Best MIG Welder for The Money 2018 – Reviews and Buying Guide
Looking for the best MIG welder?
With this post, you will discover the best models, learn how to use them correctly and safely, and discover lots of interesting facts about welding.
Getting a high-performing welder always pays off through faster work and more effective joints with minimal scrap.
Whether you intend to purchase a new MIG welder or replace the one you have, I am here to help you get one that suits your needs and goes easy on your pockets.
I will also show you how to seek out the best one but first, for the sake of beginners, let’s define an MIG welder.
What is an MIG Welder Anyway?
Before we dive into that, it’d be good to know a thing or two about arc welders.
Arc welders join different pieces of metal using high-voltage electricity, with enough heat to melt the metals and make a weld.
There are various types of arc welders, such as TIG, stick, MIG, and so on. The difference between these welders is in how the arc (the luminous discharge) is maintained and shielded.
With an MIG welder, the tank is normally filled with a gas mixture dubbed the Metal Inert Gas. Usually, the gas mixture doesn’t react with the metal, and thus it doesn’t add contaminants into your weld.
The gas mixture gets pumped from the tank through the welding cable and emerges through the same nozzle that’s connected to your welding wire. This enables the formation of a protecting cloud around the luminous discharge as you weld.
Note: some welding wires will have flux inside. Though this eliminates the need for an external gas tank and works just fine, it doesn’t deliver the same quality and power you’d get from a separate gas tank.
Now, let’s look into the best MIG welders in the market.
Best MIG Welder Reviews: The Best Models in the Market Today
Here are the best MIG welders that will offer you great value for your money.
1. Goplus 130 Welder review:
Looking to obtain a professional finish on your weld? That’s what the Goplus 130 Welder is designed to help you achieve.
This MIG welder is built for a wide assortment of thin steel welding processes, including doing car bodywork. With this DIY unit, you can say goodbye to those minor car repair expenses that might turn out to be increasing your budget tremendously in the long run.
The Goplus 130 Welder is built from a steel frame and its handle is made of plastic. These materials not only make it durable but also lightweight.
If you’re looking for something that you can carry easily from place to place, the Goplus 130 Welder is the one to consider getting. It weighs only 35 pounds and measures 13.4 by 7.3 by 11.4 inches.
With a 12-inch handle, you can hold the welder comfortably and carry it along.
Even though the Goplus 130 Welder is only a small machine, it gives you 15 percent at 105 amps power output, having consumed only 110 volts.
15 percent means that the machine runs continuously for a minute and a half before resting for 8 and a half minutes. To get a better understanding of this, you can refer to the “Dual cycle” part in the next section “Things to consider before buying an MIG welder”.
The machine comes packaged properly. Each package contains the following free items:
Normally, people have to buy these items separately, but with the Goplus 130 Welder, you have them for free. Isn’t that cool?
Experts believe this is the best 110v MIG welder.
2. Hobart 500559 Welder Review:
Looking for the best US-made MIG welder? That would be the Hobart 500559 Welder.
This is a product of the famous Hobart brand, which is known to produce high-quality, tough, and dependable equipment.
The Hobart 500559 Welder is MIG-ready, meaning that you don’t need any additional kit to get down to work.
At only 57 pounds, the welder is portable, making it easy to transport so that you can do your welding tasks any time and from anywhere.
The handler offers you great arc performance and the entire system is covered by the Hobart Industrial Warranty so that in case something goes wrong, you get another machine or your money back.
The Hobart 500559 Welder is a multipurpose machine with industrial performance.
Looking to weld on your car’s body? Maybe you want to do household repairs or heavy farm projects that need more power. Whatever the case, the Hobart 500559 Welder will definitely be of help. It runs on a 115-volt current, with the recommended circuit being 20 amps.
The welder has a handy voltage control that enables you to fine-tune the arc based on the base metal’s thickness. It’s manufactured from industrial cast aluminum, one of the most robust, durable materials on earth.
Are you a total beginner? I suggest you go for this machine. Why? It’s extremely simple to set up and use. You can set it up in minutes and start using it immediately.
Here are several free items that you get when you purchase the Hobart 500559 Welder:
3. Lincoln K2185-1 Welder Review:
Welders with flux-cored wires can be very useful, particularly because you don’t need shielding gas to weld.
The Lincoln K2185-1 Welder is one such welder. It’s an MIG-ready welder that comes with a flux-cored welding wire, eliminating the need for a separate gas tank.
Apart from that, the Lincoln K2185-1 is a lightweight welder that gives you an output of 20% at 70 amps. That means it can run for 2 minutes continuously while delivering a power output of 70 A before requiring an 8-minute break. It has an amperage output of 35 to 88 amps.
This welder comes with an 8-foot clamp cable, an 8-foot power cord, a regulator, and a gas hose. It can weld 1/8-inch-thick metals (recommended metal – mild steel). The welding wire diameter is usually 0.035 inches.
The good thing about this machine is that the wire feed speed control is adjustable. Then again, the machine needs 115 volts to run, with a recommended circuit of 20 amps.
Another interesting aspect about the welder is that it comes with a feature to keep the welding wire cold electrically when you release the trigger. Therefore, you can shift positions without having to worry about the wire touching your body.
4. Forney 299 125FC Welder Review:
If your number one target is portability, then you’ll be pleased to know that the Forney 299 125FC Welder offers you just that. At 32.6 pounds, this is one of the lightest MIG welding machines available.
