As welders get better and better for the money more people are taking to learning how to weld at home. A common question we get is if you can weld aluminum with a MIG welder. The short answer is “yes you can weld Aluminum with a MIG welder.” There are a few necessary steps you need to take when welding aluminum with your MIG welder.
- Spool Gun- The first biggest piece of the puzzle is to get yourself a spool gun for your MIG welder. A spool gun is needed for a few reasons. First of all is that the welding wire is very soft and if we tried to run it through the MIG gun the wire may jam or ball up. The other reason is the issue contamination. If there are any remnants of the steel wire it can get ground into the wire and cause issues with your weld. Therefore you want a dedicated spool gun for running aluminum wire.
- Shielding Gas- Also equally important is the shielding gas that you use when welding aluminum. When welding ferrous metals 75% C02/25% Argon is the tried and true gas combination. When welding Aluminum you must run a separate bottle of 100% Argon to get the appropriate cleaning and penetration.
- Travel and Wire Speed- One thing that is different and is one of the biggest mistakes beginners make is the travel and wire speed. Generally wire speed is 15%-20% higher when welding aluminum and travel speed is 15-25% faster. If you don’t have both of these going more quickly you will have issues with the wire melting to the tip and causing frustration.
- Wire Gap- When welding Aluminum we’ve also found that you want to keep to the stick-out of the wire as much as twice the length as when welding ferrous metals. Too short of a stick-out will cause the same problem as above where the wire may weld itself to the tip of the MIG gun.
- Cleaning the Metal- Make sure you’re cleaning the metal twice as good as ferrous metals. Mechanical abrasion such as a scuff pad, sandpaper, wire brush, etc. is the first step. Then using acetone, Low-VOC PRE, or a similar cleaner to make the part as clean as possible before making the first spark.
Finally practice, practice, practice. Like any type of welding you need to practice to get yourself up to speed and confident enough to weld something substantial that’s functional.