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Questions about Welders


Sr. Member
Feb 15, 2005
Edmonton, Alberta
The following questions are covered in this Welder FAQ:

Q: What’s the difference between Stick, MIG & TIG welding?
Q: What brand of welder should I buy?
Q: Should I buy a 115V or 230V Welder?
Q: What welder settings should I use?
Q: Where can I get more info on welders?

The objective of this FAQ is to provide general knowledge for a typical bronco guy/gal with a typical garage and typical welding needs. Nothing is absolute and there are exceptions to every rule. As always, any feedback is appreciated. ;D

Q. What is the difference between Stick, MIG and TIG welding?

A. The following is some general background information on the 3 most common electric welders found in automotive shops.

Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW) or MIG
GMAW is probably the #1 choice for general automotive work. The equipment consists of a constant voltage (CV) power source, spool of welding wire, wire drive mechanism and a bottle of shielding gas (GMAW). The most common shielding gases are pure carbon dioxide and argon/carbon dioxide mixes (e.g. C25 gas: 75% Ar - 25% CO2). Here's examples of typical 115V and 230V setups.

A second process, available with the same equipment, is Flux Core Arc Welding (FCAW) where welding is performed without shielding gas and the flux is contained inside the wire.

In these processes wire is fed by the drive mechanism through the nozzle where the arc is formed with the work. The controls on the machine set wire feed rate and welding voltage.


• Lower skill level required for acceptable results
• Very fast welding speed.
• Clean welds, low spatter, often little cleanup required after welding (GMAW). FCAW requires cleanup similar to SMAW (see below).
• Good performance in a wide range of material thicknesses.
• Wide selection of 115V and 230V models available.


• Generally GMAW is an indoors only process as wind can blow away the shielding gas. FCAW can be used outdoors.
• Generally used for ferrous metals. Aluminum welding is possible but may require additional equipment like a spool gun.
• Welder has moving parts and requires some attention and routine maintenance.
• Shielding gas can be expensive depending on use.
• Power source can only be used for GMAW/FCAW​

For the same set of parameters (voltage & wire feed speed) FCAW will produce deeper penetration (and more spatter) than GMAW with shielding gas. So if you're running a smaller 115V unit, FCAW can be a good option when welding thicker material.​

Shielded Meat Arc Welding (SMAW) or Stick

This is the welder your grandpa probably had out in the shop. Hook up the ground clamp, stick a rod in the stinger, set the current on the welder and away you go.

In this process the arc is struck between the consumable stick electrode and the work. Equipment includes a constant current (CC) power source, ground clamp, stinger and welding rod. Here's a typical stick setup.


• Simple equipment, no moving parts.
• Moderate welding speed.
• Flexible – change rods and/or welding parameters to tackle many different tasks, metals and thicknesses.
• Flux provides excellent cleaning action in cases where weld metal preparation is less than ideal (rust, scale, dirt, etc.).
• All weather indoor/outdoor application
• Power source can be used for both SMAW & GTAW (TIG) processes.


• Skill level is relatively high to achieve acceptable results
• Difficult to weld thin materials (sheet metal)
• Flux removal (chipping/wire brush) after welding and in-between passes is required.
• Generally available as 230V units but newer inverter based 115V models are available.​

Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW) or TIG​
GTAW is the most flexible process for all types of applications. Common applications for this process include; high end bike frames, thin metals (you’ll find examples of welded pop cans), aluminum and other high tech alloys.

In GTAW welding the arc is created between the tungsten electrode and the work and filler metal is added manually as required. Equipment includes a constant current (CC) power source, ground clamp, TIG torch, tungsten electrode, nozzles, collets, etc. and a bottle of inert gas, typically pure argon. Current is preset on the machine and typically controlled by a foot pedal or thumb screw. Here's a typical TIG setup.


• Simple equipment, no moving parts.
• Flexible – weldable metals range from Aluminum to Zinc and everything in-between.
• Very clean, no spatter or sparks, welds are very aesthetically pleasing.
• Power source can be used for both SMAW & GTAW (TIG) processes.
• 115V and 230V are readily available.


• A very high skill level is required to achieve acceptable results.
• Slow
• Generally indoors only (same reasons as GMAW)
• Difficult to use out of position (thumb control required)
• Higher current applications for thicker materials may require water cooling of the torch.
• Gas consumption can be very high which potentially makes this process expensive.​

Q. What brand of welder should I buy?

A. By far the two biggest players are Miller and Lincoln. They’ve both been around for ever and as far as I know both still make their equipment in the USA. They are not the cheapest welders on the market but I believe welders are one purchase where you get what you pay for. Personally I own Miller equipment but you’ll find that Miller and Lincoln are like Ford and GM as far as owner loyalty goes. Both companies have excellent support and you can still get parts for 20 year old welders. Other brands which have been around for a while include; ESAB and Hobart.

If budget permits avoid the no-name off shore brands. They may seem like a deal now, but in the long run, performance, parts and service could prove to be a problem.

Q. Should I buy a 115V or 230V welder?

A. The big advantage of 115V welders is that they are typically wired for a 15A circuit which means you can use them anywhere. Setup in your garage, your neighbours garage, run them off of your little generator when wheeling, etc.. The major disadvantage to these welders is their capacity to weld thicker sections. Often single pass welds are limited to less than 3/16” thick steel.

The next step is to 230V which is available in most homes and powers your clothes dryer and stove. Unfortunately, 230V is not always available in your garage. The big advantage here is that you have more welders to chose from and you have the ability to weld up to ½” thick material in a single pass with a typical 50 amp 230V welder. The only downside to these units is a reduction in portability.

If you can afford the 230V welder and you have the wiring for it, go for it. It’s kind of like horsepower you really can’t have too much welder power.

If budget and wiring dictate a 115V unit, you won’t regret that either. You can always make multiple passes on thicker sections. I know body guys who have both because they prefer the smaller portable units for working on sheet metal.

Q. What welder settings should I use?

A. There's no one simple answer to this question. Most MIG welders have a chart inside the cover to give you starting points and most stick electrodes will give you amperage ranges on the box. The folks at Miller have some nice on-line parameter calculators, here are a few links:

  • GMAW (MIG) Weld Calculator
  • FCAW Weld Calculator
  • SMAW (Stick) Weld Calculator
  • GTAW (TIG) Weld Calculator

It's important to note that these calculators will give you a starting point to get going on your project. You'll likely have to tweak theses settings to suit your welding style and the project at hand.

Q. Where can I get more info on welders?

A. You can always try the manufacturers:

and I’ve found both of these forums very helpful:

If you have any comments, suggestions or feedback to help improve this FAQ please post a reply here. Thanks.

Stefan Scott (drscotch)
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New Member
Sep 6, 2015
Calgary, Alberta
I sell welding equipment for a living and I need to comment; 110/120V units will operate on 15A breakers but call for 20A service. 230V will save you in the long run; if anyone has equipment questions let me know! If I don't have the answer I will find it.


Bronco Guru
Aug 7, 2012
Hobart Iron Man or an old 187 if you can find one.

Check eBay and Northern Tool

Still true today.

Excellent welder that you will not grow out of too quickly.
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New Member
Mar 20, 2020
If you have an opportunity to attend a big street rod event with all the vendors present,seek out the Miller or Lincoln booths.They alway have some rigs set up to try .You also can ask questions or have them show you how to even start a weld. Be honest with them .WE have all been there.