I started welding just three years ago when I was totally unfamiliar with the right type of welding process to choose and a welder to pick. Preserved even today, my DIY inclination persuaded me at that time to weld my brass pipe joints having surfaces in an imperfect condition. I also wished to weld a worn out steel sheet of my old car in the garage down to 0.5mm. So, I was actually looking for some distinct level of versatility and strength in a welding process without compromising the ease of use and simplicity of learning.
I was totally novice who had no idea of welding or its types like TIG, MIG or Stick. So, doing an online research and consulting any friend who is an expert welder were the ways I chose to impart knowledge to myself. However, before doing so, I listed down my own priorities/expectations from the welding method.
- 1 My Expectations
- 2 Step 1: Research Based on Expectations: Decision-Affecting Findings
- 2.1 Research’s Knowledge-Imparting Topics
- 2.1.1 Why I Chose MIG, and not TIG or Stick
- 2.1.2 What is MIG Welding: Historic to Modern Journey
- 2.1.3 What Happens in MIG Welding: The Working Procedure
- 2.1.4 What is the Difference between Automatic or Semi-automatic MIG Welders
- 2.1.5 What is the Difference between Gasless and Gas MIG Welders?
- 2.1.6 For Which Surfaces/Applications is MIG Welding Suitable?
- 2.1.7 What are the Benefits of MIG Welding?
- 2.1.8 What is the Difference between MIG and Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) Welding?
- 2.1 Research’s Knowledge-Imparting Topics
- 3 Step 2: Which Buying Factors Should You Consider for Choosing the Best MIG Welder
- 4 Step 3: 5 Best MIG Welders of 2017
- 5 Conclusion
- Versatility; welding a variety of thin and thicker metallic surfaces
- Easier to learn
- Fast process
- Not much cleanup
Based on these factors, I started my research to find the best welding method! At this point of time, I decided to follow three steps:
- Research on welding types
- Find out the buying factors for getting the best welding device
- Prepare and compare top 5
- Read MIG welder reviews online
Step 1: Research Based on Expectations: Decision-Affecting Findings
I came across many types of welding with a little research online. However, of all, I found that the Metal Inert Gas (MIG) welding is the way to go. The following was what I exactly found:
- The MIG process allows a farmer, home hobbyist, DIY, or a motorsports fan to produce a variety of fabrication and repair or maintenance welds on a material measuring 24-gauge or 0.25 inches to 0.5 inches in terms of thickness. Wow! This is what I exactly wanted, welding ability for really thin surfaces!
- Several beginners start with MIG welding because it is not only flexible but also easy to learn. A few people say that it is as simple to use as a glue gun.
- MIG welding is effective on a variety of surfaces including steel, stainless steel, aluminium, copper, and brass.
- One of the most common applications of MIG welding is automotive repair.
The above findings were enough for me to choose MIG welding for my tasks. I initially struggled a bit with the basics of MIG welding but I was soon relieved when I learned the MIG welding techniques for making great welds. While not that simple, MIG welding makes you competitive by following the basics.
I am quite shrewd and do not just believe on the spot what others say, even if they are experienced or experts. Based on these findings, I did some more research on this kind of welding to know about it so that I could struggle less while learning it.
Research’s Knowledge-Imparting Topics
I am sharing this research in the form of following sub-topics on this page. However, you can skip them if you have former welding experience.
Nevertheless, if you are a novice, I suggest going through the same for gaining a better understanding regarding the MIG functionality, benefits, types, and factors to consider for buying the best MIG welder.
By the way, these were my research topics; which I think even you would choose before learning and investing in MIG welding!
Why I Chose MIG, and not TIG or Stick
As a matter of fact, no single welding process is applicable to all applications. There are different types of welding processes, each having its own applications, pros, and cons. Thus, it is essential to know the basic working process as well as their capabilities.
Gaining this knowledge helps in matching a process to one’s specific needs and the required skills. This is critical before you go ahead and choose a specific welding unit.
So, when I mapped the abilities of different welding types to my needs, I found MIG welding to be the most suitable choice. I also compared it to the Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welding before choosing it. Of the two, MIG was better for me, as I wanted faster process, easy to learn assurance, and portability.
