Last updated: August 21, 2020

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Soldering isn’t necessarily something you would have ever thought of doing, especially on your own. However, if you have decided to learn or already have some knowledge but don’t know which machine and process to start with, the following guide is for you. While welding can be challenging, it is also very fun and satisfying.

Nowadays, gas metal arc welding (GMAW) is one of the most commonly used processes. It is divided into two types (MIG and MAG), although it is often referred to simply as MIG welding. These welders are known for their efficiency in melting all types of metals and are used in both domestic and industrial settings. The best thing about them is that learning to handle them is very easy.

Key Facts

  • MIG soldering is extremely popular among the most experienced and professional welders, and it’s easy to see why. This process is easy to learn and can do the work in much less time than other methods. This is why it is a favorite for beginners and experts alike.
  • Welding can be done in a variety of methods. MIG welding is one of the most widely used because of the advantages it offers. One of them is the ability to use it as a machine for other sub-processes like MAG, or other processes like FCAW.
  • Before you buy your own MIG welder, it is essential that you learn more about this type of tool. Remember that factors such as the materials on which you will use it and the environments in which you work will determine the kind of machine that best suits your needs. Make an informed decision, and you won’t regret your purchase.

Our Selection: The Best MIG Welders on the U.S. Market

Buying a soldering iron is virtually impossible if you don’t know anything about it. These complex machines come with various aspects that you have to be familiar with. In the section below, you will find our selection of the best MIG welders currently available on the market. Based on popularity and user ratings, this list will help you find the tool you need.

Best MIG Welder: Amazon’s Choice

Affordable and versatile, this MIG welder by Forney has become Amazon’s Choice in the category. Compatible with 2-pound and 10-pound rolls of wire, it offers a maximum power output of 140 amps and a duty cycle of 30% at 90 amps. This light model only weighs 19 pounds, making it ideal for carrying around with you for all your DIY projects. The Easy Weld comes with a 12-month warranty.

Best Dual-Voltage MIG Welder

If you are a professional or tend to tackle thicker materials, then the Handler 210MVP is probably the right MIG welder for you. When you see that 115 volts simply won’t do it, you can quickly switch to a 230-volt output and get the job done in a single pass. It comes with a dual-gauge gas regulator and 7 different voltage settings so you can always adjust your welder to your needs. This is a truly top-of-the-line tool.

Best Value-For-Money MIG Welder

From the same manufacturer as the Handler 210MVP, this MIG welder is in the medium-high range. With a maximum output of 140 amps and 5 different voltage settings, this model allows both MIG and flux-cored welding. Past buyers have praised the solid build and versatility of this machine, with which you will be able to work on a wide variety of metals. High quality, excellent value for money.

Best Budget-Friendly MIG Welder

Last but not least, here comes Goplus’s MIG 130 welder. If you’re starting in the world of soldering and want to work on a few simple DIY projects, this machine allows you to do so while keeping your expenses down. It features an overheat safety mechanism and a maximum output of 105 amp. In addition, this MIG welder comes with a protective mask and a chipping hammer.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About MIG Welders

You probably already have an understanding of how welders operate. However, we want to look at a specific process that you can use to solder. This is why we will delve into the ins and outs of MIG welders and answer the most frequently asked questions about them. That way, you will learn everything there is to know about this popular welding technology.

Soldadores MIG

The shielding gases used for MIG welding can be 100% inert, 100% active, or a mixture of both.
(Source: Vitalij Sova: 82746234/ 123rf.com)

What is MIG welding exactly?

Metal inert gas welding (MIG) uses a cylinder of shielding gas to operate. Although the gases can vary, the most common are helium, carbon dioxide, argon, and a mixture of these gases. Note that many people prefer the latter option because it offers the best quality of welding.

This method of soldering is widespread and attractive due to its low cost, speed, and ease of use. How does it work, you ask? Simply put, when you hold the trigger down, a metal wire is continuously fed, and a shielding gas is emitted. Combined with the heat, these factors melt and fuse the two metals that you want to solder.

