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What Type of Welding Is Used for Car Frames?

Welding a truck tailgate

Welding is an integral part of numerous industries, including the automotive sector in general and auto body shops in particular. Excellent welds are critical in the automotive field, adding to any vehicle's safety, reliability, and appearance.

An auto body welding technician could use different techniques and welding tools to complete individual jobs. There are numerous opportunities for using welding on cars to repair either collision or age-related damage. Here are a few of the welding applications for vehicles:

  • Frame or fender welding: Vehicle frames and fenders are usually damaged during collisions. An auto body technician often needs to cut out the bent piece of metal and replace it. They then use a welding technique to fasten the new piece of metal and repair the vehicle's frame or fender safely.
  • Welding the exhaust system: Exhaust systems take a constant beating. They eventually rust and develop holes because of age, moisture, and use. Some auto body technicians will cut the exhaust pipe, clamp the pieces, and apply a weld.
  • Wheel welding: Hitting too many potholes can crack metal wheel frames. Sometimes a skilled TIG welder can repair it.

What type of welding equipment is commonly used in automotive shops?

Finding the right welder for autobody work isn't as easy as it sounds. There is no shortage of divergent opinions on the subject, but a brief explanation of the various types of welding processes might help you choose.

Welding experts agree on one thing: there is no single welding process appropriate for every automotive requirement. Some are easier to learn, while others offer the benefit of being less expensive. Here are the top three choices to consider:

Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welding is neat and precise but challenging to learn. A tungsten electrode creates the welding arc, and filler metal creates the fusion between the two metal parts. Another traditional downside to TIG welding is the equipment cost. However, there are now high-quality units available at a reasonable price. For example, the PrimeWeld TIG200-D 200-Amp Inverter TIG Welder offers dual-voltage 120/240-volt input power, allowing automotive technicians to weld almost anywhere. It's affordably priced at $300.00

Stick Welding, also known as arc welding, is easy to learn and doesn't require an external shielding gas. While it will work for many automotive projects, it does need lots of clean-up and is not the best choice for thin sheet metal. The good news: you can pick up a reliable dual-voltage stick welder for under $200.00!

Metal Inert Gas (MIG) is arguably the best welder for autobody. It employs a shielding gas and filler material in a wire fed directly through the welder. MIG is faster than most other welding methods and much easier to learn. Because MIG welding is a one-handed process, you always have the other hand free for maneuvering tools and material.

Most experienced welders agree that MIG is the "go-to" welding method for most auto-body repairs. It works well on a wide range of metals and is suitable for quick repairs. MIG can easily handle the materials used in auto bodies without sacrificing strength or appearance.

The newest MIG welding machines also have options that make them the best choice for automotive shops. For example, the MIG180 180-Amp MIG Welder with Spool Gun from PrimeWeld offers three different welding processes: traditional MIG, flux-core wire without shielding gas, and an option for welding aluminum. It also features a 2T/4T trigger lock, great for preventing hand fatigue on long runs like welding quarter panels or floors into auto bodies.

What type of welding is used for car frames?

The two most viable options for welding car frames are the TIG and MIG welding processes. Choosing the better method is made more difficult by the various factors that can determine the quality of the weld. These include but are not limited to:

  • Welder's skillset
  • Filler material's selection and its interaction with the base material
  • Welding process itself

Welding technicians sometimes develop their skills in specific welding processes and may not be as proficient in others. As for the filler material choice, there are more types of filler material available for TIG welding processes than for MIG.

How filler material affects the vehicle's frame depends on the application. For instance, it's possible to weld most stamped steel frames with either the MIG or TIG method. But when the frame has chrome-moly tubing supports or elaborate curves as in racing frames, TIG welding is a better option. TIG will also provide better results on vehicle frames with heat-sensitive high alloy steels that may be susceptible to cracks.

Keep in mind that if a MIG welder is not set up correctly, it can create "cold starts," during which the base metal might not be penetrated completely, compromising the weld joint in specific areas.

Whether to use the MIG or TIG welding process for vehicle frames also depends on the frame and its use. In other words, if you are welding a heavy-duty industrial frame or one that will be used only for the typical commute to work, then MIG welding is most likely your better choice.

However, if the frame will be subjected to extreme racing or off-roading activities, you would be better served by welding your frame using TIG.

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