Similarly, I also compared to stick welding. Of the two, stick welding was not preferable, as it releases many fumes and gives poor outcome on aluminum.
What is MIG Welding: Historic to Modern Journey
Aim: To know the meaning of MIG welding
It was interesting to know that MIG welding was first used at the time of the Second World War. At that time, it was a center of attraction, as it proved as an effective method of joining heavy steel tubes and thin gauge metal sheets.
The welding was so easy and fast that it provoked the making of heavy-duty weapons. Even today, the welding process is almost the same without any significant changes. Only the welding machines have witnessed major improvements.
It is still among the easiest methods of joining metal sheets by melting the surface through electricity, which a novice can learn in just a few hours. Yes, I agree to this despite my struggle because it was much due to my hastiness and carelessness.
MIG welding units are in use especially by the hobbyists due to their convenient setup, smooth and clean welds, and accuracy. They are often referred to as MIG welders or wire-feed welders.
However, what we all need to know here is that MIG is not a welder but a welding process. It is an industry standard for manufacturing custom cars.
Note: MIG welding is also known as Gas Metal Arc Welding or GMAW. MIG is the original name, while GMAW is the modern name. However, this modern name is not so popular due to which many people are unaware of it.
What Happens in MIG Welding: The Working Procedure
Aim: To know how MIG welding works so that I know what I will be learning
The process involves feeding a stripped metal wire that is composed of the same material, which is to be joined. There is also shielding gas around the wire, which flows from the handheld unit of torch or gun. This gas is typically a blend of argon and carbon dioxide in the ratio of 25:75.
The welding wire catches the current from the power source and forms an arc upon contact. It is this arc that does the welding.
Because the wire is fed from the unit to the piece, it acts as a metallic electrode. As a result, it needs fewer starts and stops. A short circuit with an inert or non-reactive gas generates heat that melts the electrode into the desired site that you need to weld.
It is the responsibility of a MIG welder to feed and melt the wire steadily to sustain the pre-selected length of the arc. When this device stops, the metal starts to cool down and consequently mingle together to give you a single piece.
For transferring the wire to the joint, MIG welding chooses one of the four ways namely:
- Short circuit
- Pulsed spray
The precise transfer type is determined by the shielding gas, metal type, and machine settings. These transfer types are related to the setup, and not to welding.
The short circuit and globular types for a lower voltage MIG welding using carbon dioxide or it mix with some other gas. On the other hand, the other two transfer methods operate on a higher voltage setting and with the argon gas. This gas might have some helium, carbon dioxide, or oxygen.
Due to the wire and the ability to set the welding parameters, you can weld even two unalike metals. However, it is indispensable to select the filler metal that matches closely to the piece being welded. This is due to the fact that the metal conducts the current for melting the metal piece and the electrode as well as fortifies the finished joint.
The welder controls the arc’s electrical characteristics or traits on its own, only if it is a fully automatic one. Otherwise, a semi-automatic welder would need you to use manual controls for controlling the position of torch, travel speed, and the direction. Further, a MIG welder can even work without a shielding gas.
The aforementioned facts bring us to the four main types of MIG welders namely, automatic, semi-automatic, gasless, and gas models.
What is the Difference between Automatic or Semi-automatic MIG Welders
Aim: To know the pros and cons of both types and choose the right one
An automatic MIG welder has a robotic arm for managing the configured welding work. It also has automatic controls. On the other hand, a semi-automatic one requires the user to hold and direct the gun as well as manipulate the welding band.
For semi-automatic welding, an experienced welder is essential, as she or he is aware of the right touch and recognizes the need to work precisely and uniformly in the welding zone. However, in terms of price, these units are more affordable. So, choosing from the two depends on the experience and cost.
The MIG welders are actually classified as per the electrode holders. The semi-automatic type is further split into two types namely, semi-automatic air-cooled and water-cooled holders.
In the former type, compressed air flows via it to safeguard the reserved temperatures and the current level is also lower. It is ideal for welding lap or butt joints.
In case of automatic water-cooled electrode type, water replaces air and higher intensity of the current prevails for welding corner or T joints. The automatic models are mostly water cooled ones and are used widely with the programmed equipment.