Soldadores MIG

The materials you work with – and more specifically their thickness – will influence your choice of a welder.
(Source: Андрей Радченко: 108369527/ 123rf.com)

The wire is placed on a reel that is automatically fed at a constant preselected speed. Created by an electrical current between the base metal and the wire, the arc melts the wire and joins it to the base, producing a high-strength weld with quality appearance and little need for cleaning.

What is MAG welding?

Metal active gas welding (MAG) is also part of the GMAW process and works in the same way as MIG welding. The only real change is the type of gas used, but the process remains the same. A mixture of argon, carbon dioxide, and oxygen is generally used, which is ideal for soldering steel.

Can I do FCAW soldering with my MIG welder?

Actually, many MIG soldering machines can also use a process called flux-cored arc welding (FCAW). This method uses a wire that contains shielding gas elements that are released by the heat of the welder. With no gas cylinders, flux-cored welding means that your tool is more portable.

Besides, welding outside can be inconvenient for MIG welders, and the flux-cored wire makes it much more practical. It is also ideal when working with a welder that cannot adjust its amperage or power. If you run into a metal that is too thick, FCAW will solve this problem by providing a power boost.

Soldadores MIG

The duty cycle is the time your welder can operate before restarting.
(Source: Vitalij Sova: 107372464/ 123rf.com)

How do I assemble my MIG welder?

If you want to make your MIG welder work as efficiently as possible, you have to know some settings regarding its assembly process to follow. This is why we have prepared a small step-by-step guide for you. You will learn to configure the gas cylinder, which is often the most complicated part.

  • Step 1: If you have a fume extractor, place it over the area where you are going to weld.
  • Step 2: Attach the grounding clamp to something metallic to avoid shocks.
  • Step 3: Make sure the adjustment screw of your gas cylinder is loose.
  • Step 4: Open the cylinder with the handwheel placed on top.
  • Step 5: Check the gauge to make sure you have set the correct pressure.
  • Step 6: Turn the adjustment screw so that the gauge reads between 10 and 15 cfh (cubic feet per hour) – or 4.7 and 7.1 lpm (liters per minute).
  • Step 7: Finally, choose the welding configuration you need by using the chart provided with your welder.

In addition to following these steps, you should ask yourself a couple of questions before welding two pieces of metal together. What kind of metal are you about to solder? What is the thickness of these materials? The ability of your MIG welder to do the job depends on these answers. In some cases, you will need to use another type of soldering process.

Soldadores MIG

Calculate how much power you need based on the type of material you want to weld.
(Source: Vitalij Sova: 82746235/ 123rf.com)

What are the dangers of welding?

On top of the typical risks of welding, such as electric shocks, exposure to loud and prolonged noise, burns, and UV radiation, MIG welding comes with its own share of dangers. They are mostly related to the fumes and compressed gases that these machines require to operate. You can find more information below:

Compressed gases:

The shielding gases used for MIG welding can be 100% inert, 100% active, or a mixture of both. Whatever its composition may be, the most significant risk that the shielding gas exposes you to is asphyxiation. Inert gases are not toxic but cannot support life.

Experts recommend:

  • Always using the correct regulator for the gas,  and making sure it is suitable for the pressure contained in the cylinder;
  • Never modifying a regulator to use with another product.

Welding gases and fumes:

Welding fumes inevitably come with MIG welding, although there tends to be little. That being said, you should be aware of what type of fumes may be generated while welding and the possible risks of exposure to them.

There are two main types of fumes:

Particulate fumes: mostly formed from the vaporization of welding consumables.

  • Aluminum fume is mainly aluminum oxide.
  • Steel fume is mainly iron oxide plus a small amount of manganese oxide and other alloying elements.

Gaseous fumes: they are the result of the action of UV light and heat on atmospheric oxygen and nitrogen. When it comes to their production, keep in mind that:

  • Argon-rich shielding gases are more likely to promote ozone production than helium-rich or 100% carbon dioxide-rich shielding gases.

Be sure to read our guide on inverter welders, in which we explain in more detail the principal risks and hazards involved in soldering, as well as the primary safety measures that will help you reduce potential risks and accidents at home or in your workplace.

What are the advantages of MIG welding?