As I have always told people, size isn’t always directly proportional to power. Though the Forney 299 125FC is very light, it offers you an output range of 125 amps. That’s enough for all your DIY welding projects.
Though it delivers such much power, it doesn’t require much power to run – it needs just 120 A.
Not comfortable with getting a separate gas tank for the shielding gas? No worries. This welder comes with a flux-cored welding wire, and thus you can do your welding with or without the gas tank.
The welder uses a welding wire with a thickness of around 0.03 inches, and can weld metals with a thickness of around ¼ inch.
With this machine, you don’t have to purchase a welding gun, as that is included in the package. Also, the machine comes with a free high-grade ground clamp.
The welder is easy to use. The storage is also easy, as the welder comes with a torch wrap and a state-of-the-art design.
5. Amico Power IGBT Inverter Welding Machine Review:
There aren’t many welders out there that are totally user-friendly. Getting one with an LED meter isn’t something many people are able to do.
With a handy LED meter, the Amico Power IGBT Inverter Welding Machine is designed to make things for you as easy as possible. With this meter, you can effortlessly fine-tune the machine to your desired settings.
This welder comes ready to start working; all you have to do is add the welding electrodes and you’re good to go.
Designed for home and farm use, the Amico Power IGBT Inverter Welding Machine comes with an electrode holder and a 10-foot cable, an input power adapter cable, and a work clamp.
The machine is ideal for:
The Amico Power IGBT Inverter is one of the lightest yet most powerful welding machines you can get. Though it has a weight of just 18 pounds, it gives you a maximum power output of 160 amps. The output range is 5A to 160 A, making the machine incredibly versatile.
Even though the machine delivers such huge power, it can run at 115 volts.
The machine is also extremely efficient, as it has a duty cycle of 60% while most other machines have a duty cycle of around 10 to 30%. That means that you can weld for 6 minutes, requiring only 4-minute rests between intervals.
6. Lotos MIG140 Welder Review:
One of the biggest indicators that a welding machine is really unique is the user’s ability to adjust the speed of the wire feeder and the welding voltage.
The Lotos MIG140 Welder is designed to give you total control. It comes with two digital displayers to enable you adjust the speed of the wire feeder and the welding voltage in a more precise manner.
Moreover, it comes with a new-style ground cable connector and an aluminum wire feeder for more stability and superior user experience.
With a power output of around 140 amps, the Lotos MIG140 Welder can help you do a wide range of welding jobs. You can weld a broad array of metals, from stainless steel to mild steel and aluminum.
Also, it enables you to use a wide welding wire range, from 0.025 to 0.03 inches for solid steel and 0.03 to 0.035 for flux-cored wire.
With a power requirement of 120 volts, you can just connect the machine to your existing wall outlet.The Lotos MIG140 Welder comes with a few free items, including the following:
7. Handler 210 MVP Welder Review:
Seeking a machine that offers you flexibility with regard to power input? Consider getting the Handler 210 MVP Welder from Hobart.
This machine lets you use either 115-volts or 230-volts input power. That’s why it’s called an MVP, which stands for multi-voltage plug.
The welder automatically adjusts itself to the proper power, offering you great arc performance in spite of the source of power.
Although lightweight, the Handler 210MVP Welder is able to deliver up to 210 amps power. For that reason, it can weld a wide range of items, including:
Like other Hobart equipment, the Handler 210 MVP is covered by the company’s industrial warranty, guaranteeing you another machine or a refund in case there are issues with the item.
The other good thing about this machine is that you can set it up in just a few minutes and start welding immediately. You’re a beginner? No problem. The welder comes with a welding guide to help you through the setup and welding process.
8. ARKSEN MIG-130 Welder Review:
Looking to enjoy the functionality of an MIG welder without having to worry about gas? The ARKSEN MIG-130 is another great welding machine that offers you that.
This welder comes with a flux-cored welding wire, removing the need for a separate gas tank and gas regulator, items that are a must-have with normal MIG welding machines.
The ARKSEN MIG-130 comes with speed controls for the wire and a thermal overload protection feature to ensure that you’re safe when welding. The safety feature also makes the machine easy to use as you don’t have to stay 100% vigilant.
The thermal overload protection feature will shut the machine when the duty cycle is reached, thereby preventing overheating. This helps prevent accidental fires and makes the machine last longer.
There’s also a short circuit protection the protect the machine from current overload.
The ARKSEN MIG-130 is so small that it can fit in a portable case, making it easy to transport. Even so, this machine offers you a good maximum power output (120 amps). With this welder, you don’t need special power gadgets – you can just use your wall outlet, as it runs at 115 volts.
The ARKSEN MIG-130 package contains these free items:
9. LOTOS MIG175 Welder Review:
The spool gun is not an item you will get for free with any welding machine you buy. This item is only offered for free by very few sellers, and one of them is LOTOS.
With the LOTOS MIG175, you can weld a wide range of materials, from stainless steel to aluminum and mild steel.
This welding machine offers you great power, as you can weld mild steel that are around ¼ inch thick. For aluminum, you can weld up to a thickness of 3/8 inches.
Planning to do lots of aluminum welding? The LOTOS MIG175 Welder has got you covered. It comes with an incredibly efficient spool gun with 10 ft. 4” long wire and a 1-pound aluminum wire with a 0.9mm diameter.