Inference for the Beginners: Go with automatic ones, as manual handling needs proper experience.
What is the Difference between Gasless and Gas MIG Welders?
Aim: To know the pros and cons of both types and choose the right one
Usually, the shielding gas protects the weld from oxidation and is composed of a mix of gases. However, many MIG welders function without this gas. Instead of the gas, they use a cylindrical flux-cored wire rather than a solid-core wire.
This is because such a wire is self-shielding due to which there is no need of an external shielding source. The core of this wire protects the weld pool, while it burns.
Any MIG welder is capable of working without the gas when you install a flux core wire and internally shift the polarity from positive to negative. Usually, a gas welder works with a Direct Current (DC) positive polarity. This is explained at the end of this sub-topic, as it is essential for you to know.
The flux core wire forms a shield around the weld band to keep it away from the oxygen in the air. When the arc melts the flux and wire together, a gas shield is created around the weld. In this way, from a technical point of view, MIG welding does not occur without gas.
Pros of Flux-core Welding: The major benefits of welding with a flux core wire are quick and simple transportation due to absence of gas, direct current shielding, more profound penetration, and simple overhead and vertical positioning of the weld.
Further, the flux core MIG welders are more affordable than those using the shielding gas or using both. Another big advantage is that these units allow welding outdoors even when it is windy. Wind actually disturbs the shielding gas due to which welding becomes difficult.
Kindly note that the way in which a flux-core wire is placed in the weld facilitates deeper penetration than the normal MIG process. This indicates that the same unit can penetrate a thicker surface.
Cons of Flux-core Welding: These welders generate smoke, slag, and splatter between the rounds. Still, these emissions are controllable via an apt technique. Further, this process is not suggested for welding surfaces thinner than 1.2mm.
Further, in case of repair or replacement, a flux core wire is costlier than a standard solid-core wire and is a bit tough to handle on a thin metal. Even heat produced is more due to which welding a thin material cleanly is a bit tough.
As the wire melts, the flux goes to the top for forming a defensive layer on the weld. You need to remove this layer, which when done results in a bit scratchy welding outcome. Thus, a flux core welder is inappropriate for tasks where a neat appearance is indispensable.
Pros of Shielded Gas Welding: On the other hand, gas MIG welders with a regular wire give a highly clean weld, provided the polarity and the gas are right. There is little splatter and that the arc is more stable.
Cons of Shielded Gas Welding: However, it is not easy to carry such a welder. Further, the initial cost is higher and the operating cost of buying the gas is always there.
In short, the choice of having a shielding gas or not affects the weld quality and portability. Still, it is recommended to go through the reviews and see whether the pros match with what you want, when it comes to choosing between these two types of models.
Below is the brief summary of the difference between the two types of MIG welding:
Gas MIG Welding
- Easiest to learn
- High speeds
- Cleaner welds without slag
- Better control on thinner surfaces
- Same equipment for flux-cored welding
Flux-Cored MIG Welding
- Easy to learn
- Not so high speed possible
- Less clean welds
- Deep penetration for tackling thick sections; Ideal for out-of-position welding, welding in windy weather, and welding a rusty or dirty metal
- More metal deposition rate
A flux-cored welder is ideal for working in windy conditions or in unsheltered areas. In case of other type, the gas proves to be ineffective, ensuing in porosity and oxidation.
Inference for You: Choose the one that best fulfills your priorities.
Note on Polarity
Although sounding quite technical, polarity is something that you need to know. When it comes to electrodes, DC and Alternating Current (AC) depict the polarity of the current that a welder generates and runs via the electrode. Choosing the electrode with the right polarity affects the weld’s strength and quality.
For welding, straight polarity and reverse polarity are used, which are also known as electrode-negative or negative and electrode-positive or positive polarity, respectively. Polarity results because an electrical circuit possesses both a positive and a negative pole.
Because DC flows in a single direction, it gives constant polarity. On the other hand, AC flows in one direction for half of the time and in the other for the remaining half.
When you set the welder for negative polarity, the current tends to flow to the welding surface from the electrode and generates significant heat in the metal. If set for positive polarity, the current flows backwards from the metal to the electrode. As a result, more heat accumulates at the electrode.