Many people think MIG welding is the best process because of the many advantages it offers – and they’re right. Unfortunately, not all that glitters is gold, and every power tool comes with limitations and drawbacks. You can compare the pros and cons of MIG welding in the table below:

Advantages
  • You can obtain high-quality welds much faster
  • No flux means clean welds
  • The gas shield protects the arc
  • There is very little loss of alloying elements
  • It produces little weld splatter
  • It can be used with a variety of metals and alloys
  • MIG welders can operate in various ways (including semi- and fully automatic)
Disadvantages
  • It only works on thin metals
  • You cannot use a MIG welder in vertical or overhead welding positions due to the high heat input and fluidity of the weld pool
  • Its features can be complex

Shopping Criteria

Welding isn’t as easy as hammering, drilling a hole in the wall, or sanding wood, to name but a few. The art of soldering involves a certain knowledge; remember that you are melting a material to fuse it with another. In the following section, we will look at the primary criteria to evaluate when buying your MIG welder.

Materials

The materials you work with – and more specifically their thickness – will influence your choice of a welder; you need to pick a tool with sufficient amperage and output power to do the job. In that regard, remember that MIG welding has its limitations depending on the material. You could even need another type of welder.

In any case, you should consider this criterion first, since other factors arise from it. In addition to amperage and output power, the material will determine the minimum duty cycle your welding machine should have. If you neglect this aspect, your tool may not come up to scratch, and you won’t get the results you were expecting.

Soldadores MIG

Metal Inert Gas welding (MIG) uses a cylinder of shielding gas to operate.
(Source: Dmitry Kalinovsky: 27626502/ 123rf.com)

Power

Now that you know which material(s) you plan on welding, you must calculate how much energy you need your MIG welder to offer. You can stick to a 115V unit to solder metals of 3 mm in thickness, but you will want to opt for a more powerful tool if you work with 9.5-millimeter metal.

You can always try, but a 115V MIG welder generally doesn’t provide enough power to effectively weld 1-mm metal – even if you pass several times over the material. In that case, you should know that a 230V unit will do the job just right.

Duty Cycle

Given in a percentage over 10 minutes, the duty cycle is the time your welder can operate before restarting. Concretely speaking, a welder with a 60% duty cycle can weld continuously for 6 minutes non-stop before it has to be restarted. In other words, it has to rest for at least 4 minutes before you can weld again.

Many people don’t realize that the quality of their weld can decrease once their machine has reached its duty cycle limit. Depending on the process you are using, the weld can become increasingly stiff and rough. If you notice a decrease in quality and flexibility, let your MIG welder rest for a few minutes.

Soldadores MIG

MAG welding is widespread and attractive due to its low cost, speed, and ease of use.
(Source: Doniyer Yakhshibayev: 115634345/ 123rf.com)

Safety Features

Any decent MIG welding machine should offer at least one safety mechanism or feature. These have been integrated to prevent abuse or longer use than your welder can provide. Overvoltage or overheating protection mechanisms will turn your tool off immediately when either one is detected. That way, you are safe at all times, and your welder doesn’t catch on fire.

Accessories

While they don’t directly affect the quality of your MIG welder, accessories are highly appreciated as they can save you a couple of bucks when you buy your machine. If you are still hesitating between two models after considering every criterion mentioned above, the accessories each comes with can be a real tiebreaker.

Summary

Metal inert gas welding is perhaps the most popular method of soldering, preferred by many veterans and beginners alike. They are easy to learn to use and work efficiently and cleanly; their high productivity rate greatly contributes to their popularity. However, you need to have the right machine to make the most of this method.

If you want to get the best possible results from your MIG welder, it is essential that you know what you can actually do with it. If you work in incompatible environments and with the wrong materials, your tool will become inefficient. Take the time to inform yourself as much as you can, and don’t forget to take the appropriate precautionary measures!

If you liked our guide on MIG welders and found it informative, feel free to share it with others on your social media. You can also leave us your opinion or any question you have in the comments section below, and we will be happy to get back to you!

(Source of featured image: Doniyer Yakhshibayev: 115634336/ 123rf.com)

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