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Aluminum Wheel Welding

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  • Noel
    replied
    Originally posted by wdmack View Post
    Im a Newbie in both ways "site and welding" , I own a auto repair shop and have always repaired and fixed some bent wheels, lately the guy that welded them for me is just to busy so here I am. I bought a 190 Hobart with spool gun and have welded a few fine but occasionally sometimes I weld one it almost like it just runs from one side you are welding , I know the difference between forged and cast, learned that quickly when straightening them. Is preheating aluminum a necessity , also someone told me about using a piece of cooper under the weld, I don"t get this. Could you guys drop me some tips. Using straight Argon and aluminum wire. Thanks for all the info you guy's can share.
    When I was a kid, they had this toy.
    You filled it up with play dough, pushed the handle and out squeezed a shape.

    Years later, I tour an Aluminum Company that manufactured extrusions.
    There's this guy, sitting at a machine. One end a crane has set a 20 foot by 10 diameter round continuous pour noodle of Aluminum. The Aluminum is gripped and fed into a circumferential natural gas fired furnace which bring the Aluminum up to a temperature state in the plastic range of deformation. Pushed through at this temperature it's fed into one die, then another, possibly another until it's into it's final shape rolled out hot on to the conveyer to cool.

    A while later I toured a Cast Iron foundry. They poured liquid metal into a boxed mould. A few minutes or so pass and they break the mould to reveal a red hot pattern. Then they scrape the remaining sand away, place it on another mould in a press and squish. Still surprisingly hot it's removed and set aside to cool.

    The welding process isn't the problem.
    The elephant in the room is concerns for mechanical and chemical properties... as I see it?

    Personally, I'd have no problem welding one up and my selection on process GTAW or GMAW would be one of economics for the repair, knowing they both will apply sound metal if properly set and a proper filler metal is selected meeting or exceeding the existing mechanical or chemical properties.
    That said, if I was stuck for a ride in an emergency, I'd stick weld the sob to fix it.

    No, you shouldn't need preheat.
    But guys will. Especially if the machine is too small for the job....or on the edge. Or to reduce current requirements possibly?

    Weld stringers. When the material heats up enough to cause the stringers appearance to change stop. While you could cool with air, a lot will depend on the operator, his machine settings, and the process used, if or how often or for how long this may be required regardless of process too control heat input. Usually however, it's take a moment, take a breath, admire you skills and run another stringer.

    You mention a piece of copper. I'm sure that suggestion was for supporting the molten aluminum during welding as well a chilling strip for heat control. Problem is copper will alloy with aluminum. You could find it welded in place if it's to thin to dissipate heat...?

    Getting back to my toy story in the beginning. I remember when I first squirted Aluminum wire out of a Cobra head gun hooked to a New Miller invertor. After putting it through the paces I ran a 6" bead along the edge of 10 ga., stopped, lifted my helmet. When the sales man asked me what I thought I said, "as easy as squirting out play dough".

    I'm not going to suggest I'm the expert on Aluminum wheel repairs. But it's my contribution to the conversation I hope it helps?



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  • aametalmaster
    replied
    I started on boat motors, props also. We had a local boat dealer who brought my dad parts to fix. He got tired of it and I took over. He started in '67 with a then new Westinghouse power source and WestingArc spool gun. Then we got a Miller 200 and Spoolmatic spool gun...Bob

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  • FusionKing
    replied
    Originally posted by aametalmaster View Post
    I grew up in the Firestone 500 days with the first radials that came apart. I have been welding alum wheels with a mig for more than 38 years. It might not be the preferred way but I have perfected it and have had zero problems. That's all I am saying...Bob
    I wrote a really long post about using mig for this and other cast, and how I used to do it all the time at other shops.
    I even mentioned You as an example!
    But when I clicked "post reply".....all that came up was those 2 lines (post #20)
    I'm not sure what I did wrong there
    But I was saying (to myself I guess) is you get into using a process and you have to gain the experience to perfect your craft. I began welding aluminum with mig 39 years ago on outboard motors and fishing boats. They weren't the best looking jobs but they held and people used me.
    About 21 years ago I switched slowly over to tig. It was much easier for me so I stuck with it.
    The best thing mig on cast parts has going for it, is that it is electrode positive. Tons of cleaning action going on there.

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  • aametalmaster
    replied
    I grew up in the Firestone 500 days with the first radials that came apart. I have been welding alum wheels with a mig for more than 38 years. It might not be the preferred way but I have perfected it and have had zero problems. That's all I am saying...Bob

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  • FusionKing
    replied
    I think the thing (that Portable was getting at) was the difference between using mig or tig, and knowing how, when you tig, you see all the junk float out as you are welding VS trapping all that crud inside the weld with a mig weld...

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  • MAC702
    replied
    I think the connection was the danger of a tire or wheel failure, not that welding on the wheel will cause a failure in the tire. It is possible that welding a leaking wheel can make things worse. It's also possible that it can fix it permanently.

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  • Silverback
    replied
    Somehow I never saw the reply to this years ago, and was searching for something else and ran across this thread, but I'll take the time to reply to the comment on my previous reply:

    Originally posted by Portable Welder View Post
    Silver back, I don't agree with you, Back about 12 years ago, Ford Motor company had a problem with tires blowing out.

