Can You Weld Aluminum with a MIG Welder ?

MIG welding is a popular technique well-suited for welding steel and other metals. It is a fast and efficient welding method that produces clean and strong welds. However, aluminum is a different story, as its a highly conductive metal that requires a different approach to welding.

While welding aluminum with a MIG welder is possible, it’s not as straightforward as welding steel. So, can you weld aluminum with a MIG welder? The short answer is yes, but it requires modifications and special considerations to get the job done right.

How To MIG Weld Aluminum – Step by Step Guide

I am going some of the steps that can help you to MIG weld aluminum.

1: Choosing the Right Equipment

Make sure to have all the right equipment . You will need a MIG welder having AC output , which is ideal for welding aluminum. You’ll also need a spool gun, an attachment that holds the aluminum wire and feeds it into the welder. And, of course, you’ll need the appropriate safety gear, such as a welding helmet, gloves, and protective clothing.

2 :Metal Thickness

MIG welding aluminum is challenging as it requires more heat( 21-24 volts) than mild steel. A MIG welder is capable of welding aluminum thickness of 14 gauge and heavier, depending on the output capacity of a welder.However, If you intend to weld metal with a thickness of less than 14 gauge(.74inch), you’ll need an AC TIG welder.

Material thickness chart
Aluminum Material Thickness

3:Cleaning the Aluminum

Cleaning the aluminum surface is important to remove the oxide layer that can prevent a strong bond. To clean, remove dirt and oil, use a wire brush or sandpaper and a solvent for further cleaning.Once you have cleaned the surface, avoid touching it with bare hands and get to weld it as soon as possible so that it does accmulate the oxide layer again.

Also Read: How to Setup MIG Welder for Aluminum Welding

4: Choosing the Right Shielding Gas

Aluminum is non-ferrous, and you should use 100% pure argon gas for MIG welding aluminum. I recommend you set the flow rate at 25-35 cubic feet per hour.

However, when welding heavier gauge aluminum (1/2in or more ), helium ranging from 25-75 percent is mixed with argon, as the argon alone can’t offer the required penetration.

Flow meter setting with argon sheilding gas
Flow Meter Setting with Argon Shielding Gas

5: Spray Transfer Mode

The process smoothly transfers melted droplets from the electrode end to the weld pool. The melted droplets flowing through the arc are smaller than the electrode.

We suggest you use the same voltage settings with mild steel but double the spray travel speed. Though, in the beginning, It might be uncomfortable to move your MIG gun fast, you get used to it over time.

Besides, short circuits do not exist in spray transfer and have higher efficiency and deposition rate. However, spray transfer is not suitable for metals with thicknesses of less than 14 gauge cause this transfer mode involves a high heat amount, creating a large weld pool..

Spray transfer

6:Using the Spool Gun

When MIG welding aluminum with a wire-fed welder, you can’t simply put the aluminum wire drive roll into your machine. Because the aluminum wire is soft enough to create a bird’s nest inside the roll, we use spool guns to prevent the wire from tangling.

This user-friendly technology allows you to work where the power source is away. Remember, when MIG welding aluminum, always use the push welding direction rather than the pull.

Pushing makes sure that the weld pool is covered sufficiently with shielding gas. Moreover, pushing helps produce a wider and flatter bead with less penetration.

Changing your wire spool
Image Credit:Unimig

7:Filler Metal Selection

You should know the alloy family of base aluminum. However, ER4043 & ER5356 are the most commonly used aluminum filler wires. You can buy these wires from any local welding store around your house.

ER4043 & ER5356 aluminum welding wire

Precautionary Measures When MIG Welding Aluminum

The welding equipment listed below is not required for all welding operations. However, I suggest you use welding safety gear to avoid any accidents.

  • Use a welding bandana as it helps to prevent sweat from going into your eyes.
  • Use a welding helmet, as there are sparks everywhere. So, to further protect your face and eyes, you can wear a welding helmet or lens.
  • Wearing a welding apron or gloves can save your whole body from welding sparks.

Wrap Up

MIG welding aluminum is easier than any other method of welding. It requires some of the very basic tactics that can only be learned through proper training.

Some safety measures must be considered while MIG welding aluminum is also mentioned. So  Can you weld aluminum with a MIG welder? Yes, If you get enough training, you can adjust the voltages according to the thickness of your metal and get smoother feeding.

So, buy a machine if you don’t have one and start welding. I have covered affordable MIG welding machines under $500, which you can look at. But if you need something you can use, like a pro, I recommend getting the MIG welding machine for under $1000.

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Dave Walker is a skilled welder and passionate blogger. With years of experience in welding, he has honed his craft and developed a deep understanding of the trade. In his blog, he shares his experiences, insights, and tips on welding, offering a valuable resource for fellow welders and those interested in the field. He is dedicated to promoting the importance of welding and its applications in various industries.