One of the things that separates a “belly button” car that anyone can build from a truly custom ride is dictated largely by how much welding it requires to create. Bolt-ons are great for the casual gearhead or garage mechanic, but If you truly want a unique piece on your car, you are going to need some welding done. Be it the roll cage, filling in holes on your firewall, or installing sub frame connectors, learning to weld is a must if you want to take your projects to the next level. Once you get the skills to fabricate and melt metal strategically, your hot rods will start becoming all the more your own. Welding always seemed like one of the skills the gearhead achieves before taking their builds to another threshold of originality. You may be able to buy a compilation of carefully selected parts, you may be able to put them together yourself, and maybe even be able to drop everything between your car’s framerails, but until you can weld, you will always find yourself limited – especially when the headers don’t clear the oil pan, or if your crossmember needs modifying. That’s why Miller has recently designed TIG and MIG welders that take a lot of the guesswork out of setting up the welder, making it easy for anyone to pick up a torch or a gun and start creating.
We headed to the Miller distribution center & training facility earlier this year to attend their comprehensive class on TIG & MIG and to check out some of their advanced products. In the next couple pages we go over some basic welding terms and techniques, as well as a few of Miller’s advanced digital welders.
When it comes to those clean, stack-o-dime-type welds, chances are a TIG (GTAW) or Arc welder is responsible. TIG stands for Tungsten Inert Gas, which is reference to the non-consumable tungsten electrode that’s shielded in an inert gas (see sidebar). By using a power supply to create an arc between the tungsten electrode and the base material, it allows the user to meticulously guide a metal rod to exactly where they want their bead. The inert gas (which can be Argon or Helium depending on how deep you want penetration), is directed around the electrode with an air cooled or water cooled collet in an effort to eliminate slag, the splatter byproduct of welding without a shielding gas. In our sport, TIG welding is commonly used for all-out racecars with a chrome moly roll cages or aluminum fabrication such as intercoolers and charge piping.
Miller’s Diversion 180 TIG welder for example is a great unit for someone that wants to learn how to TIG. In the past, welders would need to learn how to set up the TIG welder properly in order to get the weld quality they desired and some TIG models would have a variety of adjustment knobs that, if not dialed in correctly, would produce welds that would either have too much penetration or not enough – either way won’t pass. In this digital age however, welders have become more user friendly, and Miller has made the set up super easy. All it takes to set up the Diversion 180, as well as the newer TIG welders in Miller’s line, is to power it up using the digital interface, select material type, set the thickness you’re welding on, and you’re ready to start burning metal.
Gas metal arc welding (GMAW), which is also known as metal inert gas or MIG welding, is a semi-automatic or automatic process that uses a continuous wire feed through a “gun” as an electrode and an inert or semi-inert gas mixture to protect the weld from contamination. Unlike the TIG welding process that can take tremendous skill and patience to execute properly, the MIG welder is a much quicker way to weld, and because you don’t have to have the left/right hand coordination, it’s an ideal choice for the general masses. The MIG welders, depending on the model, uses a shielding gas as well, either from a gas-directing collet, or through flux core wire, which when burns, releases a shielding gas – all in an effort to reduce slag or spatter.
The Millermatic 211 MIG welder is possibly the most user-friendly welders available today. Like the aforementioned Diversion 180 TIG, the engineers at Miller have developed a digitally enhanced MIG wire welder that also takes the guesswork away from setting up. Miller’s Auto Set feature automatically sets your welder to the proper parameters, you simply set the wire diameter, set the material thickness and start welding. Miller also claims the 211 has the highest output in its class, as it can weld from 24 ga. – 3/8 in. (0.8 – 9.5 mm) mild steel in a single pass on 230 V. This MIG can also weld aluminum when hooked up to their Spoolmate 100 series spool gun, which allows you to weld from 18 ga – 3/8 in. aluminum. Other cool features include, Miller’s Multi-Voltage Plug setup (which can be found in various other models) that allows you to connect to common 120 or 230 V power receptacles without the use of any tools – simply chose the plug that fits the receptacle and connect it to the power cord. Smooth Start, a spatter reducing feature, Tip Saver Short Circuit Protection that shuts down output when tip is shorted to the work, and a cast aluminum drive system makes the Millermatic 211 a great upgrade for your home garage or your performance shop.
If you want to learn how to weld from the comfort of your living room, you can take Miller online training courses in basic MIG and understanding basic electricity and how it relates to welding. We found these helpful online classes on millerwelds.com and for those just getting into welding, these informative vids are a great way to educate yourself on the different forms of welding. Basic MIG Topics including: MIG Process, Advantages, Components, Controls, and Safety. Understanding Electricity in Welding Topics including: Electrical terms related to welding equipment, Basic electrical terminology and components for welding and cutting, Generating Electricity, Welding Power Sources Electrical Features, and Safety at your own pace. Plasma Cutting and Gouging Topics include: Basics of how the plasma cutting process works and see the air and arc pass through a torch to make a precision cut.