A Beginner’s Guide To Using A MIG Welder

A Beginner’s Guide To Using An MIG Welder

If you want to take up welding, you will need to consider the type of activity and purpose you want to try. Most welding machines can make most joints in metal, but some machines get the job done more efficiently.

A MIG welder is the most versatile of the lot, and you can use it for several purposes. You can use a MIG welder to weld thick steel pipes or thin gauge sheet metal. An experienced person can easily achieve smooth and beautiful welds with this machine whereas an amateur can also get a decent weld out of it.

How Does It Work?

MIG welders are simple enough to use. All you have to do is plug in the cord, crank up the gas shield and get to work. MIG welders use a machine to feed a wire through a contact tip into the gun.

MIG welding.

The tip is electrically charged and efficiently transfers welding current into the wire, which establishes an arch between the base metal and wire. An inert gas is often used and flows out the nozzle to shield the welding process from the environment. There are many modes metal transfer including:

  • Spray transfer
  • Short circuit
  • Globular transfer

How To Use A MIG Welder

Using a MIG welder isn’t as complicated as most people assume, here’s how you can use the machine correctly:

Step 1: Prepare The Welding Area

First things first, you need to prepare the area to be welded in. Clean the surface and remove all flammable materials. You can put the ground connection on the piece you are working on at that time.

Some shops have a large metal workbench where you can hook up the ground connection. If you are working in your garage or somewhere with people around, set up welding curtains to protect others from UV damage.

If there are other people present, set up welding curtains around the work area, which will protect them from UV damage.

Step 2: Install The Wire

Ensure you are using the same wire type as the material you are welding. If you are welding stainless sell, use the same cable. There are two main types of wires for steel welding: this includes AWS ER70S-3and AWS ER70S-6. While AWS ER70S-3 is an all-purpose wire, AWS ER70S-6 is suitable for welding dirty and rusty steel.

The latter is more economical compared to the two, and you can use it for all types of steel welding. Also, vary the diameter of the wire based on the thickness of metal you are welding. Use thicker wires for thick metals and thin wires for lighter metals.

Step 3: Preparing The Reel

The next step involves preparing the reel. To prevent the wire from unraveling due to its tension, tighten the tension on the reel.

Ensure the first 3 inches of the wire is as straight as possible to avoid damage and tangles on the line feeder.

Trim the wire accordingly, using a wire cutter. Now, insert the wire and feed it to the roller. If you need to resort to force, the wire is probably not aligned correctly.

Ensure the wire is free of grease and rust, or else it will result in bad welds.

Reel of a MIG welder.

Use a clean cloth to get rid of any dirt and debris from the wire. If you leave the wire in the welder for extended periods of time when it is not in use, it can become rusty.

Once you insert the cable into the liner, switch on the welder and use the wire feed mechanism to push the wire through the machine.

Step 4: Adjust The Tension

The next step involves adjusting the tension. Too much pressure can cause the mounting to bend, causing damage to the welder. Don’t forget to check the tension on the reel as well. The tension should be as minimum as possible for both.

Step 5: Making The Weld

It’s finally time to get welding. Ensure the welding machine’s polarity to DCEP. Once you start welding, make sure the electrode length is consistent. Extend the electrode between 1/4″ and 3/8″ from the contact tube, which will result in a regular, clean weld.

Also, ensure you are using the right shielding gas. While carbon dioxide is an economical choice and provides deeper penetration, it may not be suitable for thin metals. Select the shielding gas according to the metal. You can start welding the joint using the push or drag welding technique. Ensure the angle does not exceed 10 degrees for both the methods.

Also, ensure the wire is at the front edge of the welding pool, which will offer you more control. Keep the nozzle clean to prevent spatter from building up. Once you have done with the welding process, grind off excess filler.

What’s The Difference Between MIG And TIG Welding?

Wondering what the difference between MIG and TIG Welding is? The major difference is that in one of the processes, you use long welding rods and insert it inside the welding puddle (TIG) while in the other process, the motor feeds the wire into the machine.

Both types of welders use an electric arc to make the weld. MIG welders work by continuously feeding the spool. It causes both the base metals to fuse together. You can use it to weld many different materials including mild steel, aluminum, and stainless steel.

TIG welding is best suited for thinner gauge materials when you are making things like tool boxes and kitchen sinks.

TIG welding vs MIG welding.

You can also use TIG for pipe welding and other heavy duty tasks, ensure the unit you are using is capable of supplying just the right amount of power you need. While the TIG is a more versatile machine and you can use it for welding together different types of metals. The only drawback is that it is slow.

However, if you are planning on taking up some welding projects at home, a MIG welder is a better choice.

Why MIG Welding?

