Anyone who has worked with welding automotive sheet metal in any capacity knows that it can be a challenge. There’s a reason why mechanics, carpenters and construction workers are known for their ability to work with metal and producing high-quality results. Working with steel is not only difficult for the human eye, but it’s also tough on hand tools. Working with steel creates wear and tear that can cause precision issues if you are not willing to invest in high-quality hand tools.
Automotive sheet metal is no different from other types of metals when it comes to working with it. There are some tips you need to know in order to produce high-quality results while welding automotive sheet metal successfully.
Understand the metal you are welding
The first step to successful welding is to understand the metal you are working with. If you don’t, you will make mistakes that will cause damage to your vehicle. Choose a metal that is easy to weld and will hold up to the stress of being welded. Steel is the most common metal used in vehicles and it has a high melting point of 1,461°F. It’s easy to weld and is easy to work with, but it may cause damage to painted surfaces. Aluminum is easier to weld than steel and has a lower melting point of 660°F. It’s more corrosion resistant than steel and is cheaper than some metals like stainless, but it may cause damage to painted surfaces.
Always be safe when welding automotive sheet metal
When working with automotive sheet metal, always wear protective gear. Safety glasses, gloves, a pair of welders pants and a welding jacket are basic welding safety equipment to protect your eyes, hands and body from damage. It’s also a good idea to wear a dust mask and gloves when grinding or cutting metal. Invest in a power saw or a metal grinder with a guard to protect yourself from flying debris and sparks. You also don’t want to accidentally weld two pieces of metal together that shouldn’t be welded together. So, be sure of what you’re welding and grinding. Another important safety tip to know is to always have a first aid kit on hand.
Welding can cause abrasions, burns, cuts, abrasions and strains from holding the torch and grinding metal. Having a first aid kit will allow you to treat any of these injuries without stopping your workflow.
Invest in high quality hand tools
When working with steel, you are going to need hand tools that are made for steel. A hammer made for steel will help you shape and smooth out the metal better than a standard hammer. You will also need a good pair of rivet jacks, punches and rivet extractors to pull the rivets out of the metal. You will also need a good grinder to grind away weld spatter and a depth gauge to check the depth of the weld. Investing in a good set of hand tools will save you time in the long run and make your welding job easier.
Don’t weld over thin spots
When welding, always weld over a spot or joint that is thicker than the metal you are welding. Welding over thin spots or joints will cause excess welding and weaken the metal. This can cause the metal to crack or break. If you are welding over a joint in a chassis member, always weld the joint on the outside of the joint to avoid weakening the joint. When welding a chassis member, always weld from the outside towards the center of the member. Welding from the inside can also cause the joint to weaken.
Grinding and cutting metal before welding
Before welding, you may want to learn how to grind and cut the metal. This will allow you to prep the metal with a grinding wheel to get rid of weld spatter that you are welding. You can also use a grinder to cut the metal to remove weld spatter and clean up the welding. Investing in a grinder with a metal cutting wheel will allow you to grind steel and clean up welding. This will save you time in the long run.
Grinding and cutting metal will also allow you to work with other metals besides steel. If you grind and cut metal, you can then move on to welding other metals without the grind marks from grinding metal in the wrong place.
Final tips about welding automotive sheet metal
Have all of your welding equipment stored safely in a cabinet or in a toolbox. Make sure you have a set of keys to the cabinet or toolbox where your welding equipment is stored. Use a proper torch when welding and ensure you are welding at the correct temperature. A torch that’s too hot can burn through metal, while a torch that’s too cool will cause porosity in the metal and may cause uneven heating. Be patient while welding and be mindful of your work environment.
Welding can be a dangerous hobby, but it can also be a rewarding hobby that can provide you with great satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. Welding is one of the most dangerous and unpredictable jobs in the automotive industry. As a welder, you are responsible for both your own safety and the safety of everyone else in the shop. Make sure you know what you are doing and always use the proper safety equipment.