No announcement yet.

Car restoration welder - help please

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Car restoration welder - help please

    Hello. My name is Michael and I'm new here - and to MIG welding. Could use some help deciding on a welder for restoring a car and thought I'd see if you could stand yet another "what should I buy" thread...and a long-winded one at that! (I'm really sorry. )

    A while back, I bought a 1959 Triumph TR3A with the intention of driving it for a bit and then restoring it. When I started tearing it down, it became apparent that I was going to have to learn to weld. I found a used Craftsman 120v MIG and bought a 40 cu ft Ar/CO2 cylinder and some .023 solid wire. It has two heat settings, designed to poke large or larger holes in my sheet metal, and variable wire speed selector. All I have tried to do so far is 20 ga mild steel. If I try anything other than a tack weld, burn through is a distinct possibility...and ugly, sloppy welds are a given! So, since MIG is supposed to be relatively simple to learn - and I can't seem to - I have come to the conclusion that the problem is with the welder, not the operator. Could be wrong, but I'm working on my self esteem.

    So, I've decided it's time for a real welder. I have searched this forum and others until my eyes are blurry, trying to decide which machine would be best for my purposes. The more I read, the less sure I am about selecting the best machine for a novice to use in restoring an old car.

    My plans are to restore a car. Period. As far as I can tell, 95% of this will involve 20 ga mild steel, with perhaps a few thicker pieces, but nothing even as thick as 1/8". I can easily add a 240v outlet if I decide to go that route, but would prefer a 120v welder. Not sure why, other than cost. I would like to keep this in the $600-$800 range, but the MM211 looks real nice! I've "narrowed" it down to these welders: HH140, MM140, HH187, HH210, MM180 or MM211. Some narrowing, huh?

    So, for my intended purpose:
    • Will a 240v MIG do as good a job as a 120v on the 20 ga[/U]?
    • Sounds like a tapped machine is easier for a novice, but I have had people tell me that I REALLY want infinitely variable settings. Which is correct?
    • If I really only want to work on the car, it sounds like the HH140 would be perfect since I understand that it has low settings that are ideal. (But if I decide on the blue paint, would the MM140 work as well in that range?)
    • If I decide to buy a 240v welder, I'm leaning toward the HH210 (over the 187 or the MM180 because if I'm going for more power, I might as well go for more power).
    • The MM211 is also an option, more power and dual voltage. Is there any real reason not to buy a newly released machine?

    I guess my decision would be easier if knew whether or not I will ever want to do more than sheet metal. I am 61 years old and have never felt the need to weld before so maybe I truly WILL bugger the car together and retire from my welding career. I guess I'll build a cart for whatever I get (required, isn't it? ), but that's really all I have in mind. Aluminum sounds like fun, but I have no plans for anything. Absolutely ALL I know of is the car project. never know.

    If anyone here can help me decide, I'd sure appreciate the advice! Thank you all very much!!

    PS: Every time I see Dan's sample welds, I have to laugh. I couldn't run a bead that nice with a tube of caulk!!

  • #2
    In the $600-$800 price range, I would go with either the HH187 or HH210, hands down! The lower taps will do sheet metal quite nicely and the higher taps will allow you to make unexpected repairs of heavier stuff. The HH187 will also have great resale value. The trade-off is that you'll have to have 240v available.

    To answer your question, yes, a 240v welder will do a good job, IF you know what you're doing. Don't try to run a bead on relatively thing gauge sheet metal. Spot weld the seams at different spots and allow one area to cool before adding another spot. Back up the weld with copper or ?? to he4lp dissapate the heat. Fill in the spaces between the spots.....s-l-o-w-l-y, so as to limit distortion.

    Sorry, but I haven't used a Miller in years and years, so I can't answer your questions about them.
    -Bob (JalopyBldr)

    13" SBL


    • #3
      In my experience the Hobart units produce a softer low end arc then the Miller units, making the Hobart unit a better light ga sheet metal unit. With C-25 and an.023 wire, the HH 140 produces an extremely soft low end arc that really increases the difficulty of blowing through on light ga material.

      Personally though since it is a very good light ga unit too, I 'd more than likely go with a HH 187 over the HH 140 for the just incase I ever needed the extra power factor that the HH 187 provides for just a little more money.