Except for some cases, positive polarity ensures deeper penetration. A few types of shielded electrodes can work on either polarity.
Ideally, the positive electrode should be positioned against the most conductive part, while the negative electrode should be positioned on the most resistive one. Doing so increases the heat at the edge of the two surfaces and alleviates the same at the electrode.
For Which Surfaces/Applications is MIG Welding Suitable?
Aim: To convince myself that MIG welding is the right choice, as per the projects in hand; and to know its applicability in other fields
- Surfaces/Metals: MIG welding is suitable for a wide variety of metals such as carbon steel, stainless steel, copper, nickel, aluminium, magnesium, silicon, bronze, and other alloys. With some practice, you can get smooth, clean welds that are little fuss and fast to do.
- Applications: MIG welding is suitable for a variety of applications or projects such as designing a metal sculpture, restoring an old car or van, fabricating a motorcycle, and doing a basic repair of farm equipment. Below is the list of various projects along with the corresponding metal thickness for which MIG welding is appropriate:
- Auto Body: <= 3/16-inch
- Motorcycles, Cars, and Boats: 1/16 – 1/8 inches
- Farm, Cattle Farm, and Landscape: 5/16 – 3/8 inches
- Trailer Frames and Fencing: 1/4 – 5/16 inches
- Thick Parts: > 3/8 inches
- Lawnmowers and Bicycles: 1/16 inches
- Common to Heavy Repair: 3/16 – 1/4 inches
What are the Benefits of MIG Welding?
Aim: To convince myself that MIG welding is the right choice, as per my welding expectations
Here are some persuading reasons for using MIG welding:
- Superb capability for mechanized welding
- Clean welds even in a windy condition
- Highly productive and aesthetic outcome
- Low cost and easy to learn process
- Versatile, as it can weld almost all metals and alloys with thin surfaces
- Welding in all positions with flexibility to select the settings and equipment
- Deep weld penetration for using trivial weld sizes for same weld strengths in a few applications
- Minimal cleanup as no slag exists on the weld bead
- Higher metal deposition rate, low fume rate, less operating skills, and welding speed than stick welding
- Facilitator of multi-pass welding, if an apt filler metal is chosen
- High duty cycle and less defects by using an incessantly fed electrode
What is the Difference between MIG and Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) Welding?
Aim: To ensure fully that MIG is a better choice for my tasks
During the research, I also found that TIG welding is another option to go with. This was exactly where the confusion started for me. So, I went ahead to dig the difference between the two.
TIG welding is also a common method for welding thin surfaces of carbon and stainless steels, and non-ferrous metals such as copper, magnesium, and aluminum. For it to give the best aesthetic appearance, the surface should measure at least 0.10 inches in thickness.
While you get stronger and higher quality welds than other welding processes, the TIG process needs more skills to master, which means TIG is not a simple process to learn. It is, in fact, more complex and tough to master. Further, it is the slowest of all welding processes.
Both welding methods also differ in terms of process. TIG welding employs long welding rods that are slowly fed to the weld pool, whereas MIG welding has a constantly fed wire.
Following are the reasons why I chose MIG over TIG welding:
- More straightforward
- Simpler point and shoot process to learn in a few days and consequently excellent control
- Suppler and more secure joints
- Fewer distortions
- Higher speed and consequently more efficient
- More productivity due to fewer stops and starts
- Smooth, easier, and cleaner weld pool
- Time saving cleanup, as there is no need to change the rods for removing the slag
Inference for You: Because TIG gives a much finer weld due to which it is ideal for tasks where the appearance of the weld is of significant importance. It is more suitable for thinner metals and aluminum, while MIG is preferable for any kind of sheet metals.
Well, this marked the end of my research. Now, I was convinced to look for a MIG welder. However, as a shrewd buyer, I always look for buying factors to consider before investing in any kind of product.
Step 2: Which Buying Factors Should You Consider for Choosing the Best MIG Welder
The high-rating or highly admired MIG welders are designed to save time and energy, as they are capable of welding thicker metals evenly in one pass. With such a unit working at an excellent welding speed, you can even show your creativity on thinner surfaces.