The LOTOS MIG175 is very convenient, as you can just connect it to your 220-volts wall outlet and get started immediately. Also, the set-up is quite simple; you can do it in 10 minutes or less.
With the LOTOS MIG175, quality is not something you need to worry about. The machine is manufactured in California, USA, by LOTOS Technology. The company that’s respected in the market for supplying high-grade cutting and welding tools to DIY buyers and small business owners.
And, if you’re concerned about safety, then you’ll be pleased to know that the welder comes with a resettable overload protection to safeguard the machine against overheating. This feature also helps prolong the machine’s life.
10. Super Deal Black Commercial Welder Review:
Is safety your greatest concern when looking for a welding machine? Then, you have got to consider the Super Deal Black Commercial Welder.
This machine is carefully designed for your personal safety. In that regard, it comes with a torch with full on and off safety control. Furthermore, it has an automatic thermal protection feature to safeguard both you and the machine against overheating.
Once the dual cycle is reached, the machine automatically goes off.
With a power output of around 105 amps, the Super Deal Black Commercial Welder enables you to weld a wide range of materials from mild steel to stainless steel and more.
The welder has a duty cycle of 10% @ 105 amps, meaning that you can weld continuously for around one minute before the machine needs a 9-minute rest. And, if you weld at 60 amps, you’ll be able to do it continuously for three and half minutes. That means 35% @ 60 amps.
With the Super Deal Black Commercial Welder, you don’t need much power. 110-volts is all you need, and thus your normal wall outlet would be enough.
The welding machine’s weldable wires include:
With the flux-core welding wire, you can weld without a separate gas tank.
When you purchase the Super Deal Black Commercial Welder, you get the following free items:
11. MIG Welder 120VAC Review:
The arc is one of the most important features you should consider when looking for an MIG welder. How is the machine’s luminous discharge? Is it stable and neat? Those are the questions you should be asking.
Why? Your welding depends on that arc. A good arc will produce a great weld while a bad arc will create a terrible weld.
Well, the MIG Welder 120VAC comes with a brass to brass gun connection. This helps enhance the conductivity of the current, and for that, a nice, stable arc is produced.
Apart from that, this welding machine enables you to use either the MIG or flux-core process of welding. That means you can weld with or without a separate tank for the shielding gas.
With the MIG Welder 120VAC, you can weld a broad range of materials, including mild and stainless steel, and aluminum.
With a fully adjustable drive system, the machine is able to minimize crushing and tangle. Then again, the machine’s cast aluminum body coupled up with robust drive helps align the wire correctly.
12. Hobart Handler 190 Welder Review:
This is yet another amazing product of the reputed Hobart brand.
The Hobart Handler 190 is designed with quality and sturdiness in mind, and that’s why it’s able to offer you industrial performance. You can count on this machine to work for you for a long time.
Looking to weld aluminum the hassle-free way? This welder comes spool-gun ready for aluminum works. You can just plug in the SpoolRunner 100 gun to avoid issues that come with aluminum wire welding.
The good thing is, you don’t need an extra adapter or control box to connect the spool gun. Also, there’s a selector switch to help you switch guns quickly and easily.
With the Hobart Handler 190, you can weld a broad array of materials, from auto body to exhaust systems, to mower decks, to farm and garden equipment, to gun racks, and more. As you can see, this machine is quite sufficient for all your DIY welding projects.
It is ideal for welding mild steel.
The machine’s set up is quick and easy. You can do it in minutes and start welding. Moreover, the package includes an easy-to-understand setup guide to help you through the entire process.
Other items included in the package include:
13. Everlast Power MIG 200 welder Review:
If you’re looking for a welding machine that offers you great portability, look no further. The latest version of the Everlast Power MIG 200 has got you covered.
It comes with a new-style digital IGBT inverter to lower weight and footprint, making it very portable.
The welder supports a dual-voltage input, allowing you to use it from anywhere – your home, a workshop somewhere; any place can do.
With dual digital displays for the amps and the volts, you can make precise adjustments and reuse your preferred parameters.
This welder also offers you superior flexibility, as it comes with a stick function just in case you don’t need an MIG weld. The machine’s arc force control is able to manage both the stick and MIG modes.
If you’re on the MIG mode, the arc force control will regulate the current rise time, thereby managing the puddle fluidity, penetration, and bead outline.
If, on the other hand, you’re on the stick mode, the feature acts like a DIG control, improving the arc performance.
The welder has an automatic pre- and post-flow control to improve the quality of your weld during starts and stops. This lowers the porosity, thus producing excellent weld results.
There’s a new feature – the adjustable burn back control. This one lessens the trimming needed so that the welding wire is at the ideal length for every restart.
Considering all these features, we all can agree that the Everlast Power MIG 200 is in a whole new class with regard to quality.
If you’re looking to get professional, this is most definitely the welder to get.
With a power input of 240 volts, the machine can weld up to 7/16 inches in a single pass and ¾ inches in a multiple pass.
“What should I look for when buying an MIG welder?” – the section below will help you select the right MIG welder for your needs.
Thing to Consider Before Buying MIG Welder:
Be sure to check for the following qualities when shopping for an MIG welder.
There are 2 factors under power that you ought to consider:
- Power Output
The foremost factor you should consider is the power output you’re targeting. Do know your ideal power output you need to think about the kind of welding you will be doing and how frequently you will be doing it.
