When parts break, they rarely break inside of a garage or workshop. This makes a portable welder a very valuable tool. When choosing the best portable welder, select a design that allows both a shielding gas as well as flux core wire welding. Also, pick a model with the highest amperage rating that fits within the proposed budget. This will allow for the greatest range in welding materials.
Portable welders are most common in the Metal Inert Gas (MIG) configuration. These are commonly referred to as "wire welders" due to their use of a roll of wire in place of traditional welding rods. The modern portable welder is light and compact, as well as easy to take into the field to perform repairs.
A portable welder using a shielding gas will leave a finished weld which requires no action to clean and dress it. The weld bead will have a very smooth appearance and will be void of any contaminates. A welder utilizing a flux core wire and no shielding gas will require the slag to be chipped from the weld. The flux core acts in the same manner as a shielding gas to remove contaminates from the weld.
Shielding gasses are comprised primarily of carbon dioxide and argon gasses. There are many different compositions, depending on the use the portable welder is intended for. The welding wire is also available in different diameters and compositions, depending on its intended usage.
Portable welders can often be operated on either 115 volt or 230 volt power supplies. The latter typically involves a generator to produce the needed operating current, while the 115 volt versions can often be run from a power inverter installed on a vehicle's charging system. This makes the 115 volt version a bit more versatile.
When choosing a portable welder, decide on what types of repairs it will be used for. While the MIG welders are very useful for repairing mild steel and sheet steel, some repairs such as aluminum and chromium-molybdenum (chrome-molly) steel require a tungsten inert gas (TIG) welder for proper repair. Fortunately, there are portable welders that come with TIG capabilities.
Portable welders are usually easy to operate, and most operators are able to achieve quality welds with a minimal amount of instruction and supervision. These welders can be used for repair as well as production of equipment and materials both in and outside of conventional repair locations. Portable welders can be a valuable and affordable option to the work place.