10 Tips to make you a better MIG Welder

How to MIG weld

Ok so you’ve got your MIG welder and you can finally make two pieces of metal stick together, but now you want to learn how to make those welds look nice AND be strong. In this quick 10 step guide we will give you the tips to make your welds look great, and be as strong as possible.

1. Cleanliness is King- We understand that there are times you can’t always get a work area surgically clean when MIG welding, but you should take every step possible to do so if you want a clean, strong weld. The work area should be free of ALL rust, grease, and coatings. We have found that using a wire wheel on an Electric Angle Grinder makes quick work of rust, undercoating, and other coatings. Be sure to prep the work area before and after welding with Eastwood After Weld. You will amazed at how much better your weld puddle will form and look when performed on a clean surface.

2. Check your Gas- In order to make a clean weld, your weld puddle needs to be purified while it is being formed. This is where shielding gas comes into play. It is one of the other essential keys to making a clean weld. Make sure you have an adequate amount of gas coming out of the nozzle when welding, the amount needed can vary on the conditions where you are welding (try to be out of any direct moving air like fans, wind, etc), and the surfaces you are welding on. MIG welding can be done with machines that only use Flux Core MIG wire, but we suggest choosing a MIG Welder that is versatile enough to use gas as well. Welding with a shielding gas is the best way to make the cleanest weld with little to no clean up.


3. Sounds like Bacon- You want to set up your machine correctly before welding anything. If you aren’t sure of the correct setting for the job, we suggest getting some metal that is the same gauge, and taking the extra time to set up your machine properly. The key to quickly dialing in your machine is listening to the sound of the arc when welding. You ideally want the arc to sound like “sizzling bacon”, not too much popping or spitting, just a nice even sizzle/crackle sound. The next is to make sure the bead is nice and flat. A common error with beginners is that the bead is sitting very “proud” and piling up on top of the metal. In those cases you often times need to either turn the wire speed down, or the heat (voltage) up. Once you learn to listen to your welder and how the arc sounds, and how the bead “should look”, your welds will instantly improve.

4.Proper Joint Construction- Another mistake when a beginner is welding up a joint, is that they leave too large or uneven of a gap in between the two panels they are joining. On some joints you may want a very small gap, but most there will be next to no gap between the panels when welding. Too large of a gap, and you will have difficulty with the bead burning the edges of the two panels away and opening the gap up even more. Again, taking the time to put together an even, tight gapped joint will make the final appearance and strength of the job much better. Our favorites for proper joint prep is our Intergrip Panel Clamps, Clecos Panel Holding System, and our Welding Clamp Plier Set, they really make the job much easier!

5. Check your Ground- Found your welder is welding poorly or inconsistently, even after testing your settings on some scrap metal? A good chance is that you have a poor ground. Not only do you want to have as clean of a work area as possible, but you need a clean surface to ground the machine through. A little tip if you don’t have a good spot to clamp to, is to tack weld a bolt or a stud to the work area to get a good continuous ground. Try it, it really is handy!

6. Auto-Dimming Helmet; it’s not just for NASA!- The age old tradition was to use a static darkness welding helmet when welding. These work “ok” if you are in a very well light area, or if you are good at flipping your helmet down and striking an arc all in one quick motion, but with the advancements in modern day welding accessories, it isn’t necessary anymore. Now you can find affordable, quality Auto Dim Welding Helmets pretty easily. Being comfortable when welding helps you make quality welds, and allows you to properly see your work area before, during, and after you weld.

7. Stickout makes a difference- When setting up your machine, you need to make sure that you have the contact tip sticking out the correct amount for the type of welding you are doing. The general rule of thumb is that you want your welding tip to have less than 1/2″ of stick out. If you are welding on thinner sheet metal like body panels, you can get away with a little more, but you need to stick in that range for most applications. Always check your stick out each time before welding.

8. The Angle matters- The angle of the tip when welding can also be just as important when running a bead. Ideally you should be straight on when doing quick spot or plug welds, while keeping approximately a 10 degree angle when welding with the pushing or pulling method is satisfactory.