Looking to do small projects with thin metals at home? 100 amps is enough. Nonetheless, who knows if a need will arise that will require you to weld thicker metalspieces? That’s why it’d be better to provide for that possibility and get a welder that can deliver a maximum of 140 amps.
Also, you ought to consider the minimum power output.
The best MIG welder for home use will have minimum power outputs of about 30 amps. This is okay for 19-guage metal but what if you need to weld something extremely thin, say 8 mm? In that case, you should be looking for an MIG welder with minimums of around 20 amp.
- Power Input
You might want to get something that requires little to deliver a lot. That means that input requirements should be lower than the output. This helps to reduce the electricity costs.
Normally, a 140-amp MIG welder will require 120 volts to power. Input requirements will obviously increase with increase in output.
How long can the machine run without overheating?
Duty cycle means the amount of time within a duration of 10 minutes that the welder can run without overheating.
The duty cycle is usually expressed in seconds. For instance, you might find it written “20% @ 100A”. That simply means that the welder can run for 2 minutes at 100 amps before it requires an 8-minutes rest.
Usually, a lower power output allows you to weld for longer without requiring rest. For example, a machine that deliver 80 amps might run for 4 minutes, requiring a rest of 6 minutes only. The vice-versa is true.
The duty cycle aspect is something you should always keep in mind if you want your machine to last a long time.
High-quality MIG welders come with built-in protective systems that shut them off automatically once the duty cycle ends. Of course, such welders will cost you more than ordinary ones.
Feed speed refers to the speed at which the machine feeds the welding wire to the gun.
If the speed is too low, the wire will disappear when it touches the metal, resulting in an unsightly, uneven, and inadequate weld.
On the other hand, if the speed is too high, the wire will stretch from the gun. You will be left with too much wire, and this will result in droplets of molten metal at the site of the weld or what welders call spatters.
The ideal feed speed is the one that has the wire going through just quickly enough to deliver a constant arc. In such a situation, a nice sizzling sound is made.
Cheap machines normally come with separate feed speed and power settings, meaning you will have to play around with the values to set the perfect speed. This is easy to do but it will definitely take some practice.
If you don’t want to take chances with the quality of your weld, it’d be better to go for higher quality MIG welders, as they come with automatic speed settings. The speed gets adjusted automatically based on the power.
MIG welders range anywhere between 40 and several hundred pounds. Usually, bigger machines have higher power output and more features (and note, I said usually, not always). But -
How much space do I have? Do I need to shift the welder’s location from time to time?
Those are the questions you should be asking yourself.
Got limited space? Then you need to consider the size and weight of the machine carefully.
Don’t be fooled by size. Some small machines will deliver much higher power than bigger ones. For instance, the Millermatic 211 weights less than 40 pounds but delivers 230 amps. The Hobart handler 140, which is heavier, at 57 pounds, delivers 140 amps. See the contrast?
With that said, it’s clear that you can have high power with a small machine. It’s all just about the features.
Great MIG welders have built-in safety features to keep you safe from harm. These features include:
Thermal Overload Protection – helps to keep you from going beyond the appropriate duty cycle. It automatically shuts the machine at the end of the cycle to prevent overheating. Though not all machines come with this feature, it’s super helpful especially if your mind wanders. It also helps to prolong the machine’s life.
Built-in Contactor – instantly cools down the wire till the trigger is pulled. Therefore, you can easily shift positions without worrying about accidental contact with your body.
I bet doing high-quality welds is your target, right? That is why it’s crucial for you to select the right shielding gas. Remember, shielding gas is the component that keeps that arc of luminous discharge intact.
Here are the main types of shielding gas:
- Carbon Dioxide (CO2) – it’s the most inexpensive and common. You can use it in its pure form to weld thicker metals and achieve a deeper weld penetration. Or, you can use CO2 mixed with other gases to make your arc more stable and minimize spatter.
- Oxygen (O2) – this one is often mixed with other gases, especially argon. It comes in handy to improve the weld pool fluidity. This helps to achieve deeper penetration and eliminate undercutting.
- Argon (Ar) – argon is denser than air, and thus it’s able to protect the welding spot from contaminants in the air. If you seek a high-quality weld in terms of strength and appearance, it’d be good to go for a mixture of Ar and CO2. That way, you will have a more stable arc with minimal spatters.
If you’re looking to weld non-ferrous metals such as aluminum, copper or titanium, it’d be better to use pure argon.
Some machines will offer you both gas tank and flux options. That way, you can handle your projects confidently, as you have back up. If the gas is finished, the flux backs you up.
Remember, flux-cored welders do not require extra shielding gas as there’s already some gas in the welding wire.
Of course, the dual option will cost you more, but for flexibility, I’d say it’s worth it.
This is pretty straightforward. The MIG welder should have a warranty of at least one year but three to five years would be much better. Go for a model that has a clear return policy so that if there are any problems with the machine (which will normally become apparent in the first few months), you can just return it and get another one or a refund without hassles.
The good thing with buying from Amazon is that you get an automatic 30-day return cover if the order was fulfilled by Amazon.
Types of MIG Welding
MIG entails the use of heat to transfer metal from the electrode (which is the welding wire) to the metal pieces being welded. That is part of what makes MIG welding unique.
There are 4 main types of transfer that you can make use of to get that weld. Each of these results from the voltage you set and the shielding gas you use. That is why it’s important to know how your choice of voltage and shielding gas affects the transfer type you achieve.