The reason why most experienced welders choose MIG welders over TIG or stick welding options is that you can use it on nearly all types of materials. Whether it is thick carbon steel, aluminum – you name it. Another advantage is that for this method, the self-shielding wire does not cost too much.

The simplicity of the process results in precise control. Additionally, the auto-feed wire makes it easier for users to clean the welds. You also don’t have to worry about changing the brush or rods to remove grime, which saves plenty of time and effort, boosting productivity

Different Types Of Gases Used For MIG Welding

Gas is what makes the MIG welding possible; this is why it is known as metal inert gas welding.

The primary purpose of the gas is to shield the weld from the air. However, when you add carbon dioxide and oxygen to the mixture, it is no longer termed as MIG welding anymore because of these gases are not inert in nature. The process then becomes gas metal arc welding.

The most common gases and mixtures you can use for this purpose are:

  • 98% Argon and 2% Carbon Dioxide
  • 95% Argon and 25% Carbon Dioxide
  • ​100% Argon
  • 100% Carbon Dioxide

Here are some basic guidelines regarding choosing the proper gas:

For Welding Carbon Steel

For welding carbon steel, we recommend you use Carbon Dioxide alone. The gas has the capability to produce the deepest degeneration, resulting in the best results. The most common mixture used is C25: this consists of 75% Argon gas and 25% Carbon Dioxide gas.

You can also opt for other mixtures that work well. You can easily find these gas mixtures in welding gas supply stores in your neighborhood.

For Welding Stainless Steel

When it comes to welding stainless steel, we recommend you use a mixture of 98% Argon and 2% Carbon Dioxide. Some people like to use tri-mixtures that consist of 2.5% Carbon Dioxide, 7.5% Argon and 90% Helium. You can find the mixture readily available in most welding stores.

For Welding Aluminum

For welding aluminum, we recommend you use Argon alone. However, if the aluminum you are using has a diameter thicker than ½ inch, consider adding Helium to the mix for best results. Argon works well on its own like most exotic metals including:

  • Magnesium
  • Nickel
  • ​Copper Alloys
  • ​Titanium
  • Nickel Alloys

Welding Methods And Techniques

Depending on the job, you can use a variety of different techniques as far MIG is considered. Here’s your essential guide to some of the most popular welding methods:

Flat Position Welding

Flat position welding.

Flat position welding is one of the simplest techniques. It requires you to push the MIG gun straight down so that the gun is leaning towards a 35-degree angle.

Consider using a high voltage setting that will make the machine run fast.

You will need to adopt a steady motion.

However, any pattern will work fine just as long as the weld penetrates. If you are a newbie, consider cranking up the machine as high as you possible, which will ensure the weld penetrates.

Vertical Down Welding

Vertical down welding is another simple technique that you can quickly try. Start working from the top and work your way towards the bottom, tilt the MIG gun at an angle between 35 and 45 degrees. Use this trick: continue moving the electrode in a side to side motion or else the weld may not penetrate at all. Ensure you stay ahead of the puddle, no matter what pattern you use.

Vertical Up Welding

Vertical up welding is probably the most difficult of all the MIG welding techniques. For vertical up welding, point the gun at an angle between 35 and 45 degrees. To use this method, you will need to construct a shelf of the weld and then work your way upwards. This type of weld is usually convex.

Quick tip, if you want to become a pro at this technique, consider grinding a small groove where you will be welding. Experts exclaim this position is one of the worst and will cause the weld to look wrong, regardless of your viewing angle.

Horizontal Position Welding

Horizontal welding is another challenging technique which may be difficult to master. For this method, you will need to point the MIG gun upwards between 35 to 45 degrees while tilting the gun to 15 to 35 degrees in the same direction of the weld.

Be careful of overlapping when the when the weld is rolling over. Circles and whipping work best for this techniques. Since horizontal position requires a lot of skill, you cannot crank up the machine to compensate for the lack of ability.

Overhead Welding

This type of welding requires you to tilt the MIG gun to 5 to 35 degrees in the direction of the weld. With overhead welding, there is bound to be some spatter falling, so you will need to keep the sparks under control, so they do not harm you in any way.

Tuck in your sleeves safely while using all these methods or else you can end up with melted metal on your sleeves that can potentially burn your elbow.

Tips For Using A MIG Welder

Here are some important tips you should keep in mind while using a MIG welder:

Conduct Proper Research Before Setting Up Your Equipment

Similar to any other high powered machine, it is essential you do proper research before using or setting up the MIG welder. Ensure you contact a reputable filler metal manufacturer and ensure you use right methods according to the particular wire you have.

MIG welding parameters.

