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MIG welding aluminum

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  • MIG welding aluminum

    I've got an ESAB 250A MIG, I want to weld alum (1/8"-3/8" thick), but can't justify the $900 spool gun the dealer says is required.
    I've heard that if I use pure argon and the larger dia.(??)alum. wire size, then hold/support my welding gun/cable straight out (so the wire has a straight shot out), I can make it work.

    Anyone tried this?? It seems the soft wire would ball up (in the feeder) trying to push out a 15 ft. cable???? Also how would I clean the oil out of the cable to remove the oil residue from the steel wire? Blast it out with brake cleaner????

    The only alum. welding I've done has been w/ TIG (back when they called it Heliarc).

    Any input would be appreciated.
    NRA Lifetime Member

  • #2

    I have used the Miller Spoolmatic Guns (they suck) and a Bernard cable with a Teflon plastic liner. It does work, but the Aluminum (brazing) rods for propane torches and MAPP worked and looked better. They do not work well on all alloys - check with your local welding supplier for alternatives. TIG works best - at least for me.

    For the heavier stuff like the 3/8" it may have to be preheated before welding. Good luck.

    [This message has been edited by Thrud (edited 06-07-2002).]


    • #3
      Haven't tried the push method but make sure your liner is DRY when you try and maybe go one size over wire size on your liner to reduce friction and restriction.....just thoughts.
      I've let the liner soak in thinner overnite and then blow it out and dry it thoroughly.


      • #4
        I'm wanting to build some aluminum bumpers, skidplates, etc. (5052 and 6061-T6 mostly) for my Jeep (weighs 4600 lbs!, I've added 900 lbs of stuff!))to replace all the steel stuff I've built. I wish I had a TIG, but can't justify the cost for a few parts. I don't trust the brazing rods for heavier stuff.
        NRA Lifetime Member


        • #5
          Sorry but I missed the 1/8 to 3/8 spec. Your pretty much limited to .035 wire or smaller forthe 1/8" . The 3/8" you'd be able to go .045 but the thin stuff probably not. Aluminum has to be welded quite high in amps/volts compared to mild steel.


          • #6
            TIG welding aluminum requires high frequency, would you need it for MIG as well?
            Jim H.


            • #7
              Mig welding is a different process not needing high frequencies.


              • #8
                Thrud--What thickness/alloy material were you welding? Were the welds strong and ugly or weak and ugly (I can live with ugly but not weak)?

                Shorty--what if I stayed away from the thin stuff and stuck with .200 and thicker, get some .040 wire and try it? Or is it worth spending $100-130 or so for an argon bottle and wasting my $$?

                Thanks for the input.

                NRA Lifetime Member


                • #9
                  HellBender: can't you rent a jug of what ever you want there? Cheaper that buying, try some different gasses too.

                  We used to rent jugs for jobs (elevated water tanks and bridges repair) cause Govt regulations made it hard to transport gasses across state lines (but we could carry from dealer to job-how you figure that?).


                  • #10
                    Mr Hellbender
                    Maybe use a stiffer filler wire such as 5356 instead of 4043. My understanding is that you could get teflon liners for the inside of the MIG gun also.



                    • #11
                      Hey hellbender check this out
                      As far as ONLY welding 1/4" and thicker....good luck. I'd be choked if I got something and then had to work to IT'S limitations as opposed to mine. However this does lend to the theory of "...not my fault, must be the equipment..."


                      • #12
                        I've welded aluminum with my Miller 172 Challenger MIG. In fact I built a alum framed go-kart. Argon gas, the stiffer wire, (forgot the number at the present) clean the heck out of the piece to be welded with stainless steel brush and then wipe with acetone to remove any grease. I used the Miller recommendation for the wire and weld heat, basicly hot and fast. I was using a relativly new standard steel liner that I blew out with compressed air and a new tip.

                        And lot, and lots of practice. The really good welds I did, I found if I got my head down so I was looking right level into the weld puddle as I was drawing the gun toward me. I could see right away if it did not look right, or sound right. And did I say lots of practice!! B.G.
                        Retired - Journeyman Refrigeration Pipefitter - Master Electrician


                        • #13
                          On production we welded 12AWG and 10AWG, some custom control cabinets were 1/4" plate. Welds on the 10AWG and lighter were strong but real ugly.

                          We had a Miller 600A supply for it and good welds were impossible without added heat. This was a 72"high x 96"wide x16" deep enclosure. The metal itself sucked the heat away so fast a descent weld was impossible. The Miller rep could not get it to weld the 1/4" right either - no penetration. We ended up buying a TIG add on for it and traded in the useless Spoolmatic - that worked after we experimented with many nozzle and Tugsten electrodes. Suggestions from both NAIT Welding Instructors and other "experts" did not work worth a sh*t. In the end we were able to produce welds acceptable to us and CSA.

                          Steel is a better choice for off road use. Tough and easy to weld in the sticks. Maybe a Aluminum or Fibreglas body would cut the pounds down. A milemarker hydraulic winch only adds about 70lbs. as opposed to the electric 400 lb. jobs. The army specifies the Milemarker on all the Hummers now - lighter and far more reliable. Unlike electric winches, they do not kill your batteries or overheat from use. They can pull 12,000lbs. as long as the engine is running. Titainium would be lighter and it flexes far better than steel, but field repair is out of the question and it is not cheap.

                          Quit yer whining and put a chevy ZR-1 in it and you won't care what it weighs - geez!


                          • #14
                            I welded 1/8" and 1/4" with my old Century 225. Miller makes a better machine. I used 5356 .035 in a Teflon liner using 100 % Ar gas. Keep the liner as straight as possible when welding. My welds were nice and strong. I used a dedicated SS wire brush for Al only parts. Clean the oxide off before welding to get a strong joint.

                            When I finish restoring my 83 Toy 4x4, the first thing I want to make is a one piece aluminum box liner out of 1/8" single bar plate.



                            • #15
                              docsteve66-I think I found one I can borrow.

                              Mr. alumtuna-I don't know how critical wire type is on the 6061, the liner sounds like a good idea, I'll check.

                              shorty-Looks like a nice unit, I don't know if this would fit my machine w/o spending big$$$$??, It goes in 2 hours anyway.

                              wmgeorge--What thickness and alloy were you using? Did you have enough heat for good penetration w/ your 175?

                              Thrud--The weight really makes a (poor) difference on the really tough trails out west. The big motors only break more stuff. My F.I. six makes about 200 HP (enough to run 75MPH w/ 4.56 gears and 37" Swampers, with A/C running).

                              The alum will only be used on apps where repair won't be a big concern (I have dual Optimas so I can wire them in series to weld for trail repairs on steel and I carry alum and brass brazing rods and some road flares(hot stuff) for non-ferrous repairs).

                              The MM winches biggest problem (as you stated) is THE MOTOR HAS TO BE RUNNING. Many times I've been stuck in the middle of the river/mudhole/etc. and had to winch out to fix the non-running condition. The MM is nice for sitting at the top of a big hill/mudhole/etc. and winching a BUNCH of your buddies through (no overheating, battery drain, etc.), though. My Warn 9000 only weighs about 85 lbs. & I'd have the dual batts anyway.

                              I think the alum body might void my warranty !

                              JasonW--Sounds like the teflon liner is the way to go, have any wire bunching problems? Did you clean the alum w/ acetone or anything, or just the SS brush? The box on the Toy sounds like a fun prject.

                              ALL- Thanks for all the input!


                              [This message has been edited by Hellbender (edited 06-11-2002).]
                              NRA Lifetime Member