Let’s look into each of them briefly.
Short Circuit Transfer
This transfer happens when the welding wire comes into contact with the metals you’re welding. Electric current from the gun flows through the welding wire, creating a short circuit.
As a result, the wire heats up and dribbles onto the metals you’re welding. Multiple drops are released at a very fast pace, creating a crackling sound, more like frying broth in an extremely hot pan.
To achieve a short circuit transfer, what you have to do is set the machine to low voltage and use CO2(carbon dioxide) gas (pure or in mixture form).
One obvious advantage of using short circuit transfer is that the needed shielding gas is relatively inexpensive. However, you can’t use this transfer type to weld thick metals.
Short circuit transfer can only handle thin/sheet metals with a thickness of not more than an inch.
Use it on a metal that’s thicker than an inch and the weld will not penetrate the joint properly.
This one is a lot like the short circuit transfer, only that the intensity and speed of the drops of molten wire are different. With globular transfer, the welding wire will melt and collect into a glob at the tip of the wire. Therefore, the molten wire drips onto the joint at a slower pace.
In the process, globular transfer pops are produced, rather than fast crackling sounds.
To achieve this type of transfer, all you have to do is set the machine to high voltage and use argon (pure or in a mixture) as shielding gas.
The good thing about globular transfer is that it can weld thicker metals.
However, it’s not easy to control the drops, and thus spatters can result.
This one occurs when the wire melts and releases very fine drops and sprays/mists into the joint.
If you’re doing it right, then you will hear a hissing sound as opposed to crackling or popping sounds. Another trait of a good spray transfer is a neat arc (luminous discharge) from the gun to the joint.
To achieve a globular transfer, use high voltage electricity coupled with argon (or argon gas mixture) as shielding gas. Note that if you’re using argon gas mixture, CO2 shouldn’t make up more than 15% of the mixture, as this will result in globular transfer.
Spray transfer is ideal for welding thick metals, as it penetrates deep and doesn’t leave spatters. The only problem is that the shielding gas is quite expensive.
Pulsed Spray Transfer
With this transfer, you can set the welder to pulse the voltage rather than allowing the normal steady voltage flow.
The result is that the transfer keeps alternating between globular and spray transfer.
As the voltage is pulsed, it does not need to be as high as the one pure spray transfer would require. The benefit is that much less heat is applied to the weld, thus creating a smaller, cleaner weld pool.
This in turn gives you flexibility with the weld spot, and that’s why it’s perfect for welding difficult objects like pipes. The most notable disadvantage is that the welders that offer you such a function are quite costly.
Advantages of MIG Welding
There’s one thing that you have got to keep in mind. The advantages of MIG welding are determined by the MIG welder you’re using and the nature of the job you’re doing. All in all, here are several upsides to MIG welding that are common to almost all MIG welders and welding job natures.
With MIG welding, you’re able to save time as you don’t have to keep changing the rod or chipping away slags. Also, you don’t have keep brushing the weld.
You’re able to work faster and more neatly.
You only need to make an investment of600 dollars (or less) for buying a good welding machine. Add a few more bucks for the welding wire and the shielding gas and you’re good to go.
You just need invest less than $600 in a welding machine from such reputable manufacturers as Lincoln Electric or ITW. Adding some dollar for shielding gas and Mig wire, you are welding for $700 or less.
As a matter of fact, out of all the welding processes, MIG is the one with the least expensive consumables. The MIG welding wire will cost you $3 or less.
Low spatter levels
By using the right mode of metal transfer, you can weld without any sight of spatter. All you have to don is know how to balance voltage and shielding gas type according to the type of metal you’re welding and its thickness.
This advantage is linked to another advantage – unlimited thickness. With short circuit transfer, you can weld thin/sheet metals while with a different mode, say spray transfer, you can weld thick metals.
Welds a wide range of metals
By using different types of shielding gas, filler wire, and voltage levels, you can weld just about any metal from stainless steel, to aluminum, to nickel and carbon steel, and more.
High deposition rates
Compared to other welding processes, particularly stick welding, MIG is able to makes bigger deposits of weld metal. With MIG, you can deposit around 10 lbs. every hour.
Easy to learn
The concept of MIG is easier to grasp than that of stick or TIG welding.
It took me just a few minutes to learn the basics and around 3 hours to learn how to do it; I believe you can do it too. In fact, it’s not a must to have an instructor. You can just watch a few videos on YouTube and you’re good to go.
Neat and efficient
The purpose of the shielding gas in MIG welding is to protect the arc. For that, alloying elements are rarely lost during the metal transfer process. Therefore, as opposed to other welding methods, especially stick welding, there is no slag to remove.
Furthermore, only minimal amounts of spatter are produced. This means that you only have to do a little clean up and get back to the job.
High electrode efficiency
With MIG, there’s a high electrode efficiency – 93 to 97 percent normally. Therefore, when you purchase a 100-pound MIG welding wire, you’re able to deposit 93 to 97 pounds.
A process like stick welding has just around 65 percent efficiency.
Can you see the difference?
Looking to achieve a nice-looking weld? Then you’ve to consider using MIG welding. This method gives you a finer visibility of the weld pool and with an auto-feed wire, you have better control.
Consequently, there are also minimal spatters, and thus the results are great.
Wondering how to do proper welds for great results? This is what the next section is about.
