If you're jumping into your first automotive restoration project and you'll be building custom panels with sheet metal, you're going to want to be sure you have a high-quality welder to get the job done. For most automotive purposes, the best welder for your needs is going to be wire fed. These are usually easier for new welders to get the hang of, making your metal fabrication project a success. Most wire fed welders will function on a standard household power current, too, so you won't need a specialty outlet to run it. Here are a few things to look for when you're choosing the welder for your fabrication work.
Evaluate the Power Needs
Most household electrical systems carry a volt rating of either 120 or 240. When you're looking for a wire welder, make sure that you know what the actual volt rating is for the machine, because that will dictate which power supply you'll need for the welder to function properly. Look at the outlets you have in the garage or work area. If you have a round-shaped outlet in the area that's fairly large in diameter, that's a 240-volt outlet. That means you can choose either rating of welder and still have somewhere you can plug it in.
In addition to the voltage of the outlet, you'll also want to make sure that the power circuit has a sufficient amp rating. Check your electrical panel or circuit breaker for the current rating. Your panel should be clearly labeled, so look for the breaker that's marked for the space where your work area is. It should have an amp rating stamped on it. Look for numbers like 15, 20 and 30. If you buy a welder that's rated for a 40-amp circuit, don't plug it in to a circuit that's only rated for 20. If you do, you're going to risk not only blowing the breaker, but potentially ruining the welder too.
Consider the Duty Cycle
The duty cycle is the amount of time the welder will operate consistently before it needs to shut down and cool. In most situations, you'll see it presented as a percentage. When evaluating that percentage, look at the packaging to determine what period of time it's based on. For example, a 70-percent duty cycle for a ten minute operating window means you get seven minutes of use before shutting it down for at least three minutes. But, if the manufacturer rates the duty cycle on a five-minute span, that's a much shorter usage period.
For basic auto body fabrication, you shouldn't need a high rating for the duty cycle, because a lot of your welding will probably be spot work and smaller jobs. Opt for something with a moderate duty cycle, though, so you're not cut short and left with intermittent welds.
With these tips, you can choose the right welder to complete all of your metal fabrication work on your restoration. Contact a fabricator, such as Legacy Restoration & Construction LLC, for further help.