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I know everyone sneers at Harbor Freights tools in general, myself included. But as somebody who wants to learn to weld at home, I’m considering one of their cheap welders. They have a 90 amp welder that uses flux core wire - no gas needed, and it runs on 110 standard outlets. I’ve watched a youtube demo of it by somebody who bought it and its not too bad. The welder is on sale for 100 bucks.

My question is, would this work for body panels, floor boards, and rocker panels on my 1950 cadillac when I get to that point?

I can’t comment on the specific welder other than that price seems really low for a flux-core wire welder. Since you mention flux core wire, I am assuming a wire welder that may or may not be able to be converted to a gas MIG welder. Converting to gas down the line is a good thing.

A 90 amp welder can stitch together a 0.090 mild steel floor or thinner fender sheet metal with practice. It probably can weld 1/8 brackets with 2-3 passes. That is what these small welders do best. 115 volt welders up to 140 amps or so are available, too. That means it should work for a lot of what you need to do on the Caddy. Flux core is messy and requires wire brushing to clean off the flux if you stop the weld mid-stitch. That means welding a patch into your Caddy will take lots of brushing. Flux core does work well outside with wind. Gas, a bit less so. Gas makes welding faster and easier.

Quality welders make welding easier. I’d suggest a check for used Hobart or Lincoln MIG welders. They can be set up to run flux core wire if you don’t have gas. They are way better quality and you may be able to get one with the regulator to add gas later.

The used ones I’ve seen cost about 3 times as much, or if they’re similar in price they’re stick welders.

The one I’m looking at is this:

it may work for cosmetic stuff, to be honest brazing with a coat hanger and oxy acetylene torch will work on body stuff too. maybe better.

I m not a big fan of wire feeders without gas. it hard to get penetration and a good weld profile.
I would not recommend it for any thing structural unless you are a good welder. 90 amps isn t much. a smaii miller welder or Lincoln will work better and last longer and you can add gas if you want. some flux core wire can be used without gas, they tried it our shop a few times but not even the factory reps could make welds that would pass our inspections with it. we were an AISC (American institute of steel construction ) shop. I under stand that they have just received their bridge cert too. very strict standards. we used flux core wire too but it was a type that you used with gas. the wire we used was from .035 for misc metals to .o45- 1/16 in wire for structural for the most part. along with many different sizes and types of stick rods. our machines were mostly 400-600 amps.

when I used the little miller wire feeder my son bought, I laughed and told him to use it for erector sets. it was weak. but I got used to it. if you wanted a weld bigger than 1/8 in in one pass, forget it.

I am going to be buying a small welder soon, but I m gonna buy a small stick welder, a lot less hassle and parts to buy for me at home. my friend has an old Lincoln farm welder I ve got my eye on, but lowes has a decent one too. tombstone shaped. stick is harder to use at first (you can teach a monkey to weld with a MIG gun) but for me its more versatile, I can weld almost anything with it by just switching rod type.

hope this helps, wes

The only problem I have, besides not wanting to invest a bunch, is that it has to run on a standard outlet. I rent at my current place, so I’m not installing a 220v outlet or whatever that is

the small millers and lincolns, whether wire feeder or arc type will use 110v

but if you have a dryer plug it may be 220v anyway and you can swap out when welding.

the ones at Lowes were fairly cheap

Good call on the dryer outlet Wes. I’d have to run quite a bit of 220v extension cables to get out to the parkinglot hahah. Perhaps I’ll be lucky and we’ll be renting a house at this point where I’d have the luxury and privacy of a garage.

I’ll have to look at Lowes. I get the hunch lately that their tools are about on par with harbor freight these days.

I should note that I finally got a jack and stands too! Sears craftsman 3 ton floor jack with 2 3 ton stands and a creeper for like 110 bucks or something like that.

good job! I have a couple Chinese jack stands (I was broke that week) and they scare me to death! I will not trust them on their own.
my jeep looks funny with 4 small floor jacks, one on each corner, plus two jack stands and stacks of lumber and blocks, but I want to ride it, not have it ride me!