How to Use MIG Welders Properly
There are so many ways in which you can use MIG welding. You can use it in your auto shop, garage, or even at home for small repairs and DIY tasks. Following the stepsbelow will help you do great welds.
Step I: Prepare to Weld
There are various preparation steps you need to go through, as follows:
- Assemble your protective gear.
You’ll need the following safety equipment to ensure you’re well protected during the weld:
- Protective suit
Ensure that all your skin is properly covered to avoid getting exposed to UV rays. Your mask should have a dark shade to protect your eyes from that intense light.
Working in an area that is not well ventilated? Then you will need a vapor mask to keep yourself from inhaling hazardous gases.
Wearing gloves protects the skin on your hands from molten metal.
PRO tip: keeping a bucket of sand or a fire extinguisher nearby will help you deal with emergency fires.
- Get a good MIG gun.
Some are shaped like acetylene torches while others appear like pistols. Also, some are cooled with water while for others, air is enough.
Usually, air-cooled MIG guns are used with machines delivering not more 200 amps. Such guns are easier to control. If you’re doing small welding projects at home, I recommend you go for an air-cooled gun.
- Prepare the welding area
Get rid of any flammables and find a good surface on which to do the job.
I suggest putting a ground connecting on the material you’re welding to steady it.
Are there people present in the area? If so, use welding curtains to protect them from the UV rays.
Step II: Get the Right Wire
Be sure to use a welding wire that’s of the same material as the item you’re welding. For instance, if you’re welding aluminum, use an aluminum wire.
If you’re welding steel, you can have two wire choices:
- AWS ER70S-3 – this one is multi-purpose and it’s the most cost-effective option.
- AWS ER70S-6 – this is high-grade steel wire that’s meant for dirty or rusty steel.
There’s another common welding wire – E71TGX. This one doesn’t need shielding gas and it’s suitable for welding in windy conditions and on rusty or painted objects.
How thick is the object you’re welding? Make sure that the welding wire is relative to the thickness of the material you’re welding. If the metals you’re welding are thin, then use thin welding wire. If, however, they’re thick, then use thick welding wire.
Step III: Prep the Reel
Tighten the reel to prevent the wire from unravelling from its tension. Also, straighten the wire’s first 3 inches to prevent formation of twists or damage to the feeder.
You can utilize a wire cutter to trim the wire appropriately.
Step IV: Feed the Welding Wire
Before you feed the wire, you want to make sure that it’s clean and without grease or rust, as these impurities can cause bad welds. You can clean the wire with a dry piece of cloth before feeding it.
So, insert the welding wire into the wire liner and feed it to the roller.
Having trouble inserting it? Are you having to use force? Chances are, the wire isn’t aligned properly.
As soon as you’ve fed the wire, turn on the welder and utilize the feed mechanism to force it through the welder.
Adjust the tension to the right level. Extreme tension might bend the mountings, thereby ruining the welder. Therefore, keep it at the minimum level that holds the line in place while still allowing it to be fed through.
Tension at both the feeder and the reel should be as low as possible.
Remember, if you leave the wire in the welder in there when you’re not using the machine, it will rust.
Step V: Make the Weld
Time to start welding. As you do this, maintain a constant electrode length. Ideally, the electrode should be kept around a quarter inch from the contact tube.
That way, your weld will be clean and regular.
Here are a few other tips to help you make a great weld:
- Use proper shielding gas – for details, on this, refer to the part about “types of MIG welding” above.
- Use the push or drag technique to do the weld –in both techniques, the angle shouldn’t be more than 10°. Be sure to keep the welding wire at your weld pool’s anterior edge. That way, you will have more control.
- With the drag technique, you pull the bead along with the wire’s tip. That gives you a deep penetration and a narrow bead.
- With the push technique, you push the bead with the tip. This results in a wide bead.
Here are the types of weld you’ll be making
- A level/flat weld
Ensure that you deposit into the joint directly. You can go back and forth to fill larger gaps. For a flat joint, hold the welding gun at an angle of 90°.
- A horizontal weld
Lower the gun angle a little to prevent sagging of the filler. The amperage for this weld is the same as that of the flat weld.
Here, you can also use the back-forth movement to fill big gaps.
Is the weld pool getting too large? No worries. Just use a somewhat thinner welding wire.
- A vertical weld
If you’re welding thin metals, begin from the top, moving the weld pool down with the gravity. That way, the arc will not penetrate the metals you’re welding.
If, on the other hand, you’re welding thick metals, begin at the base, going upward. This technique helps to boost penetration.
In this case, you might want to reduce the amperage by about 10 to 15 percent to battle gravity.
- An overhead weld
Utilize typical welding styles but raise your speed to prevent the filler from dropping out of the joint.
You may also want to increase the gas flow rate.
When making an overhead weld, make sure that the nozzle stays clean, as the spatter will accumulate faster.
Step VI: Finishing the Weld
When you’re done, rub off the excess filler.
In case there’s a critical issue with the weld, just grind it out and weld the joint again.
Safety Issues When Using MIG Welder
Unlike other welding processes, MIG is associated with very specific safety issues.
Don’t worry, this welding method is actually quite safe when you do it right. But, doing it wrong can lead to the user getting burned badly.
Before you starting welding, it’s crucial that you get the following protective equipment:
- Welding helmet with dark shade to safeguard your eyes against the harmful UV rays.