      Having ran both, I also feel the HH 187 is a slightly better light ga unit then the HH 210. Both are real good light ga units, I just feel the 187 is a touch better.
      MigMaster 250- Smooth arc with a good touch of softness to it. Good weld puddle wetout. Light spatter producer.
      Ironman 230 - Soft arc with a touch of agressiveness to it. Very good weld puddle wet out. Light spatter producer.

      PM 180C

      HH 125 EZ - impressive little fluxcore only unit


      • #4
        Thank you, gentlemen! Since it was my understanding that the 120v units were really good for light gauge material (especially the HH140), I was concerned that I might have a problem with a 240v unit; that perhaps it couldn't be turned down low enough. It sounds like that is not the case.

        Now, I just have to decide if I ever want to do anything with aluminum. I realize that the HH187 will DO aluminum, but unless I want to try it without a spoolgun, looks like I would be better off with the HH210 for that application. Not only for the higher amps, but by the time I bought the control unit for the 187, I could have paid for the 210.

        As far as the thin stuff is concerned, if the 187 is only "slightly" better than the 210, at my level of expertise, "slightly" probably won't make much difference! Either of them HAVE to be better than what I have now!

        One more deciding factor in favor of Hobart is the Tractor Supply 10% off coupon I discovered this evening. Good for welders or compressors (Jan 23-Jan 31) in store or online.

        Thanks again!


        • #5
          I am in a very similar situation as you (I'd love to see some pics of the TR, I learned to drive on a 59' widemouth) with my welder purchase, except I rent and I don't believe installing my own line would be appropriate/allowed.

          From what I read it seems that the HH187 is hands down the machine to get because of its capable low end. It seems the HH140 is reviewed as the best in that dept., however, its high end capability comes nowhere near the HH187. Thus for a tiny bit more money the HH187 should be the better machine; especially when you take into account TSC will deliver it to you for around $540. That is a smokin' deal; just get your gas and go.


          • #6
            One of my friends bought a HH140 last summer. He wanted a light duty welder for welding on mower decks and things like that. He was not interested in installing a 220 volt line in his garage as the house was only 2 months old and he had enough other things to do (building patios and decks). He's happy with his purchase and says he would do it again.


            • #7
              In the pre HH187 days, I bought the HH180, which has been a great, dependable machine...but have only moved it above #2 power level less than six times in five years or so. A HH140 would do 95% of all I do with the 180 ...I do have a stick welder, which i have always rolled out for anything "thick". I'd say get the 140..its highly rated machine! When the day comes that you decide you just have to have more power...and invest in a 220 circuit, you may well decide to just hold onto the 140 for its portability and 110 voltage.
              "Good Enough Never Is"


              • #8
                Yeah, that's what I like about them, you can take them anywhere there's a 120 volt outlet.


                • #9
                  Well, this is interesting. I had asked a friend (who does a lot of work on these old cars) for his recommendation and just got his reply. Essentially telling me that virtually ANY 120v welder should be fine for patch panels on a restoration project...since you don't run long beads anyway. Says he has no problem with his "cheapo Lincoln Weldpak 100" (which may well be no better than the Craftsman I've been trying to use). Could be my problem IS the operator! There goes my self-esteem!!

                  Perhaps I should give mine one more shot before I drop $600-800 on a box that will still punch holes in my car. Or better yet, take mine to someone who actually knows what he's doing and see for sure if the problem is the machine...or me!

                  Noah, here's the car I'm working on. All that rust wasn't there last time I used the welder on it. Life got in the way and I had to abandon the project for a while. Now I have to clean it up a bit before I crank up the welder.


                  • #10
                    Could be my problem IS the operator! There goes my self-esteem!!
                    Don't be to hard on yourself! Welding is a skill like anything else. If you think back to when you learned to ride a bike, at first it seemed impossible to do. I am sure you tried many times with unsatisfactory results but finally you succeeded. After a little practice, riding a bike seems like a trivial activity. An experienced welder like your friend could probably make a good weld with almost any welder.

                    You have received some good advice regarding your machine selection. I have a similar interest to yours. I chose the HH187 because I wanted something to weld sheet metal and heavier frame material. I have been happy with my selection.

                    You have also chosen to learn on thin sheet metal which is more challenging than thicker metal. I would try getting some 1/8 inch stock and practicing on that until you get a feel for the welding process. Then find some 20 gauge to practice on. I went to a junkyard and bought a door. I cut rectangular pieces out and then welded them back in until I felt comfortable working on the thin stuff.

