First, some background. Thanks to a hamfisted grease monkey at Sears, I found out that my 87 CRX Si has some rust in the floorpans, and by "some" I mean A LOT! What I thought was good metal turned out to be good paint and undercoating hiding vast quantities of rust. After a lot of debate I just can't bring myself to send another 1g to the crusher and I've decided to patch the holes myself rather than pay someone else outrageous sums of money to do it for me. It's also a great excuse to buy cool tools, which is always a good thing.
Sooo, I've been doing a lot of research lately about buying welding equipment and I've pretty much settles on buying a new mig welder in the 130-180 amp range. I don't foresee ever needing the whole 180 amps as I doubt I'll ever weld anything thicker than 3/16". If possible I'd like to keep the initial cost down by getting one that will do flux core welding for this repair, and then upgrading it a real mig by buying the regulators/tank/gas later. Yes, I know this isn't ideal but few things in life are, and right now spending ~$400 looks much more attractive than spending ~$800.
This brings up 2 or 3 vital questions.
1) Can ANY welder, even the best ones, weld 22-24ga. sheet metal with .030" flux core wire? I know that it is supposed to penetrate deeper than solid wire so is this really possible for me to do or is it something that only an uber skilled welder could do? Or do I absolutely have
to use solid wire with gas mig to weld something that thin?
2) I already know that the cheapy low end welders can't do it because their lowest settings are too high, like 50-60 amps. What I'm wondering is... will units like the HH125/HH140 or Lincoln SP135/SP135T with 4 power settings be adequate if their lowest setting is ~30 amps? Or do I really
need the infinite power settings like the Miller unit has?
3) I know that Miller is the king and that Hobart and Lincoln also make good stuff, but are there other brands that make decent units in this range that cost a bit less? How much does quality/reliability/usability suffer relative to the price difference? What about brands like Clarke, Century, Thermal Arc, Chicago Electric, Astro, HTP, etc? Are any of them ok or are they all total crap? I respect your opinions so if you say they're crap I'll avoid them like the plague.
One more Q and then I'll leave you guys alone: Although I've found a couple of good threads and links from searching, websites and companies do change over time and get both better and worse, and new one pop up all the time, so can you guys offer any current advice about who/where to buy from and why you prefer certain brands or models? Thanks in advance for any and all comments and advice.
Edit: I know it isn't likely, but by chance does anyone within 2-3 hours of Raleigh NC have a mig welder they'd be willing to rent me for a not too kingly sum?
Modified by tjbizzo at 4:14 AM 10/26/2005