My coworker wanted to learn how to weld aluminum and invited me over to his house to help him. However, he was on a tight budget and went out and bought the cheapest welder he could find. So, I wasn’t certain that it would work, but I decided to give it a try.
While welding aluminum with a cheap welder is possible, you might not get the best results. If you’re looking to weld aluminum regularly, it might be worth investing in a better welder. With that said, a cheaper welder will still do the job if you’re just starting out and are on a tight budget.
In this post, we’ll take a look at how to weld aluminum with a budget-friendly welder, as well as some of the pros and cons of doing so. Here are some of the topics covered below:
- Can you weld aluminum with a cheap welder, or do you need a more expensive model?
- What Should the Features of a Welder be For Welding Aluminum?
- Why is Aluminum Welding Tricky?
- 5 Best Cheap Welders for Welding Aluminum
And many more…
Can A Cheap Welder Weld Aluminum, Or Do You Need An Expensive Model?
You can weld aluminum with a cheap welder, but it’s not easy because the metal is soft, sensitive to impurities, and has a low melting point. If the amperage on your welder isn’t set correctly and constant, you will damage the material. That’s why most people use high-quality TIG welding machines when welding aluminum.
A TIG welder creates better weld beads that are neater, aesthetically pleasing, and reliable. TIG welders are generally more expensive than stick welders because it is a slower process that does not require a filler. This helps you achieve more reliable results.
Modern TIG welders are available at different price points today, and many cheaper machines could help you weld aluminum reliably. Here are some features you’ll typically find on more expensive welders:
- High-frequency arc starting – This prevents contamination risk significantly as you don’t need to touch the tungsten to work for starting the arc.
- Reduced heat input – This is especially beneficial for materials like aluminum, thanks to the automatic current pulse and several adjustable parameters.
- Also, for reactive materials like aluminum and magnesium alloys, the high-end machines come with AC mode, controllable duty cycles, and various waveforms.
- Many machines have foot pedals to control real-time currents.
- Other benefits like small and compact size, lightweight, and enhanced portability.
Bottom line – some cheaper welders can weld aluminum reliably. However, the higher-end models are easier to use and certainly give you better-looking welds.
When it comes to welders, you get what you pay for. High-end TIG welders for aluminum are the choice of professionals for a reason. After all, the right welder will make aluminum welding an easier task.
What features should a welder have for welding aluminum?
The welder you use for welding aluminum should have AC plus high frequency or a machine with square-wave AC capabilities. You cannot weld aluminum with a DC-only machine.
It would be best if you had AC for aluminum because it contains oxides that cannot be cleaned off by DC welding. The sine-wave characteristics of AC combined with high frequency greatly help keep the oxides from contaminating the weld puddle.
Why is it difficult to weld aluminum?
The main difference in welding steel and aluminum is that steel changes color as it heats up. On the other hand, aluminum tends to get dull first, then it starts getting shiny and very quickly forms a molten puddle where heat is applied.
In short, several characteristics of aluminum make welding difficult:
- When it melts, aluminum retains its silvery-white appearance. The melting point of pure aluminum is lower than 650 degrees Celsius (1200 degrees Fahrenheit). In contrast to steel, its color does not abruptly transform just before it melts.
Because of this, aluminum does not “inform you” when it is hot enough to melt because metal does not conduct heat well. Additionally, it has a high rate of heat conduction.
- The next thing that happens is that it instantly forms an oxide layer, which melts at a greater temperature than the base metal itself, leading to overheating and deformation.
The melting temperature of the oxide layer, sometimes known as the “skin,” that forms fast on the surface of the base metal is roughly three times higher than that of pure aluminum (1760C or 3200 F).
- The aluminum’s boiling point is 1582 degrees Celsius, equivalent to 2880 degrees Fahrenheit. This number is lower than the point at which the oxide adhered to the surface would melt.
- Since the oxide is denser than the metal, it sinks to the bottom of the molten metal pool and becomes imprisoned there. Before beginning the welding process, the oxide layer needs to be removed for this reason. In the alternative, it can destroy metal.
Do you need to take any special precautions when welding aluminum?
As stated earlier, there is a significant difference in the melting points of aluminum and its oxide. The oxide could sink into the molten metal and contaminate the weld.
- The main precaution to take is to clean off dirt, aluminum oxide, and hydrocarbons leftover from the oils or to cut solvents leftover from previous processes if any.
- The fact that the oxide skin sinks into the base metal emphasizes the need to remove the oxide layer first before the commencement of welding.
- You can use a stainless steel wire bristle brush and an etching solution to remove aluminum oxide. Take care to brush lightly and only in one direction. Criss-cross and multi-direction brushing can further embed the oxides into the workpiece.
- If you use chemical etching solutions, clean off the chemicals thoroughly before applying welding heat.
- Also, use a degreaser to remove the oil hydrocarbons and cut solvents. Make sure that the degreaser you use itself does not contain any hydrocarbons.
5 Best Cheap Welders for Welding Aluminum
DEKOPRO MMA Welder costs less than $150 and can handle the most well-prepared aluminum projects. The multi-use welder is mainly used for easily welding stainless and mild steel. However, people have used this stick welder for lighter brazing projects.
DEKOPRO welder also has several other features that make it a top-rated welder. It comes with ETL certification, and each welder undergoes strict inspection for reliability and efficiency. It is also an energy-efficient welder that increases welding frequency, provides robust and stable output, and provides aesthetically pleasing results. It has tiny splatter too.
The silent machine is also lightweight and portable. It provides an adjustable voltage to match the same welding current.
DEKOPRO is a sturdily-built welder with a high-performance mute fan that cools the unit rapidly.