Contacting a professional will guarantee you know what the recommended parameters are. The manufacturer will also provide you relevant information about the best use of the particular wire and what electrode extension is best suited for the job.

Ensure You Use The Right Contact Tip Recess For The Welding Process

Using the right contact tip is essential if you want to achieve the best MIG welding results. Welding is a challenging task and matters can get worse if you don’t use the right contact tip. You need contact tips for transferring welding current into the wire. The current the passes through the bore and creates an arc.

The contact tip recess refers to the direction of the contact tip inside the nozzle. The contact tip recess is equally important and can reduce the risks of excessive splatter and accidents when working with thinner materials.

Best Manufactures For MIG Welders

When it comes to purchasing the right MIG welder, we suggest you choose from some of the best manufacturers to ensure you get the best value for your money. Some of the top brands in the welding industry include:


Hobart Welders have been around for ages and are known for producing the best line of industrial quality of welders including MIG welders, engine driven welders, spot welders, TIG welders and much more. Whether you’re a farmer, a DIY enthusiast or work in the auto repair industry, you, won’t be disappointed with the classic Hobart MIG Welder.

Lincoln Electric

Lincoln Electrics was founded back in 1895 and have ever since been able to transform themselves to become the world leaders in the world of design and development. They are also known for manufacturing some of the best welders.

Headquartered in Cleveland, the company manufacturers the best MIG welders, oxyfuel cutting equipment, robotic welding systems and lots more. Professional recognize MIG welders all over the world. From the beginning, Lincoln Electrics have excelled in the world of welding consumables and quality equipment.

Miller Electric

Founded in 1929, Miller Electrics has grown into one of the world’s largest manufacturers of cutting and welding equipment. The company grew from one-man operation to a global brand.

Miller keeps the tradition alive by manufacturing the highest quality, most reliable products in town. Miller Electric’s MIG Welders are known to be some of the best in the industry. If you are in search of genuine products, you won’t be disappointed with MIG Welders.


Forney’s Industries is one of America’s best metal working and welding product companies. If you’re confused about purchasing the right tools from the job, you can seek advice from the business, and they will help you out through their “Ask Forney” initiative. The brand was founded back in 1932 and has been doing well ever since.

Different types of MIG welders.

Safety Tips When Using MIG Welders

When it comes to welding, you need to be careful about taking the right precautions, or it could lead to dangerous accidents such as severe burns, explosions or blindness. Welding safety is universal, and you should give it utmost importance. However, some jobs may require you to wear additional equipment.

The first step to protecting yourself is to read the instructional manual carefully and follow the safety guidelines posted by the manufacturer. Below are some important safety tips you should keep in mind while welding:


Wearing the right welding clothes is important if you want to protect yourself. Wear loose fitting clothes that won’ get caught up in the equipment or expose your skin to dangerous sparks. Loosely rolled up sleeves can ignite if you’re not too careful. Always wear safety gloves, clothing and welding helmets that are flame resistant.

Welding aprons and jackets are additional clothing that offers protection again accidental burns. Also, don’t forget to pay attention to proper foot protection. Opt for specialized boots that are resistant to sparks. Using ear plugs is a good idea for particularly noisy jobs.


Welding is a process that emits toxic fumes which can be hazardous to your health. Welding in confined spaces can cause difficulty in breathing and can lead to detrimental outcomes, which is why you should consider investing in a good ventilation system. Invest in an exhaust hood so you can freely breathe when working in closed spaces.

Also, keep in mind that some metals materials give off toxic fumes when exposed to the heat created during the welding process.

Welding Location

For safety reasons, ensure your working area is free of clutter or any flammable materials. Also, ensure the floor isn’t damp, so you don’t end up tripping. Don’t use the welder in areas that you are using for woodworking as sawdust can get caught in unexpected places and can ignite or create a spark.

The same goes for carpets, rugs and old rags, so be careful. Keep fire extinguishers on hand to ensure you are ready to handle the situation in case of any emergency. Also, make sure you have essential tools for the task at hand.

Consider investing in a custom specialized welding table for the job. Some people like to work in the middle of their shops, away from messy storage items and tools. To eliminate the risks of tripping, consider using wire feeders that are mounted. Stay safe!


The old fashioned helmet is an essential safety gear that comes in handy during all kinds of situations. Enjoy, you have a helmet that is best suited for the job. The helmet should fit your head properly and be of just the right size.

Man using a welding helmet.

Wearing somebody else’s helmet is not a good idea and can prove to be risky. Ensure the head-piece meets the ANSI standards and is suited for the welding job.


Hopefully, this guide has offered you all the information you need regarding a MIG welder. For more details about choosing the best product, check out our handy buyer’s guide that also contains a list of some of our favorite picks.







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