If you're like me and you actually enjoy working on cars, then having a fully equipped home garage would be a dream come true. Alas, for most of us, spending our life savings on Snap-on tools and heavy-duty equipment isn't a wise decision, but a great middle ground exists.
I've spent the better half of the decade slowly collecting tools and equipment to turn my two-car garage into a modestly equipped work area. There's no engine swap or mechanical problem I can't fix there. However, I've always been lacking in the welding department, and it's bit me more than a few times.
With the help of Miller, I armed myself with an excellent TIG-welding machine, the Diversion 180. So far it's been great to work with. However, I quickly learned that most quick and common weld jobs can be done much faster with a MIG welder. I did things somewhat backward and picked up a TIG before I had a MIG. Don't get me wrong; the TIG is ideal for stainless steel exhausts, aluminum work, or precise jobs where I can control the weld much better than with a MIG.
However, for almost all other jobs, a MIG, such as the Millermatic 140 Auto-Set welder, is the more practical choice. With this new tool in my arsenal, I was ready to get reacquainted with welding.
By no means do I consider myself a skilled welder; I'm far from that. I'm at an intermediate level, and the Millermatic 140 is ideal for me. It's also perfect for the first-timer because it has a really ingenious Auto-Set function that takes the guesswork out of setting voltage and wire speed. All you need to know is the thickness of the metal you're working with and what weld wire thickness you have.
I was a bit skeptical at first because with every other MIG I've tried I've had to test an area before welding to avoid being too hot and burning a hole or too cold and boogering it up. But, after a few passes with the Millermatic, it was spot on and my weld penetration looked great. The Auto-Set function is the real deal.
Now I weld with confidence and concentrate on the task at hand. It's really excelled my ability to produce strong and good-looking welds. If I get a bit overzealous and weld for too long, the Millermatic's built-in thermal overload protection shuts down the unit automatically if it overheats. That ensures I never ruin the welder with my eagerness to keep laying down beads.
My winter beater, an '87 BMW 528e, had some nasty rust spots I normally wouldn't tackle with metal; instead copious amounts of Bondo would have been used. With the Millermatic, I decided to see how well I could patch some holes, and to my surprise, after setting the metal thickness, I patched a bunch of spots and even replaced an entire rear section I wasn't confident about doing.
Quick exhaust jobs are now easier than ever. A friend needed his Subaru headers modified. "No problem," I said. Within 15 minutes I was finished.
Any seasoned welder will tell you that a welder isn't complete without a welding table to work on. At first, I had grand ideas of building my own welding table with my newly acquired Millermatic 140, but space in the garage is at a premium. A large, metal table would take up too much real estate, or so I thought.
Once again, Miller has a great solution. Its F-Series ArcStation is a portable, space-saving table that wheels around easily and folds up tightly. It's the ideal setup for a garage such as mine. Now, once I'm finished with it, I can simply tuck it away into a corner and get a second car into the garage (that's no easy feat).
Being a true welding table, the F-Series ArcStation has an X-pattern tabletop that allows clamps to easily slide in and out and help keep your materials in place. It's also sturdy enough to handle 500 pounds, so if you thought this thing was flimsy, it's not. Aside from the merits of owning the welder, this table has proved its worth as well. I'll never go back to welding on the garage floor again.
As you can see, with these two additions to the garage, my home-mechanic abilities have expanded tremendously. I'm ready to tackle more complex welding jobs and projects.
The dream garage, on the other hand, is not complete, and I'm already on the lookout for more tools. That's the problem: As soon as you add a new tool, you may need another one to complement it. I'm contemplating a plasma cutter and an industrial saw to cut and shape metal. The problem is, as in most DIY garages, I'm running out of space!
Patching rusty holes is easy with the Millermatic. Despite the thin sheetmetal, it controls voltage extremely well, resulting in a solid weld the very first time.
The Auto-Set function takes the guesswork out of welding. Just select your weld wire diameter and metal thickness, and you’re ready to weld.
Large, rusty holes such as this used to be hard to fix. With a welder, it’s suddenly become a day job in the garage.
Eye protection is key when it comes to welding, and an auto-tinting welding helmet is a must. Miller’s Digital Elite Series offers easy to use digital controls and a large viewing area allowing you to concentrate on welding and not what’s on your head.
Modifying exhaust systems like this Subaru WRX header to fit a Legacy is quickly and easily done with the Millermatic 140.
The F-Series ArcStation welding table is the best solution for any garage where space is at a premium. It folds up and tucks away with very little effort.
Miller 100 Series Spool Gun
If you want to weld aluminum with a MIG, then a wire spool gun is the recommended way to go because as opposed to a welder that feeds wire, a spool gun pulls from the roll and won't kink the soft aluminum wire, as is often the case when using a welder. With the gun, you'll spend more time welding than untangling a rat's nest of wire. The 100 Series spool gun is a quick-fit adapter to most Miller welders, so you will be up and running in no time.