- Safety glasses to shield your eyes from spatter and sparks.
- Leather gloves to insulate your hands against heat and electric shock.
- Protective suit made from fire-proof materials to protect your body from UV radiation and heat.
- Leather boots to safeguard your feet against molten metal and sparks
- Good ventilation to remove the welding gas
Pro tip: use a good sunscreen to protect areas of your skin that aren’t covered by clothing.
There are 2 extra safety concerns regarding MIG welding:
- The wire feeder
- The shielding gas
Wire feeder safety concerns
When you’re done welding, a drop of molten metal is normally left on the electrode stick-out. This drop can penetrate your welding gloves easily and come into contact with your skin. Just be vigilant and get rid of it before that happens.
Then, when you’re changing the MIG tips or the welding wire, be careful not to press the trigger, as that can cause the wire feeder to shock you.
Lastly, when you place the MIG gun down, ensure that there’s nothing leaning against the trigger, as that can result in a fire or a short circuit.
Shielding gas issues
Shielding gases are denser than air, and for that, they fill the work spaces like water fills a bucket – from bottom-top.
When they reach your breathing zone, they will make you suffocate unknowingly.
Suddenly, you feel extremely tired and pass out.
However, the risk depends on the type of shielding gas you’re using. For most applications, Argon-based gases are used, and these are denser than air. These are, unfortunately, the most hazardous type of shielding gas.
Welding fumes are bad for your health. The worst ones result from welding aluminum and stainless steel. These are known to cause cancer later on in life.
To protect yourself from shielding gas problems, be sure to weld in a properly-ventilated area.
Best MIG Welder Brands in the Market
Lincoln Electric is a US-based multinational firm that makes welding products, including MIG welding equipment and welding consumables among other items.
Lincoln happens to be one of the most respected manufacturers of MIG welding equipment.
Some of their products are:
- MIG Flux-Cored Welders
- Stick Welders
- TIG Welders
- Semiautomatic Wire Feeders
- Plasma Cutters
- Welding Guns
Normally, they produce their MIG welders with flux-cored wires to help you weld even when you don’t have shielding gas.
A most unique feature about their MIG welders is that they require low power input. For instance, the Lincoln K2185-1 requires only 115 volts to run. For that, you can plug their welders into your regular wall outlet.
Hobart happens to be one of the oldest brands in the market. Can you believe they’ve been around for over 80 years? That means over 8 decades of experience in making welders.
Therefore, you can count on them to offer you the best with regard to quality.
All their machines normally have to pass a strict reliability check. Furthermore, the company is dedicated to giving back to the welding industry with the unique 5/3/1 warranty.
Therefore, in the unlikely event that there’s something wrong with the welder, you can rest assured that you’ll have another or get your money back.
Apart from that, Hobart is one of the few brands that gives you access to a web welding forum. By joining the community, you can always get answers for your welding questions, especially those about Hobart products and how to use them.
Hobart products include:
- MIG welders
- Wire feed welders
- Spool guns
- TIG welders
- Welding helmets
- Rod and wire
And of course, they have many other products.
Some of their products, like the Handler 210 MVP are MVP (multi-voltage plug), meaning you can use them with any voltage available. Moreover, their products are usually industrial-grade, and thus you can use them to weld virtually anything.
If you’re looking to get the most up-to-date MIG welders, then Forney is a brand you can’t ignore. The entire company regularly goes through rigorous checks to make sure that their welders meet the newest standards.
Furthermore, their welders carry a standard warranty to protect you against defects. Also, they come with all the accessories and consumables. That’s why Forney products are called MIG-ready. You can get the machine and start welding immediately.
Forney Industries is very keen on giving you value for your hard-earned cash. Apart from offering you excellent quality, the company has a program – the Greenback rebates. With the program, you get to save lots of money when you make purchases.
The company mostly deals in refurbished welders but that doesn’t mean compromised quality. They undergo strict standards checks to ensure that the machines are as good as new.
One of the most unique features of Forney Industries welders is that even though they’re mostly lightweight, they deliver high power output.
For instance, although the Forney 299 125FC Welder weighs only 32.6 pounds, it offers you 125 amps.
Since its founding in 1995, this brand has been known to provide quality through continuous improvements in their products.
If you’re looking for the best MIG welder with the lowest price in the market, Amico Power is the brand to consider.
The company specializes in designing and manufacturing durable and affordable welders, such as the Amico Power IGBT Inverter Welding Machine.
Their welders are some of the most unique in the market with regard to user-friendliness. For instance, the Amico Power IGBT Inverter Welding Machine comes with an LED meter to help you set your parameters effortlessly and do your weld just the way you want it.
Amico Power welders are, also, some of the most lightweight in the industry. Can you believe that some are as light as 18 pounds? That means that if you seek a welder that you can easily transport fromplace to place, an Amico Power welder would be the ideal choice.
And, even though their products are lightweight they offer you lots of welding power. For example, the 18-pound Amico Power IGBT Inverter Welding Machine offers you 160 amps. Great, isn’t it?
Everlast is a reputable manufacturer of welding products that is based in California, USA.
When it started out in 2004, it was only a small e-based welder company but it has since grown into a multinational firm with distributors all over the world.
Everlast has developed into a popular household name among welders, and the familiar green color of their welders is increasingly showing up in homes, particularly in the US and Canada.
