Finding a welder for auto body and frame

More of an art than a science - discuss metalworking and welding here.



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PostPosted: Tue Jul 17, 2018 9:04 pm
Hello,

I have some older vehicles with rust issues that I'm going to be working on and looking around for a welder to weld on the bodies and frames and sub-frames.

However I'm not certain what sort of welder will suffice. My past welding experience has been only with 1/4 to 3 inch mild steel using high amp stick welders.

I do have a higher amp AC / DC 240 VAC welder, however there's currently no 240 VAC service where I'm staying so I'm looking around for a welder preferably a mig welder that would be able to work from a 120 VAC 30 amp service I have a RV connected to.

I've read a 140 amp TIG welder draws up to aprrox. ~31 amps from a 120 volt outlet using # 10 wire, requires a 30amp breaker.

I have #8 3-wire heavy duty cord ~1+ inch in diameter going from a 20 amp breaker going to a receptacle outdoors where I can upgrade the breaker to 30 amps.

While using the welder I would't use any other AC equipment or appliances, so not to overload the 30 amp service.

Anyway I'm trying to figure what sort of welder to look for as the welder to weld body sheet metal, frame and subframe I'm not certain how many amps would actually be required i.e. the welder amp range would be required for autobody and frame welding.

I see Home Depot has lots of welders from around 70 amps, some are in my price range are made by Lincoln Electric.

e.g.

88 amp - welds from 24-Gauge to 1/8 in. thick

https://www.homedepot.com/p/Lincoln-Electric-Weld-Pack-HD-Feed-Welder-K2188-1/100031840?MERCH=REC-_-PIPHorizontal2_rr-_-100596739-_-100031840-_-N

140 amp stick welder:

(rating: Input Current: 39 Amp at 115-Volt) I think is a rating when the welder is set at it's maximum of 140 amps.

https://www.homedepot.com/p/AMICO-POWER-Amico-140-Amp-Stick-arc-Welder-IGBT-Inverter-DC-Welding-Machine-115-Volt-New-ARC-140/304254524

Then there is Harbor Freight has a 125 amp (Chicago Electric) mig welder for $109.00. Not certain if this would suffice and last if only used once in a while?

Duty cycle 90A AC @17V, 20%

https://www.harborfreight.com/flux-125-welder-63582.html?cid=paid_google_pla_high_welders_63582&gclid=CjwKCAjwp7baBRBIEiwAPtjwxAkP1PMvsupwZ-y8aGkPpCx-6FY94W5suFNcHJieMInbPf7QLi4U8BoCImIQAvD_BwE

I guess I'm trying to decide on getting a $100 - $150 dollar low amp welder or a more expensive better name brand welder such as Lincoln Electric starting at around ~$300.00

What sort of amp range is required to weld on automobile bodies, frames and subframes?

I also need to weld on things such as exhaust, etc.

I think I need 120 VAC welder with maximum amps to run on a 30 amp service which may not be enough for welding heavier metals up to around ~1/2 inch mild steel?



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PostPosted: Wed Jul 18, 2018 6:21 am
i picked up a hobart 140 from tractor supply about 10 years ago when there was a sale

https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/produ ... _vc=-10005

primarily used for sheet metal replacement, ive also been able to weld up thicker stock( frame on a chevy silverado) but it required more prep- grinding metal into a "V" and building up the weld, but its still holding strong on a daily driver. quite a bit of other thickedr stock jobs done,too.
for being 110v, its beena great welder,imo.

only thing i can say about them( and i think all hobarts )-
if the gage that comes with it isnt a smith gage, contact hobart and request a replacement right off. they seem to have 2 different suppliers of gages and the ones that arent smith are problematic.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 18, 2018 7:04 am
The professional welders at work all told me to stick with Miller, Lincoln, or Hobart. They all make quality units. I picked up a Hobart MVP210 from tractor supply for about $800. It can run on 120V or 240V. It's a really nice unit. 210 amp max ouput and can weld up to 3/8" stock. It also did a nice job on .030 sheet metal and can use .024, .027 and .030 wire.



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PostPosted: Wed Jul 18, 2018 7:06 am
I wasn't able to find a used 140 and have read good reviews about them.

I was thinking of purchasing a new one for $100 to $150 from Harbor Freight or Home Depot.