    If I remember correctly it was the Ford Expedition and I think Fire Stone tires,
    ( Someone please correct me if I'm wrong. ) and they had a issue with tires blowing out and the truck rolling over, It just so happens that my neighbors mom died in one of the roll overs.
    And? What's your point? You didn't make a connection to anything I said.

    Yes, Firestone tires were blowing out (on Explorers not Expeditions), and Firestone took a lot of heat for it. Ford not so much because they ended up offering to replace the tires. In the end, it was a great example of what the sensationalism of the media added to people's ignorance can do.

    The problem was that Ford specified a lighter duty tire for the vehicles to get a more car-like ride, and as designed they were OK, at the recommended inflation pressure the firestone tires had the load capacity that was needed for the vehicle. The problem is that that vehicle was right in the middle of a market segment that is chronically, almost criminally stupid WRT to maintaining their vehicles, and it was shown that what was happening was that people were driving around at critically low tire pressures, where the tires did not have the safety margin that a heavier duty tire would.

    One thing that could be considered a secondary problem was that Ford built the Explorer on the old Bronco II chassis, which was I believe the second most likely chassis to tip over at the time (I know that the S-10 blazer was the most likely), and when they did it they stuck a bigger, heavier body on that chassis, potentially making it more dangerous, again, in a market segment that typically does not pay attention to these things.

    The problem that this points out is that there is no personal responsibility in this society anymore, and there definitely is no telling someone that your daughter, wife, mother did something stupid (didn't maintain her car, didn't check tire pressure/fill tires) and is now dead because of her negligence, even if that is the truth.

    Yes, Firestone paid a big price especially in reputation for something that they had no real part of, they can't really enforce how their customers use their products, but I don't know that this directly applies to this conversation, and has less to do with my comment even though your response was directed at me.

    Since it doesn't sound like your a very experienced welder when it comes to dirty aluminum, This might not be the best topic for you to give advise about.

    Regards:
    And you assume this why? If nothing else it's a pretty rude statement without knowing more about me, and I don't see anything in my comment that could give you any indication one way or another.

    FWIW, at the time I was doing side work welding up damaged cylinder heads for a machine shop which I got because my work was much better than what they were managing internally and I did it faster, as well as some wheel modification/repair for a local wheel shop when they saw what I had done with a couple of sets of my wheels and we talked about it and my work was better quality with half the turn around than the machine shop they were using for that work at the time (2 different machine shops).

    No, I wouldn't say that I'm the most experienced, besides those 2 stints I have largely avoided this kind of work, but I'd bet that I'm more experienced than a lot of people in this conversation, having specifically welded a lot of dirty aluminum doing both of those tasks.

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  • Portable Welder
    replied
    Silver back, I don't agree with you, Back about 12 years ago, Ford Motor company had a problem with tires blowing out.

    If I remember correctly it was the Ford Expedition and I think Fire Stone tires,
    ( Someone please correct me if I'm wrong. ) and they had a issue with tires blowing out and the truck rolling over, It just so happens that my neighbors mom died in one of the roll overs.

    Since it doesn't sound like your a very experienced welder when it comes to dirty aluminum, This might not be the best topic for you to give advise about.

    Regards:

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  • Silverback
    replied
    Getting back to the original question:
    - I don't think that this is as big a deal as people make it out to be. Unless you're piecing together stuff that's thoroughly hammered, typically what comes in is something that was usually driveable and leaking, if it didn't let go completely, it' snot going to after you weld it. The bigger issue is to get it clean and find the whole deal that needs to be repaired.
    - I don't see why MIG with a spool gun is _that_ bad. Most multi piece wheels that are welded were welded using mig... I suppose that they are intrinsically unsafe???

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  • FusionKing
    replied
    Oh man do I ever hear ya!
    When I do gas tanks I get really pricey. If they don't wanna pay for my pickyness they can simply leak fuel. Or buy a new factory tank.
    Heck, the place I use for metal and braking won't even sell me anything if they know for sure it's on a fuel tank. They suspect but don't ask.
    And it's a cash only no receipts deal too. Plus I have THE correct insurance for the job. Not gonna test it.....no way no how.

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  • Portable Welder
    replied
    Fusion King, Very well said.

    I sometimes work on really big gas tanks that hold about 13,000 gallons.

    Its for a company that rents Pumps, tanks, filter boxes, Etc., I never know what one of their customers may have put in one of these tanks so I treat every one as if gasoline has been stored inside.

    Just the other day I was in their yard and they said, can you cut off a plate on a 3" nipple welded to the tank and put a new nipple on, I said, not today, so I opened the port hole doors and brought in my 12" blowers that pump fresh air inside which change the air out every 60 seconds, I'm not talking about a window box fan either, these are blowers with 20' hoses that pump outside air in.

    Here another scenario, If a inexperienced guy tries to do this and he puts the fan inside the tanker, the sparks from the fan motor can cause it to blow up, Its knowing things like this which is required so you don't kill yourself and others.