In 2008, the company introduced the first Power Series IGBT welder. This was an industry-changing machine, as it offered exceptional quality with regard to price and performance.
They have released various versions, with progressive modifications, making the welder better over time.
The latest welder in the series – the Everlast Power MIG 200 (2017) is arguably the most powerful MIG welders in the market today. If you’re looking to go professional or to get a machine that gives you total control, this is a must-get item.
MIG Welder Vs TIG Welder
When welding, the method you choose is as important as the equipment you use. Using the wrong method can be like trying to saw a log of wood using a kitchen knife. Can that work? Yep, I don’t think so.
If you’re a beginner, there’s something you should know. Different materials will need different welding techniques, and some techniques are a lot more suitable than others.
How do I know which welding method is right for a particular task? Great question!
First, I know you may have heard that there are two main welding methods – TIG and MIG. Of course, there are others, like stick, but we shall center on those two for today.
To help you get a clearer picture of the more beneficial method for your task, I will elaborate each process.
MIG (Metal Inert Gas) Welding
The best thing about MIG is that it’s very easy to learn. You can learn the basics in an hour and master it completely in a week or so.
The complex sides to this process are in choosing the right shielding gas and setting the correct parameters for your task. Nonetheless, once you take care of that, the method is essentially hassle-free.
How it works
You use spool gun to lay the weld. The gun feeds a coiled welding wire at a consistent speed, which you normally have to pre-set. The spool gun emits a shielding gas to protect the arc, the electrode, and the weld area from air.
Advantages of MIG:
- You can use it to come up with a strong, beautiful joint without requiring much cleaning or sanding.
- By using a shielding gas, you can weld at a continuous rate, making the process relatively fast.
- You can use it on any metal surface and you can weld metals as thin as 26-gauge.
- You can hardly use it outdoors due to the hazardous gases involved.
- Though you can weld virtually all metals, different metals need different welding wires and shielding gas types.
If you’re looking for the fastest, easiest welding process, MIG is the method for you. Also, if you’re looking to go professional, an MIG welder would be the best choice for you.
TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) Welding
Looking to do the cleanest weld? Nothing bests TIG.
As far as beauty is concerned, TIG happens to be the best. As a matter of fact, welding professionals normally prefer TIG for the associated precision and overall neat appearance.
How it Works
As opposed to MIG, TIG doesn’t use a metal electrode; it uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode instead.
The electrode normally needs extremely high temperatures to melt, and for that, extra filler is normally required. You normally have to feed the filler into the weld area using one hand as you operate the torch using the other hand.
Also, as you weld, you usually have to utilize one of your feet to operate a control pedal to determines the heat input.
- Produces very clean and beautiful weld
- Allows you lots of control
- Much harder to learn than MIG
- Demands lots skill and attention, as you have to use both the hands and feet simultaneously
- A lot slower than MIG
- The welding surface has to be totally clean and spotless – you have to remove all rust, paint, and debris
Your choice between the two welding processes depends on what you’re targeting. If your goal is speed, cost-effectiveness, and simplicity, go for MIG. But, if aesthetic value is your biggest priority, go for TIG.
Let’s now look at some of the most frequently asked questions and you might just get the answer to something you’ve been wondering about MIG welding.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is GMAW?
GMAW (acronym for gas metal arc welding) is a welding method whereby an electric arc is created between the workpieces and a consumable wire electrode. The arc heats up the workpieces, making them melt and consequently join.
What gas should I use with a MIG welder?
Go for carbon dioxide (CO2). This gas is the most commonly used shielding gas and the only one that you can use in its pure form. Also, it’s the cheapest one.
Do I have to use gas with a MIG welder?
Normally, you have to use a shielding gas, to protect and stabilize the arc. However, if you’re using a flux-cored welding wire, you don’t need a gas tank.
What is the difference between a TIG and a MIG welder?
The major distinction is that one process, MIG, uses a continuous wire feeding system, while the other, TIG, uses a long welding rod and slowly feeds it into the weld pool. MIG stands for metal inert gas while TIG stands for tungsten inert gas.
How much gas does my MIG welder need?
The gas flow rate is measured in cubic feet per hour (CFH). Contrary to oxyfuel welding, the flow rate for MIG is very low.
While welding, the gas pressure in the hose is around 4 to 8 psi.
Should I use MIG or TIG?
That depends on what you’re looking for. If speed, low cost, and simplicity are your main goal, use MIG. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a very clean and attractive weld, go for TIG.
How fast can I learn MIG?
MIG is a relatively easy welding process compared to other welding processes. You can learn the basics in minutes and master the art of MIG welding in a week.
Can I weld aluminum using MIG?
Yes. MIG is applicable for all sorts of metals, ranging from steel to nickel and even aluminum. However, you need to ensure that the welding wire you’re using is made from the same material as the metal you’re welding. So, if you’re welding aluminum, the welding wire should be made of aluminum.
MIG is virtually the easiest welding process on the planet. You can learn the basics in minutes and master the whole art of MIG welding in a few days or a week.
That is what makes MIG the ideal welding process for your DIY projects.
MIG welding machines are not created equal. While some are incredibly good, others are just terrible. To avoid the terrible ones, go through my list of the best MIG welder reviews.
Having tested and used many MIG welders (and listened to what people say), I believe those are the best MIG welders for your money, so go through them and pick the one that suits you best. Fortunately, they’re readily available on Amazon.
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