In case the unit is unsuitable, it will not take time to reverse your efforts. So, it is a requisite to have the most suitable MIG welder in hand. The challenge is that you need to select from a variety of models available there in the market.
Now, each of these models differs in terms of features, specifications, brand quality, price, and accessories. Thus, you need to choose the one that have all the features and accessories that you wish to have within the set budget.
Here’s what I did: I took some time to find about the different buying factors and the aforementioned knowledge, which helped me to compare the different promising models from the various brands. I also went through some good reviews on sites dedicated to welding. Based on these reviews and comparison, I was able to make out which MIG welder is best suited for me.
Here are the buying factors that I considered and suggest even you to do the same. You are free to add to list.
This is the first thing to know before you even start looking for the types of MIG welders and their specifications. It includes the purpose of using the welder, location of usage, kind of task (light or heavy-duty), type of metal in use, and its thickness level.
At this point of time, the knowledge imparted through the aforementioned topics will help you. Obviously, you will not like to choose a welder that is more or less powerful than what you need for your task.
Well, you need to choose from automatic, semi-automatic, flux-cored, or gas models. What you need to know that most models come with flux core functions.
You can go for a flux-cored or gas welder if you have diverse tasks in hand. However, to get the best, a multi-purpose welder is the right choice.
Such a welder can help you in a variety of tasks such as home repair, auto maintenance, and ranch equipment fabrication. It usually has an auto-set system, thermal overload protection, and standardized circuits.
Special Consideration for Gas Models
If you wish to use a gas model, keep in mind that different gases including oxygen are preferable for different welding processes. When it comes to MIG, the gas you require depends on the base metal, process, environmental condition, and welding position. Further, you need to consider the following points:
- MIG welding needs three types of shielding gas namely, argon, carbon dioxide, and helium. These gases are usually utilized as a mixture but the exact proportions depend on the metals to be welded. Further, the gas should match with the base metal and electrode or else you will get weak or improper welds.
- The type of gas in use determines the welding arc characteristics, the extent of deep penetration, and the weld’s mechanical properties.
- It is best to take advice from the supply store for choosing the right gas or a mix.
- For short circuit welding, use “C25” or “75/25” (75% argon blended with 25% CO2). C25 produces less splatter and less heat than welding with 100% CO2.
- In case you need a compressed gas that is stored in a container under pressure, refilling the tank might be a frequent activity for which transporting it to the shop is essential. You can either buy or lease the tank after knowing how big it should be depending on how often you will use it. Refilling a big tank is not costlier than refilling a small one. In case you invest in a used tank, ensure that your supplier does not mind refilling it prior to buying it. A blend of compressed gas and arc welding increases the costs but saves on filler rod. Filler wires are more efficient as well as economical than stick electrodes.
- Find out about all the storage requirements and safety issues related to gas. Know the involved equipment before buying it. Further, get your tank inspected at an interval of every two years.
- The ratio of 25:25 is for most mild steels but you can use only carbon dioxide. Welding aluminum needs only argon gas, while stainless steel needs 2.5% carbon dioxide, 7.5% argon, and 90% helium gas. You need not mix them manually; just buy the right mixture.
- Consider using only carbon dioxide for more penetration on a thicker surface. However, this will result in more splatter.
- Spray transfer welding needs a mix of 90% argon and 10% carbon dioxide along with 200+ amps.
- For short circuit MIG welding, use 25:75 ratio of gas, it results in less spatter as well as heat than using only carbon dioxide.
- Oxygen and acetylene gases are very expensive. So, oxy-acetylene welding is only for torch cutting, not welding.
You need to know your basic power requirements. For most small-scale or home projects, a power of 115v is the basic requirement. This considers that most of these projects include welding a few thin metals. This also means that the welder you choose is capable of handling such metals.
For welding thick metals or industrial heavy-duty tasks, you will need more power. In that case, you can choose a 220 or 230v unit instead of 110v or 120v machine. You can even go for a welder that operates on both the voltages. However, both these categories will make you pay more than a low powered unit.
If you are on a budget, consider choosing a high power model instead of choosing two-in-one unit, which can weld in a single pass. Usually, welders operate on 110 or 220v but several of them support dual voltage for optimal flexibility.