- With expertise and prep, it can be used to weld aluminum
- Lightweight, compact
- Super affordable
- Sturdy design
- Stable current
- Great for beginners
- Value for money
- Lacks quality accessories.
How it compares
With proper prep and skill, you can weld aluminum using the DEKOPRO 110/220V MMA welder. Expect a bit of splatter, but if you have the skill, you can make it work. Make sure to preheat the aluminum, use aluminum rods, and weave expertly. Its price is a dream!
This is another beginner-friendly gas and gasless welder. It is a multi-purpose welder that people have used to welding aluminum using a 10 ft gun cable to spool the torch. Remember: you need to purchase a spool gun separately.
The MMA welder is ideal for DIY or home repairs. It is noise-free as the switching frequency is beyond the audible range. It is an excellent aluminum welder that gives fantastic results. It accepts 2-10 lb. flux cores and solid wires.
The well-built unit is durable and comes with a hard case and a long cable. KOP&WDHOM also gives a 1-year warranty on the unit. The Company also offers excellent customer service and is responsive to queries through email and phone.
- Easy to use; simple to set up
- Beautiful welds
- The settings chart isn’t too clear
How it compares
The KOP&WDHOM aluminum welder will surely surprise you. This is an all-in-one multi-purpose machine that performs several tasks. It is perfect for aluminum welding, but you need to purchase the spool gun separately. For under $500, this is a great cheap welder for aluminum welding projects.
The flaring FM-200 welder is a beautiful, beginner-friendly machine with thousands of positive reviews. The Company claims to have sold nearly 3000000 of these units in almost 50 countries.
The FM-200 is a multi-functional unit that supports different types of welding and is also compatible with a spool gun. It has an adjustable voltage for MIG and spool. The fact that it supports flux wires over 11lb sets it apart. It even has an adapter on a 120 V line for portable repairs.
It also comes with a convenient one-switch for switching between different modes. The flaring welder also has several safety features, like auto-shutdown and over-voltage protection. You also get an easy-to-use, quick-turn single-turn compact tip without compromising performance.
- Great for beginners
- Easy to use
- Value for money
- Lightweight and compact
- No customer service.
How it compares
Flaring’s small size, multi-functionality, gas capability, and flux core, all with awesome affordability, make this a great alternative to Lincoln or Hobart welders. Its duty cycle is excellent and comes with everything you need to start welding. It is suitable for small aluminum projects too.
YESWELDER is another reliable name in the welding industry. Many people have specifically bought this affordable welder for aluminum welding. It is durably constructed and comes with excellent accessories.
YESWELDER has a manual and synergic mode, and it may be best to use a manual for aluminum welding.
Despite its affordable price, the YESWELDER is well-constructed and has many advanced features like high-end welders. Its duty cycle (60% at 200Amp) is outstanding and comparable to some of the top-rated expensive welders on the market.
The flux core splatter is also minimal.
The best part about this pocket-friendly aluminum welder is that the Company offers excellent customer service. They might even ship the replacement or damaged parts.
- Versatile and multi-functional
- It has lots of power for aluminum welding
- Lightweight, compact, portable
- Excellent tech support and customer service
- Easy to use and beginner-friendly
- Poor instructions.
- Changing the liner for aluminum is difficult due to limited access to fittings.
How it compares
YESWELDER MIG-250 Pro works straight out of the box. It is a good-looking unit with a powder-coated finish. The results are excellent, and it does aluminum welding with decent-looking beads. Some users felt it welded aluminum better than steel because of its power. The price is under $500 too.
Tackle your aluminum welding project with ease with the TOOLIOM 3-in-1 welder. It is compatible with a spool gun/MIG gun and comes with manual and synergic settings.
It is compatible with WP-17V 35-50 and with a spool gun with a euro connector which you need to buy separately. TOOLIOM is easy to use and comes with intuitive controls.
- Suitable for stainless steel, carbon, aluminum
- Great for beginners – ideal for DIY projects
- Versatile and multi-functional
- Lightweight and portable
- The spool tightens up on itself from time to time.
How it compares
TOOLIOM is a famous brand known for its reliable welders. The 3-in-1 Aluminum welder is reliable, compact, and easy to set up. It is excellent for small aluminum welding projects.
Can You Use a MIG Welder to Weld Aluminum?
Yes. Most MIG welders can weld aluminum using the appropriate wire and inert gas.
To weld aluminum, you can use the MIG gun but make sure you use aluminum accessories. Never use the tip used for steel. Most MIG welders can make the process of welding aluminum go a lot faster.
However, MIG welders selling for under $600 sometimes tangle the soft aluminum wire easily. That is why a spool gun-type welder is better for larger aluminum welding projects.
Can You Use a Stick Welder to Weld Aluminum?
Yes, you can weld aluminum with a stick welder, but it is not recommended, especially if you can use TIG or MIG. Not many stick electrodes are available for welding aluminum. It also becomes tough maintaining good arc stability. On top of that, you’d be fighting a constant battle to keep the covering on the electrode clean and dry.
Bottom line – try to avoid stick welding aluminum if you can.
Conclusion – Can You Weld Aluminum With a Cheap Welder?
These days, many pocket-friendly welders can weld aluminum quickly and neatly. However, some cheaper models may not have the advanced features seen in the higher-end models.
The list of the best cheap welders for aluminum mentioned above has shown excellent results. You could try the super-affordable DEKOPRO, which is easily one of the best cheap aluminum welders for beginners, or the YESWELDER MIG-250 PRO, which has an excellent duty cycle.
Below is a YouTube video that tests the cheapest welder on Amazon.