down.

    I needed to buy a weld for my home shop in CO. For that I chose the Eastwood 175 Mig. The price was right and I didn't need anything over 5/16" to weld, so it fit the bill. Overall I have been pretty happy with it. To a bit of playing with the settings to get what I wanted, but the welds have been good and strong, so no complaints.

    I recently purchased the Eastwood Versa Cut 40 for the shop here because we needed on and honestly I couldn't justify a $2000 plasma cutter at the time. Again I have been happy with the quality, the overall size and weight of the unit. I know you aren't looking for a plasma cutter, but just thought I would state that I believe the Eastwood units are good quality and are priced well. I wouldn't hesitate to buy another one if needed.

    There are plenty of YouTube Videos that can help you learn to weld, I will agree that taking a local trade school class is well worth the time and $$ if possible. This is especially true if you are going to weld anything structural or that holds you butt in the car. You want to make sure you know what you are doing and can complete a quality weld that will hold as needed. Good Luck!
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    FEP Super Member gr79's Avatar
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    Proper tools that work good are more useful and safer than improper ones that cause more work.

    Have a 1998 120v Craftsman 80A gas MIG welder. Welds anything i need.
    With new metal, repaired sub frame rust outs, and reinforced seat bracket area, exhaust hangers, with it.
    Am not that good doing exhaust pipes yet. Never tried welding aluminum.
    A lightly used major brand like this at a garage sale could be gold.
    Step up alternative to HF is big box store Lincoln, etc. Gas or convertible to gas kit desired.

    Small units run on 120v. Bigger ones require 240v.
    120v will weld small to medium car projects.

    A gas MIG can be configured to use either flux core or regular wire.
    Use gas indoors, flux in or outdoors. Wind blows away gas.
    Use gas for exh pipes and body panels. Doing this stuff takes practice.
    Refilling gas is not expensive. Similar drill as refilling propane for grills.
    Recommend use quality wire, not HF brand. Lincoln wire from HD, Lowes, Menards ,fine.
    Flux .030" or regular .024" for working on cars ok. Type depends on what is being welded.

    Wash prot coating off metal, with hot soapy water if possible, before welding/painting.

    Get an auto darkening helmet. Purpose is when starting/stopping welds. HF ones work great.
    Can of weld-thru spray. Do not weld galvanized.
    Buy spare gun tips, etc. Seen production robot welders get new tips every hour.
    Rolling welding cart with storage is handy. Weld one up as project.
    A small hand grinder or two, or right angle air grinder to prep metal and dress welds.
    Flap disks work well, most of time faster than grind wheels. Quick change disks ok.
    Welders use leather gloves, protective sleeves, cap, apron, shoes. Sparks are molten metal and burn.
    Protect area and items from sparks. Have FIRE EXTINGUISHER nearby when welding.

    An pro artist or painter does not use cheap brushes.
    Nor will expensive brushes automatically result in a DIY Picasso.
    Learning how to setup and adjust welder to conditions takes practice and is rewarding

    Factories, shops, use shielding gas if quality welds are required. Welding robots use gas.
    Production settings are precalculated, programmed in, and pretty much left there.
    5g portable are for industrial or trade welding. Miller brand most common.
    TIG welders are similar, used for precise work, and another story.
    Last edited by gr79; 06-09-2018 at 02:14 PM.

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    FEP Super Member JTurbo's Avatar
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    Lincoln Electric flux-core used here. Bought it at Home Depot. HD always has spools of flux core wire on the shelf.

    Gas would be better, but I live in the sticks and don't want to have to deal with shielding gas refills.

    JT
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    FEP Supporter NAVYCAT's Avatar
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    I got the eastwood 175 when I started welding on my falcon coupe..... but the wire that came with it was garbage...... no matter what brand you buy, go get the best wire IMO
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    FEP Super Member mmb617's Avatar
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    If you can afford to buy the best doing it once and done probably makes sense. However if you are like me and perpetually on a limited budget the important thing is getting something that can do the job without breaking the bank.

    I never had a mig welder till I got my car some 15 years ago and realized a lot of the projects I had in mind would require one. I went to Lowes and bought a 120v Lincoln pro mig 135 with gas capability. It was right around $500 which was a lot of money to me but still at the low end of welder prices. I have been very happy with that machine all these years. I've done countless projects on the car and around the house and garage with it and have no complaints. It's a tool I can't imagine not having now, as I use it more than I ever thought I would.

    From what I can see the Harbor Freight units aren't any cheaper than the comparable Lincolns. The HF MigMax 140 lists for $549 which is the same price as the Lincoln 140 is at Lowes. With that being the case I think buying the recognized name brand is obviously the way to go. My Lincoln has served me well for 15 years and the only parts other than consumables I've had to replace were due to me hitting it with a lift arm once. That did allow me to verify that replacement parts are readily available for it which is something else to consider. I do buy the Lincoln wire and don't think I'd trust the HF stuff especially since wire isn't all that expensive.

    The only other thing I'd add is definitely get an auto-darkening helmet. My unit came with a helmet but it didn't auto dark and it was a real pain trying to start the bead in the right place when you couldn't see where you had the wire before you hit the trigger. I used it like that for several years till I bought an auto-darkening helmet (at Harbor Freight), and what a difference! Do yourself a favor and start off with an auto darkening helmet.

