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SCRS panel: Pay attention to shop voltage, amperage when welding

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Echoing I-CAR’s advice to prospective weld certification candidates, Society of Collision Repair Specialists panelists in an educational video advised shops to pay attention to the voltage demands of the welder and shop itself.

Most collision repair welders run on 110 or 220 voltage, according to SCRS Education Committee Co-Chairman Toby Chess.

Chess (Kent Automotive) joined SCRS board members Dave Gruskos (Reliable Automotive Equipment) and Michael Bradshaw (K&M Collision), former board Chairman Andy Dingman (Dingman’s Collision Center) for the first two parts of an educational MIG/MAG welding trilogy, available for free on SCRS’ YouTube channel. The third part will be released alongside SCRS’ July 24 open board meeting in Chicago during CIC and NACE Week.

110-volt welders generally max out at 0.030-inch welding wire, according to Chess. Heavier-duty welding, like the 0.035 demanded on the frame of a Ford F-150, will require a 220-volt welder, he said in the Part 1 video.

Aluminum pulse welders “come only in 220 volts,” and MIG brazing demands a 220-volt pulse welder, Chess said.

“The 110 will not work,” he said.

Of course, just because the shop bought a 220-volt welder doesn’t mean it’ll work at the facility. Bradshaw mentioned the “often overlooked” factor of power availability — is the welding area recieving 220 volts, or is it limited to 110 volts?

A 110-volt shop might even be inadequate for a 110-volt welder, according to Chess.

“If you don’t have enough voltage, these machines won’t strike an arc,” he said.

Amperage is also a consideration. New welders requiring 35- to 40-amp service might demand a facility be rewired to make it work, Chess said.

Gruskos cited an example of a 110-volt welder on only a 30-amp outlet. Plug anything besides the welder into that outlet, and the power will be insufficient due to the extra demand.

“There can’t be a light, there can’t be an extension cord,” he said. It’s just an outlet that you’re using the voltage from.”

Even if the building draws 220 volts, the wire itself might be too small.

“The wire size in the building going to the outlet is critical,” Gruskos said. A shop owner can’t have an outlet fed by a “small, thin wire” and expect enough amperage.

Deny the welder the power it needs, and you might damage it or fail to produce a proper weld, according to Gruskos.

A shop owner must supply the proper shop infrastructure, but the welding technician needs to put some thought into the welder power supply as well. Dingman said it’s likely all of the panelists have seen an instance where the outlet is wired and fed correctly — but the technician is using the welder 30 feet away, connected to the socket with an extension cord. The amperage drops, and the welder won’t function properly, he said.

Or it functions well enough to be dangerous: Bradshaw noted that just because a welder can be plugged in and generate a weld doesn’t mean it has enough power. One of the reasons OEMs specify 220-volt welders is because a failure to feed the welder with enough power means “you’re not going to make proper penetration,” he said.

“While it may look good on the outside … it hasn’t penetrated that second, third layer properly … That in and of itself is a huge issue,” Bradshaw said. This is why destructive testing is necessary; learn more about the panel’s discussion of this topic here.

More information:

“SCRS Education Committee Presents – MIG Welding Part 1 of 3 : Equipment and Power”

Society of Collision Repair Specialists YouTube channel, 2017

“SCRS Education Committee Presents – MIG Welding Part 2 of 3 : Settings, Setup and Training”

Society of Collision Repair Specialists YouTube channel, 2017

Featured image: A 220-volt power supply is necessary for some welders. (Lebazele/iStock)