The more the voltage, the greater is the power in use. Thus, it is best to go for low powered model if your work will include only thin metals. A few of these models are adjustable between 115-140v for small scale tasks at home.
Higher power is also the need for industry-level projects involving thicker surfaces and the need for faster welding. Keep in mind that different fields of application will have different power requirements.
So, if you will be working in multiple fields such as farm and garage, you need the multi-voltage option allowing you to choose between 120 and 230v as per the demand. A few units are such that they can set the appropriate voltage automatically as per your requirement.
There are many factors that determine the right voltage level for welding: The metal type, welding position, metal thickness, shielding gas if using, wire diameter speed, and joint configurations.
Further, you also need to know the maximum and minimum recommended thicknesses of metals. Otherwise, you will end up pushing your unit very far, to only break it up.
The MIG wire or electrode should be matching to the type of metal you will be welded. Apart from this factor for choosing the most suitable electrode, some more factors to consider are the transfer type, resistance to abrasion, and position to be welded.
MIG welders come with specifications of electrode type and weld size. Typically, MIG wires are solid and range in thickness from .023 to .045. A few are thicker so that you can use them for heavy industrial applications. The common sizes are .023, .030, .035, and .045 inches.
The electrode type specification is in the form of a standard code given by American Welding Society (AWS). For example, for welding carbon steel, the most recommended wire is ER 70S-6.
Here, ER indicates an electrode, 70 represents at least 70,000 pounds of tensile strength of weld per square inch, S is for solid wire, and 6 is the quantity of deoxidizing and cleansing agents present on the electrode.
It is logic that more current is needed to weld a joint with decent penetration if the metal is thick. As the price of a welder is based partly on the quantity of the generated juice, you need to know the maximum thickness of base metals and fittings with who you will be working.
Typically, you want to weld different metal thicknesses with a welder. Fortunately, this is not an issue, as most welders have settings for regulating the amount of power you require. Moreover, the digital displays make it easier to keep a watch on power.
A steel structure and pipe thicker than 0.5 inches need a heavy-duty MIG welder. Miller Electric, a famous welding brand says that one needs 1 amp of power for every .001 inch of thickness for mild steel.
So, .150-inch of mild steel sheet needs around 150 amps. Aluminium requires 25% more amps, while stainless steel requires 10% less amps.
On the other hand, a very thin metal needs different settings if the welder is sensitive. Sometimes a low current induces an unstable arc, and that’s a welder’s nightmare. Besides that, if too much heat enters the base metal, the area surrounding the weld weakens or melts.
If you are looking for a model that can adjust both the current and voltage, it does not matter to consider the thickness of the metal for selecting a MIG welder.
In short, you need to know the precise voltage for the stated thickness (you may see a reference chart for it). In case of digitalized models, the required level of voltage and current are set on its own. This is because of the auto-set utility.
The weld thickness helps in finding out the amps required for the welder you wish to buy. Below is the list of maximum steel thickness for connecting parallel parts (butt welding), as per the amps:
- 0mm, 90 amps
- 5mm, 110 amps
- 0mm, 130 amps
- 0mm, 150 amps
- 0mm, 180 amps
Following are some general rules to consider while determining the amps as per the metal thickness:
- 140-amp machine: Steel of 1/4 inches
- 180-amp machine: Steel between 3/8 and 5/16 inches
- 200-amp machine: Steel of 5/16 inches
- 250-amp machine: Steel of 1/2 inches
This is the term that measures the output of a welder. Before deciding the type of welder, it is obvious for you to measure its output. This output is computed as per the usage of voltage and amperage, and is termed as duty cycle.
The term refers to the amount of time for which a welder operates at the set voltage and amp output without surpassing the confines of the temperature of its parts. It is usually measured in 10-minute increments.
For example, if a welder’s duty cycle is 30% while MIG welding at 180A/240V, it means that the unit can weld for three minutes by consuming 240v and at the output of 180A. After this time, the unit needs seven minutes to cool down.
The higher the duty cycle, the more it is possible to weld in a 10-minute period. In simple words, you can do more work if the MIG welder has a higher duty cycle.
Note: Duty cycle increases if the welder is operating at a lower output.