    I use C25 shielding gas and originally had a pretty small cylinder. My gas supplier let me trade up to a bigger cylinder so I don't have to get a refill very often at all, and the gas isn't real expensive either.

    In summation I'd say that any car guy needs a welder, but it doesn't have to cost a fortune. As a non-pro welder a 120v unit will probably handle just about any job you can throw at it.
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    FEP User Boxtop78's Avatar
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    You can't go wrong with either millermatic 135 or Lincoln pro mig 140 that uses households 120v outlet very easy to operate or step up to the 220v miller 175 or Lincoln 180 .I had and used them both, my co-worker has a HF VULCAN brand seemed to like it a lot.

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    I bought a cheap one from Lowes 3 years ago, it came with flux wire but the welder could also be set up for gas. The wire was crap that came with it but using Hobart wire, it works quite well. It welds sheet metal pretty well and the welds dress up nicely. The welder is still used quite often with no breakdowns.
    To each their own.
    Last edited by KWH; 06-09-2018 at 11:08 PM.

  11. #11

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    Thanks all for the input so far!

    With so many other types of things I'm into, "don't waste your money on the cheap stuff" seem to be words to live by, but I guess there is SUCH a wide range of welders (and yes, I'm thinking MIG), there's plenty of room for affordable but decent ones.

    And doing the settings on the unit is one thing that kind of has me overwhelmed but a class would definitely help with that.
    Brad

    '79 Mercury Zephyr ES 5.0L GT40 EFI T-5 (Mustang LWB)
    '17 Ford Transit Connect Titanium LWB
    '14 Ford Fusion SE Manual

  12. #12
    FEP Super Member gr79's Avatar
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    Settings are not that hard to ballpark. Like setting timing on a car or tuning a dial radio.
    Heat and feed are the only real variables. Low heat for thin steel, highest for thick steel.
    Feed is the speed wire comes out of gun. That is the one to play with for fine tuning.
    Along with the speed of moving the gun itself.
    Weld machines usually have a settings chart under the access cover.

    Which ever one you get, practice on scrap steel. Don't breath weld fumes.
    Electric welding always needs a good ground connection.
    Then there is tip cleaning, change out, and using gel dip or spray.
    Viewing online instructional video is fine, but boring and not hands on.
    Weld inspection is also a part of all this.

    Hard to find 2 hour class to simply learn how to do a correct weld.
    Used to be adult ed type stuff at high schools. What the hell they teach now is beyond me.
    Welder courses would help plenty and cost plenty. Fast correct learning curve.
    Wide variety of types and levels.
    Most courses at a community college are very heavy duty career orientated.
    Lots of info you will never use waste of money and time for DIY hobby use.

    https://www.thefabricator.com/articl...ent-do-i-needr
    Last edited by gr79; 06-10-2018 at 02:13 AM.

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    FEP Super Member gr79's Avatar
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    Few years ago worked temp in a metal fab shop. Interesting but dirty job.
    Couple months as forklift driver, general shop help, weld inspection.
    Company made new parts transport racks for Ford F-150 doors, GM car parts subassys.
    Also made quad steer carts for plant tuggers.
    They turned raw steel into finished painted assembled product.
    Learned a lot just working around there. Setup, jigs, fab, weld, prep, paint, rack assy.
    The guys always said i could try to weld the easy stuff if i wanted to.

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    FEP Super Member JTurbo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ZephyrEFI View Post
    And doing the settings on the unit is one thing that kind of has me overwhelmed but a class would definitely help with that.
    The inside cover of my welder has some guidelines (simple chart) for heat and wire speed for different gauge metals....
    1979 Indy Pace Car Mustang 302 / 5spd
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    FEP Supporter NAVYCAT's Avatar
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    you can use the guide inside the machines, but always practice practice......remember, as you weld it needs to sound like bacon cooking then you know the settings are close
    2017 Mustang ECO BOOST (DD)
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    3rd. 1984 Capri RS V8 Black/grey
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    1st. 1984 SVO Grey/grey (traded it for a worn out 1970 BOSS 302)
    Both '84 Capri's vin# were 10 away from each other

  16. #16

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    Cheapest welder? I would first get to know what processes your most comfortable with. Then decided on pricing.

    "Bacon Crackling"...thats exactly what my instructor said as well. I took a semester intro class that covered several welding processes consisting of mig, tig, stick.
    I felt most comfortable with tig, more control over welds, but more time consuming considering my experience.

    Mig is the fastest processes in my opinion. I think this would be the cheapest.

  17. #17
    FEP Super Member gr79's Avatar
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    Yes TIG is quiet and slow. Brilliant pin of light. For strict spec, precise, cosmetic, code welds.
    That sort of thing. No sparks, spatter. but can weld shim stock.
    MIG is production like. Arc is heavy metal.

    Welding has its own unique sounds.
    Can hear better on internet or live welding in progress.
    Like a muffler shop or welding shop. Just stop in and explain.

    Been around a lot of it last 5 years. Factory Mig, TIG, robotic.
    Surprised at how many young women choose to be repair welders.

    Bacon:
    Mig welding sound nor smell never reminds me of bacon.
    Its closer to 4th of July sparklers amped up.
    Never really hear bacon cook to tell what it is by ear, only smell.
    Cook bacon in microwave-no sound
    Cook bacon in pan. Cover muffles the noise.
    Restaurant breakfast with bacon. Same.

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