How thick is the typical floor panel or rocker panel?

1/16 maybe. no more than 1/8, possibly 1/32?

Here’s what I’d do: find a cooperative body shop/welder, I’d then get the replacement panels, do all the prep work (cutting, grinding, sanding, whatever), then have the shop weld in the panels, which I would then finish (grind, sand, prime, and paint). A cheap welder in my unknowledgeable hands is a recipe for pain and problems.

No. I have a Century wire welder. Its not good for sheet metal. Too thin. You need the solid wire with gas for decent sheet metal work including floor boards. You’ll burn through the sheet metal and just make a bunch of holes. There’s nothing worse than a cheap welder unless you are doing heavier metal. I have the gas attachment but haven’t made the change yet. I also have a Lincoln stick welder and really prefer it to the wire feed for most general welding. I bought a used buzz box at first and did quite a bit with that one. Its going to have all cheap parts of unknown origin or quality, have a very light duty cycle, and be more frustrating than anything. Visit your local welding supply for more information and pick up a used quality one but the wire will cost more than the $100 welder. For $4-500 you can get a nice little Hobart or something that will be a joy to use and learn on, but you do need gas for sheet metal. That means renting the gas tank for 5 year increments for $150 here anyway.

The other thing is that you really need a 30 amp 110v outlet or you’ll be blowing the breaker every couple of minutes. I ran a couple dedicated 30 amp outlets in the garage and that works fine but can’t do that in an apartment.

By the time I cut out the panels, pay a tow truck to bring it to a shop and weld in the panels id be way beyond the cost of a nice welder. Plus It’s important for me to learn and do it myself. PLUS rockauto has these panels pretty cheap believe it or not!

According to the specs, this 90 amp harbor freight welder is good for up to 3/16 thick.

for body work a coat hanger with a brazing tip and oxy acetylene works pretty well too.

lowes has a pretty good selection of welding wire and small bottles of gas. I think the small spool of .025 gasless wire was 9 bucks.

i welded up a bunch of sheet metal with my sons little welder and gas less flux core wire.
if you get it set right and use right technique you can weld it with what you are looking at.

of course i m very experienced.

i would always prefer gas with a wire feeder, and the bare wire or solid wire that bing suggested will work better, but you can do it CCCCCCCCCCC if you look at the C s that i just typed you will see one technique, or as close as i can type it.

you start at the top and weld down the c shape , then quickly whip up to the top and weld another C back into the first one, making sure to penetrate into your first weld. if its really thin you can let go of the trigger before starting each C shape, and stop occasionally to let the metal cool. make the C s a lot closer than i was able to type them, you must weld back into your previous one each time. you may have to let it cool between each little C shaped pass

this is not a way to weld structure, but is ok for misc. stuff. and be sure to clean the paint off or you will have a problem starting your arcs and ugliness will result, you will have to turn your welder down so low that you may even want to cut the tip of the wire off before each little C. if it is thick enough that you can hold the trigger down with out burning thru the metal, it will pretty much burn thru some paint and rust, but not if you are making one tiny C shaped pass at a time as you may have to do with your thin stuff.

if you are good enough you can weld thicker sheet metal with a 400amp machine and .045 wire, one little spray arced dot at a time, but it sucks and you will burn thru many times if you don t let it cool after every stinkin little arc

I figure I can learn with practice. Most of the reviews claim these are quite easy welders to learn with.

From my understanding, you do little tack welds on one side of the panel, then the opposite side, working back and forth. Almost like torquing down something. And then fill in the gaps?

go to lowes, check out their stuff in person. you can tell a lot more about the build quality.

and you are right. you can learn. capable mig welders are a dime a dozen in the structural steel world. the layout guys and fitters make the money.

the hardest part is setting the machine right. getting the heat and wire speed right are the most important thing.