Evaluating the duty cycle happens at a particular ambient temperature. The thermal arc operates at 1040 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the industry standard. However, some models do work at 860 degrees Fahrenheit. This is essential to know for welding in a hotter climate.
Thermal Overload Protection
This feature is a must from a safety point of view. Overheating is a typical issue that makes several MIG welders worthless. A peculiar tendency of the welders is that it works for some time but if it overheats, the waiting time is long so that it can cool prior to resuming work.
So, one of the features of the best MIG welder is the thermal overload protection. This will surely simplify your task of choosing the best MIG welder. As you wish, your welder to work for long, such a feature is much like an insurance coverage for you.
Due to this feature, the unit shuts down on its own when it becomes too hot. This obviously saves the machine as well as your workspace. Isn’t it smart to have it?
Size and Type of Wire
Here the math is reversed: The size and type of the wire does not help in deciding the type of MIG welder you need. However, the welder that you invest in will help you in deciding the type of wire to be used along with its size.
There are two common types of wires in use for MIG welding namely, ER70S-3 and ER70S-6. The former is ideal for dirty or rusty metals because it offers more deoxidizers. On the other hand, the latter is an all-purpose wire.
Size and Weight of Machine for Portability
The need of portability depends on the location of task or project for which you wish to use the welder. Will it be home or will it be in different places at home, in garage, or in a shop? If you are going to move from one place to another quite often, weight will be a concern.
However, it is not a concern in case there is a transport system arranged permanently. Otherwise, no one would really want to carry a voluminous unit that is not only uncomfortable to handle, but also consumes much space at the time of storage.
MIG welders are basically for stress-free welding. However, if the weight of the unit is more, the beginners find it tough to run the bead on the precise welding zone. For the best, go for as light as possible unit.
But keep in mind that even the size is a significant factor to consider, as you do not want to go out such a big MIG welder. Still, it all comes down to performance; so do not prioritize the size. Your top priority should be quality and performance, and not size and weight; unless you have a health issue.
If portability or transportability is your priority, you need to have ease of transport. Otherwise, the weight is not much an issue if you will be storing and working with it in the garage. Usually, a portable welder features a handle and modest weight for two people to carry.
It is common to see the wire jammed in the torch while welding aluminum. However, this issue does not occur, if you attach a spool gun to the torch. By doing so, you position the wire far away from where it should appear of the torch. So, having a spool gun is essential for aluminium welding.
Ease of Use
While MIG welding is simple, its machine may not be! The fact is that we all need a welder that is simple to understand as well as work with. So, it makes sense to go for a unit having a digital display, colored knobs, minimal switches, and a comfy torch or gun.
Repair and Maintenance
The criticality of this factor is fully dependent on your financial capability as well as flexibility. It is a fact that any electrical device needs timely maintenance and repair.
You might grab the best MIG welder for your hobby or business but the nearby repair shop has none of its spare parts. This can push you to choose another model. In this case, still go for the best.
When it comes to choosing the best MIG welder, it is critical to choose the best brand that loves to continue with innovation without compromising quality and performance. Here, I suggest to do some survey by going through testimonies, reviews, and referrals.
When most consumers are suggesting a specific brand, there is a high probability that it might be the best even for you. Yet, it is a fact that a brand that is best for your friend need not be the best for you. So, what you only need is research! research! research!
To simplify your selection of brand, here are some of the reliable brands to consider, which have established themselves very well with quality and highly performing units:
Miller, Hobart, Lincoln, Forney, Lotos, and Everlast
You will never be disappointed by these brands, provided you buy the model by considering the above factors.
Step 3: 5 Best MIG Welders of 2017
Now, it was the time to be practical! I have now applied the above factors to different promising MIG welders and came up with the below top 5 MIG welders. To make this list, I considered customer ratings of at least above 4 and reviews.
Hobart 500559 Handler Wire Welder:
It is compact, portable, easy to set, and operates with flux-core steel, aluminum, and solid wire for catering to a variety of projects related to auto body, heavier farm tasks, household repairs. The unit offers the best possible arc and power.
