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Old 05-20-2010, 07:25 AM
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Aluminum Welding - Weld Prep

I recently bought an old (built in 1980) snowmobile trailer with an all aluminum frame. The wood floor has been removed and I need to do some aluminum repairs. A tree had fallen on it and bent some pieces and broke some welds, in addition to some that I assume broke from age/use.

I have a buddy with an aluminum welder he just recently purchased. He and I have done a fair amount of steel welding in the past, but neither of us has much experience with welding aluminum.

I know that one of the keys to good welding is to properly clean the metal before welding it.

In some areas I will have good access and will be able to grind to fresh metal. I know they make special grinding wheels for aluminum (don't clog as quickly) and I will probably get some of those. I have 4 1/2" and 7" grinders. Any suggestions on specific brands/models of wheels?

What about "flap discs". I would assume they would not clog nearly as much as a grinding wheel. Do they work well on aluminum? Suggested brand/model/grit flap discs?

Some places I will not have much access to. Are there chemicals that I can apply that will clean the aluminum and improve welding success? If so, what?

Would sand blasting work well? I normally use "Black Beauty", would it be a good for use on aluminum? Suggested air pressure?

Most of the aluminum is 1/4" but a few pieces of 1/8" will need to be welded to the 1/4". Primary concern is that the welds are strong(won't see most of them) if possible, would also like them to look good. Any welding tips?

Any tips on straightening bent aluminum? Heat? If so, how much, and how to tell how hot it is?

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Old 05-21-2010, 06:33 PM
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From what I understand, you'll want a virgin (uncontaminated) stainless steel wire wheel to prep the surface for welding. You'll need to weld pretty quick after prepping, as the aluminum will start to oxidize immediately...

Russ
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Old 05-21-2010, 06:38 PM
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the wire wheel will be your best freind
some grinding wheels leave behind material
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Old 05-21-2010, 07:15 PM
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Thanks for the replies.

What about the "flap discs"? Do they work well on Aluminum?

Any chemicals that would work well?
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Old 05-21-2010, 07:26 PM
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Aluminum welder????A mig or a tig?? Gas???? It matters for prep...
If you heat aluminun it'll bend easier but it'll bend back easier too ...for a trailer you should tie it down and bend it back up cold.... Or replace the bent pieces...But I'm not an expert ...Old Red is though....give him a Pm....
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Old 05-21-2010, 07:32 PM
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I will do the repairs with a MIG Welder that has an aluminum "spool gun."
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Old 05-21-2010, 07:34 PM
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I'm a welder/ fabricator for a living. aluminum likes to be clean. If your sanding media has a place to hide like in a crack then don't use it for weld prep. because those little bits will give you trouble. grinding wheels do leave a little behind but don't give you any real trouble other than a little bit of a dirty looking weld. flappers sanding pads or blending wheels work best and for tight spots use a die grinder. if your tig welding then give it a couple of cleaning passes by running the torch across the area to be welded before adding your rod. if mig welding don't be as worried about it since an aluminum mig weld is not as sensitive to contaminants. always weld aluminum downhill when in the vertical position with a mig gun. uphill with tig. be sure to research what kind of filler wire you will need. 4043 is on the softer side and 5053 is a bit harder and some say more likely to work harden and crack. no need to weld quickly after prep. the metal will not oxidize to the point of actually affecting the weld for months in the right conditions. aluminum bends easy with a porta power and a sledge hammer (soft head). any brand name flapper disc will do. good luck
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Old 05-21-2010, 07:38 PM
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I thought I had read/heard, that Aluminum in usually bent cold, but wanted to confirm that is the best way to do it.

Same buddy that has the welder also has a backhoe and I think I should be able to block up at two points then push down with backhoe to straighten. Won't be straightening anything with major bends/kinks. Just taking out some bows.
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Old 05-21-2010, 08:08 PM
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I would bend it cold. backhoe sounds like a great tool.
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Old 05-21-2010, 08:43 PM
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Yeah, i wish I had one ...make a good frame machine.too.
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Old 05-22-2010, 05:51 PM
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I use carbide cutters in a die grinder to prep aluminum for welding.
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