    Not to mention going another step farther because this is an over flow pipe which is about 30' long so I take a argon tank inside the tanker and slip my argon hose 20' inside the pipe to make sure the pipe is purged before making the cut.

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  • FusionKing
    replied
    I follow you.
    But as far as liability goes....when welding a fuel tank, chances are you're only gonna blow your own head off. Unless someone is gonna hang around and watch. (I don't usually let many jobs get done while people wait).
    Trailers and trailer hitches are dangerous things that only get worse from the day you make them. There are other things as well, such as steering components on about anything. Sending something out of control that weighs thousands of pounds into oblivion is a liability nightmare.
    Welding a wheel isn't as big of a deal as many people make it out to be. When they come to you, all the customer knows is it doesn't hold air. I have been in the tire biz more than once. Worst case scenario is it leaks still. It's not gonna fly to pieces unless you are making it worse than it was and the guy who mounts the tire is dumb enough to let it out the door.
    Every time a tire shop patches a tire they are assuming the same risk.
    If you weld a wheel and it is fine, yet a year later for some other reason a tire on that wheel blows, and that wheel has obviously been welded....it could be your a$$!!!
    Welding is SERIOUS BUSINESS when you do it for money. If you are going to be in the welding business you better KNOW exactly why things broke and how they can fail after you repair them. Or else you can expect to have your butt sued off sooner or later.
    Understanding metallurgy, components and why they fail, insurance liability, combined with how ignorant the general population is..... all in a days work for any welding shop.
    These are some of the reasons why so many of us "old guys" on the forum have a reputation for being grouchy and seemingly negative towards less experienced people at times. Not always trying to be unfriendly. Simply trying to open people's eyes to the obvious dangers, to us, that the average person would never think of. Then there are things that seem dangerous and scary that we have to deal with on a regular basis. Things like basics of electrocution, working with acetylene and oxygen, pressure checking. If these things aren't treated with as much respect as the topics we are discussing here, you can be just as dead as welding a gas tank.
    IMO welding has become much much more commonly dangerous since all the welding machine companies have made so many low priced, light duty machines that makes everyone think welding is easy. All over America it is a DIY society.
    Welding is cool and trendy these days. But because of that, many things are taking place that probably shouldn't.
    I'm sure there are building contractors out there seeing the same trends in their trades as well. Anywhere you shortcut the basics of formal occupational education you're gonna have this.
    Just my opinion from my experience and observations and it is subject to change with time.

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  • Synchroman
    replied
    Originally posted by FusionKing View Post
    aaahhhhh......welding fuel tanks.
    You just had to bring that up didn't ya
    Yes, I couldn't resist. I used to be a safety consultant for a large workers compensation insurance company. I had many accounts to visit to set up safety programs and do mock OSHA inspections. Some of the accounts were weld shops. One of them was a company that was very old. It was so old that they had a carbide/water generator outside in a shed. It generated acetylene that was piped to a manifold where the weld stations were. That's old.

    Anyway, they had an accident when they were welding an old fuel tanker truck, the kind that only had two axles. There was a leak in the side and when the welder touched it with his torch, the side blew out of the rear of the tank. Apparently there was a compartment inside into which fuel had leaked. He wasn't killed but it was a serious accident with some burns.

    I also had a British Matchless motorcycle tank welded once when I was a kid in Chicago. The welder filled it with water and left the cap off. The instant that he used a torch on it, it blew a flame out of the cap straight up that sounded like a stick of dynamite. The flame shot about 20 feet in the air and it was hair-raising for sure. After that, he finished the job with no further problems.

    So much for welding fuel tanks. I've tossed a few Harley tanks that had bad cracks in them. It's not worth it.

    I'm well awre that many people on this forum are expert welders and have probably welded fuel tanks and worse. I'm only talking about my experiences and what I won't do. I guess that tanks can be welded safely, but there's always that one time that something happens, if you catch my drift.
    Last edited by Synchroman; 07-20-2014, 06:12 PM.

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  • FusionKing
    replied
    aaahhhhh......welding fuel tanks.
    You just had to bring that up didn't ya

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  • Synchroman
    replied
    Originally posted by wdmack View Post
    Portable , Did not try to come off wrong and sorry if I did, the strength issue you bring up is definitely a concern to me, I certainly would not want to cause harm to anyone or end up in prison. I actually will rewrite my release statement with the strength line addressed, I am sure you no the liability in anything us hardworking stiff's face everyday, sure don't want anymore "liabilty". Have a good one.
    There would be no prison for a failed weld. It would possibly be a civil matter which would bring up the issue of negligence. That is, you had a duty to do the work properly, you failed in that duty and it caused foreseeable damages or personal injury to the user of the wheel. In negligence, there is no intent to harm a person, just the breach of a duty which results in damage or injury. The penalty for negligence would generally be money damages. That's a good reason to be incorporated in a small business.

    That said, there are at least two things that I won't weld anymore. One of them is a fuel tank. The other one is a wheel. There's just entirely too much risk on either of them.

    If I had a cracked aluminum wheel ( I have had a couple of them) I'd go to a wreckng yard or to a dealer for another one. Too much risk for me.

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