- Metals: Steel, aluminum, stainless steel (both light and heavy duty tasks)
- Features: Regulator and gas hose, feed speed control, 5-position voltage selector for a smooth and stable arc at any welding thickness, improved heavy-duty 200 amps+ clamp for better contact points, self-resetting thermal overload protection, built-in storage, gun, dual-gauge regulator, and wire spool adapter
- Weight: 57 lbs
- Power Input: 115v
- Output: 25-140 amps
- Duty Cycle: 20% @ 90A
- Material Thickness: 24 gauge to 1/4 inches
- Power Cord: 10 ft.
Forney 299 125FC Flux Core Welder:
It is only for gasless welding and an ideal choice of the beginners looking for portability and good welding performance for small projects. Its unique ability is to run spools of 2 to 10 pounds, which makes it quite versatile. However, it works with only Tweco consumables. It is the most affordable MIG welder in this list.
- Metals: Steel, aluminum, stainless steel (only light duty tasks)
- Features: Tweco style gun, MIG gun, ground clamp, torch wrap, large storage area
- Weight: 42 lbs
- Power Input: 120v
- Output: 125 amps
- Duty Cycle: 20% @ 125A
- Material Thickness: Up to 1/4 inches
- Power Cord: 6 ft.
Lincoln Electric K2185-1 Handy MIG Welder:
It is a lightweight and compact gas unit designed for hobby tasks and home repairs including light gauge mild steel. It is more affordable than the aforementioned Hobart’s unit.
- Metals: Mild steel (only light duty tasks)
- Features: Four voltage settings and incessant feed speed adjustment, gun, work cable, clamp, gas nozzle, spool of solid wire, gas regulator and hose, gasless nozzle for flux-cored welding, cold contractor safety feature for keeping the wire cold until the gun is pressed
- Weight: 42 lbs
- Power Input: 1150v, 20 amp outlet
- Output: 35-88 amps
- Duty Cycle: 20% @ 70A
- Material Thickness: Up to 1/8 inches
- Power Cord: 8 ft.
Millermatic 211 MIG Welder, Handheld:
It is a portable unit that is capable of welding even the thickest surface in its category. It is quite easy to use, welds fast, and gives a clean and smooth output with little preparation. You can use it for both gas and gasless welding. Keeping this in mind, the unit is affordable.
- Metals: Mild steel, aluminum and stainless steel (both light and heavy duty tasks)
- Features: Auto setup, thermal overload protection, smooth-start technology that is spatter-free, and infinite voltage control for setting up manually
- Weight: 38 lbs
- Power Input: 110/115/120v – 220/230/240v
- Output: 30-230 A
- Duty Cycle: 40% @ 150A
- Material Thickness: 24 gauge to 3/8 inches
- Power Cord: 6.5 ft.
Hobart Handler 500554001:
It is the costliest model in this list but offers an exceptional value for your money. It comes with 150-amp Spool gun to give you a robust welding unit for making aluminium welding quite easier than before. It is both a portable and powerful flux core and gas welder allowing you to weld generously in a single pass. You can expect a powerful and professional outcome at 230v.
- Metals: Mild steel, aluminum and stainless steel (both light and heavy duty tasks)
- Features: Spool gun, MIG gun, seven output voltage settings, dual-groove drive roll for quickly changing the wire, infinite wire feed speed control, clamp cable, and regulator and gas hose
- Weight: 89 lbs
- Power Input: 220v
- Output: 25-190A
- Duty Cycle: 30% @ 130A
- Material Thickness: 24 gauge to 5/16-inch steel and 16 gauge to 3/16-inch aluminum
- Power Cord: 10 ft.
The most important aspect for you is to know the purpose or need of buying a MIG welder. Based on that, you should apply the aforementioned buying factors to compare the most promising models. While short listing them, do a detailed research or else disappoint is likely to hit you. So, never ever choose a model with zero knowledge.
And yes, do take good care of your welder. Purchasing a quality welding machine is one thing and keeping it in good condition for efficient performance is another. Not using the right welding technique or proper means of protection such as a welding helmet can reverse all your effort.
Through this post, I have shared my basic knowledge about MIG welding, which I have learned in my past three years. I hope that it has cleared all your doubts about MIG.
Finally, go for MIG welding if you are a naïve or total beginner and wish an efficient technique for hobby welding, mechanical work, farm equipment repair, or automotive work.