9. Choose the correct wire size- In this case “bigger is better” is not always true. It all depends on the type of welding you are doing, and the surface you are welding on. If you are mostly working with thin metal like body panels of a car, you’d want to stick with .023 solid core wire. This will allow you to keep the temps down versus using a much thicker wire. And if you didn’t know, too much heat equals metal warpage, which is BAD in the autobody world. Keep in mind though, if you are doing suspension or chassis work where the metal is substantially thicker, you’d want to upgrade to .30 or .35 solid core wire. This will require 110V machines (like our MIG 135) to run at the higher end of their voltage spectrum.

10. Be Safe- There are a lot of hazards when welding, a lot of them are quite obvious, while others can easily be overlooked. Make sure to wear the proper attire when welding. This means closed toe shoes (preferably leather work boots), long pants, Leather Welding Gloves, and a Welding Jacket. Dressing properly can save you from being severely burnt from the intense light and heat produced when welding. Also keep in mind that you need to keep your work area safe, which means covering or removing all flammable objects from your work area, as well as allowing for proper ventilation from any fumes that could be produced when welding.


Related Eastwood Products:


  1. Welding is an awesome skill for not all can be able to these things on their own that is why when you would like to perform this kind of task make sure that you are well knowledgeable with it for your safety is also at risk if you were not able to handle materials properly.

  2. I must say that, you have excellent knowledge of welding process. After reading your article, my knowledge about Mig welding has improved. I will follow your blogs to get more information.

  3. These are all excellent tips. I especially agree with number 9. Wire size makes all the difference in more situations than most people realize.

  4. I’ve been a welder for over 30 years. Mig and tog mostly, and I jus wanted to add that being in a comfortable position while welding, will make all the difference between an average looking weld and a cosmetically beautiful bead!!

  5. All considered, the system seems pretty cost-effective, with fast payback in many production environments. What’s the cost? Think “best new cars on a budget” without fancy options or extra-status badges and you’ll have an idea of the price range.

  6. I love your tips on welding, especially the “sizzling bacon” noise I should be hearing when the machine is set up correctly. I took a welding class in high school and really enjoyed it. I haven’t been able to weld as often as I would like since then but hopefully I can get back into it! What would you say is the most comfortable position to be in when welding?

  7. I’d say these would all be considered “basics”, but they’re definitely basics that every welder should know!

  8. I am a junior and my school offers welding classes so i took a basic stick and mig welding class as a freshman and im currently signed up for gas metal arc welding and shielded metal arc welding but reading your tips gave me a whole new view of what I should look for to make my beads flat and strong instead of the “proud bead” which I would normally come out with but thanks to your tips ill finally be able to perfect my welds! great tips dude good job really helpful

  9. Amazing tips. I’m currently taking a welding course and I find these tips so helpful. I assume if I follow these tips, I will help to lessen mistakes and accidents.

  10. I borrowed a MIG welder from a friend so that I could tackle a project. After reading your article, I realize that I have a little more homework to do before I can get welding. We’ll see how I do; maybe I’ll just have to hire a professional to do the job. Either way, I’m excited to learn something new. Thanks for the info!

  11. I just got my old Lincoln Idealarc SP200 (1981) MIG fired up after being in storage for about 15 years and me finally retiring. It’s a wonderful old welder.
    My first project was welding a new double axle fender on my car trailer. It’s on but the welds are not what I wanted. Welding thin to thick metal was not easy.
    I’ll be doing a lot more practicing before I start my next project; Restoring my 1957 356 Porsche Speedster SCCA (Also retired) race car.
    I hope to have it back to stock and street legal condition by the end of Summer. After many years of hard core, fender banging, road racing, it’ll be a challenge.
    If I don’t make my schedule, that’s OK too.

  12. Thanks for posting these welding tips. You made a good point about how stickout makes a difference with welding. Knowing that the contact tip is sticking out correctly seems important depending on the type of welding I’m doing. I should make sure that I know how much I want my welding tip to stick out to create quality work.

  13. These are all excellent tips. I especially agree with number 9. Wire size makes all the difference in more situations than most people realize.

Leave a Reply

Back to top button