                    As mentioned, welding thin sheet metal is a process of doing many tack welds. Most auto restorers will do tacks about 1 inch apart. They then grind the tacks down slightly and use a hammer and dolly to stretch the heat affected zone (HAZ) to prevent the patch from shrinking which causes oil canning and all sorts of other problems. You then continue the process until the weld is complete. Finish grinding and your done. It is time consuming process but you can do patches that do not require any bondo at all with this process!

                    I think you have chosen a good project to work on. You will have a lot of fun with that TR3 when you are done Your welding skills will probably have improved so much that you will start searching a second project to work on

                    Have fun!!
                    Mig - Hobart 187
                    Plasma - Miller 375


                    • #11
                      TR3A/Michael, My name is David and I've done my share of MIG welding, both in working conditions and having rebuilt two (2) older cars. Personally I do believe that the older Craftsman unit you have will do the welding on the sheet metal you will be using on the Triumph. Not all MIG welders are "plug and play" remember. It takes practice, lots of practice. The other posts about using tacks here and there and then sewing up the seam is the way I do auto sheet metal, no lap joints here either. Lap joints are just rust waiting in the wings. Use butt joints. I use copper "spoons" if I can get behind the metal when welding. I made mine from ridgid 1/2" copper tubing couplings split lengthwise, flattened out, and a smaller piece of copper tubing mashed flat soldered to them for a handle, with a wooden file handle on that. Bend 'em, shape 'em, anyway you want them. The copper helps direct the flowing metal to the sheet metal and acts as an heat sink. I also keep damp rags handy when welding auto sheet meal to cool, but not too quickly, down the area of welding to prevent warping. You'll have to learn this one also. Personally I would not persue a new welder at this time, you're wire speed selector should help find the "sweet spot" you need even though you only have two heat settings. Hang in there and keep practicing. Thanks, David


                      • #12
                        Tractor Supply has 10% off welders at the moment:


                        --- RJL ----------------------------------------------

                        Ordinarily I'm insane, but I have lucid moments when I'm merely stupid.


                        • #13
                          Your Craftsman welder could really be part of your problem. Let your friend try it.

                          Many great companies that should know better have made 110V MIG welders with harsh low ends making it hard to weld thin auto body metal. Maybe while improving top end they ruin bottom end of welding range. Top end is limited by available input amps so they have to be able to weld great on thinnest metal possible. Advertised fantasy of 110 volt MIG top limit is easily fixed with 220volt welder.


                          • #14
                            Roger is correct, the way the unit is designed plays a very large role in how easy or difficult thinner ga material is to weld. A unit with a crisp agressive style low end arc will be much more difficult to use on thinner ga material then a unuit with a soft less agressive low end arc.
                            MigMaster 250- Smooth arc with a good touch of softness to it. Good weld puddle wetout. Light spatter producer.
                            Ironman 230 - Soft arc with a touch of agressiveness to it. Very good weld puddle wet out. Light spatter producer.

                            PM 180C

                            HH 125 EZ - impressive little fluxcore only unit


                            • #15
                              Well, I played with my Craftsman this afternoon (first time in a while) and was actually able to run to run some short beads with only the occasional hole in the single thickness 20 ga. Low heat (45 amps/20%, according to the manual...high is 75a @20%) and between 15-20 on the gas gauge. I wasn't concerned about warping...just trying to do this with no holes.

                              I did not attempt to butt two pieces together (which is what I will need to do on the car panels), just to run beads on a piece of clean scrap (i.e. sandblasted). What I found was, I had a nice bacon frying sound, the bead on the top was fairly flat, but the back side looked a lot like the front...raised as though in another split second, I would have had a hole. I thought the back side should be discolored, but not deformed. What should I expect to see on the back? Am I just moving too slowly? Or do I really need a new HH?

                              Learning to ride a bike was easier!!

                              EDIT...I just want to say how much I appreciate the help and suggestions you guys are offering. It's nice to see that even a noob with noob-type questions is treated well here. No surprise though...I lurked for a while before I signed up (and I DID use the Search function - a lot!), so even though I knew I was going to be trying your patience , I kinda figured you'd be ok with that. Much appreciated!!!
                              Last edited by TR3A; 01-25-2009, 09:30 PM.