Or possibly $280.00 for this one from Eastwood.

https://www.eastwood.com/mig-welder-110 ... r0QAvD_BwE

I ended up paying $275.00 with shipping for a used Auto Arc 130. I don't know the brand of gauges it comes with. Supposedly has only been used twice.

Perhaps I should have gone with the Eastwood 135 for $280.00 with free shipping?

I need to find a helmet. I think I may have gloves and apron stored somewhere.

I've only used the old style flip up/down helmets. I'm not certain what to look for with auto darkening helmets? Appears some of them do both auto darken and are able to flip?
Last edited by albert0001 on Wed Jul 18, 2018 7:57 am, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 18, 2018 7:21 am
If that Hobart Auto Arc 130 you picked up is in excellent condition, I think you did good.



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PostPosted: Wed Jul 18, 2018 8:44 am
I'll have to see after it arrives.

Found it on eBay with description.

Almost new hobart auto arc 130
only used a few times gas regulator included

It had a best offer option but purchased it using buy-it-now.

I've been looking at auto darkening helmets but haven't been able to make of my mind whether to get an inexpensive one such as Chicago Electric or spend a few dollars more , such as e.g. a Lincoln Electric, etc. Some are faster than others with larger viewing area.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Welding-helmet ... =R40&rt=nc

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 18, 2018 9:20 am
I have never been impressed with anything from Harbor Freight. I do have a Miller Auto Darkening that I really do like. I picked it up new on amazon for just under $100.



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PostPosted: Wed Jul 18, 2018 11:41 am
Yeah I'm comparing to old style flip helmets. I'm wondering if an auto darkening from Harbor freight would be just as good?

I almost got a manual flip helmet but then decided to try this one, used only a few times for ~$20.00 with shipping.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/173402691549

Should work good enough for now. I'll find a better one with faster response time, better settings, etc. at a later time.

Years ago I worked in the shipyards when there were no auto darkening helmets.

Welders used standard industrial quality flip up / down helmets. Most of the welders would weld 40 hour work weeks.

They would often flip helmets up and down by shaking their head. Steady routine for 8 hours per day with a 1/2 hour break for lunch.

All their welds were inspected using an x-ray machine.



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 19, 2018 5:50 pm
Lenny B wrote:If that Hobart Auto Arc 130 you picked up is in excellent condition, I think you did good.


Do you think it's good enough for welding a uni-body sub-frame with up to 1/4 inch plates?

Usually either 3/16th or 1/4th inch plating is used on the sub-frame and when installing things such as frame stiffeners, rock sliders, repairs, etc.

1/4th inch metal I read requires roughly 180 amp single pass. So if multi passing one should be able to weld up to 1/4" steel?



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PostPosted: Sun Jul 22, 2018 6:40 am
albert0001 wrote:
Lenny B wrote:If that Hobart Auto Arc 130 you picked up is in excellent condition, I think you did good.


Do you think it's good enough for welding a uni-body sub-frame with up to 1/4 inch plates?

Usually either 3/16th or 1/4th inch plating is used on the sub-frame and when installing things such as frame stiffeners, rock sliders, repairs, etc.

1/4th inch metal I read requires roughly 180 amp single pass. So if multi passing one should be able to weld up to 1/4" steel?



Look up a Weld calculator on Miller welds.com there are other Weld calculators.
https://www.millerwelds.com/resources/w ... calculator
Even when using Multi passes your pushing the limits of that machine, your gonna be pushing your Duty cycle maxing it out, I looked the manual for that Machine.
pay attention to the Duty cycle chart in the book.
http://www.hobartwelders.com/om/6digit/o243712d_aut.pdf
At max 130 Amps you have a 9% duty cycle so it wont take much welding time and the machine is gonna click OFF from over heating its just not designed to weld stuff like that.
If you continuously over temp the machine pushing the duty cycle it will damage the machine.

You can Multi Pass all you want But 1/4" steel Still needs a Min of 180-200 Amps to get full penetration and without Full penetration Your not getting a Good weld.
Nothing with any penetration any way it wont be safe not on any sort of car or truck, If its your fence out in the back 40 who gives a rats *** But your talking about welding on Frames.
Dennis Barnett
A&P Mechanic, FCC General radio Telephone Operator
Line Maintenance A&P Mechanic and MOC Tech specialist.
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