A Beginners Guide to Welding Sheet Metal for a Camper

When you are putting together your campervan, welding will come up at some point because you will need to patch up some metal parts. Welding requires you to attach two metal components by melting them. In the instance of automotive repair, welding sheet metal using metal inert gas is the most appropriate choice.

However, it may be your first run at a MIG welder, and you may not know the best way to use the tool or how to approach the process. Learning some basics will get you started and save you money while at it.

What is MIG Welding?

This arc welding procedure involves inert gas, a constant feeding wire, and welding electrode. The inert gas used such as argon or CO2 prevents the welding puddle from getting contaminated by atmospheric gases like oxygen and nitrogen that can cause weakness in the weld.

You have to insert wire electrodes in the welding machine, and when you pull the trigger, it feeds the wire. MIG welding resembles stick welding because it requires the welder to use clamps to ground the pieces being welded.

With this welding technique, the machine feeds the wire continuously, which means that you don’t have to stop mid-process to switch out the spent electrodes.

For this reason, it is a faster way of learning how to weld sheet metal compared to others. It is also simple with fewer chances of messing up the project.

Butt Welding vs Lap Welding

The best way to weld sheet metal largely depends on your requirements and the material you are soldering on. A good number of production body shops use the lap welding method because it is quick. The issue with a lap weld is that the seal is not quite as tight, leaving room for moisture to accumulate, which results in rust.

Another consideration is that your camper will encounter a lot of vibrations when on the road, and those can cause flexing, which will lead to creasing of the lap welds.

On the other hand, butt welding may take a while to master, but it is the most appropriate when welding sheet metal. Butt welding requires you to attach the sheets side by side. These weld joints handle stress better than most other kinds.

The Process

Be careful about getting the right patch size to weld on the camper’s body. The secret of how to weld sheet metal is to ensure that the panels are an accurate fit and clean. Spray the backside of the panel you are using for patching with etching to avoid rusting. Place the sheet on the body and leave about 1/32” gap between the two surfaces. Use welding clamps or vice grips to hold the panel in place then wipe the surface with acetone to remove any contaminants.

Now, you can begin tack welding. To tack weld, set the wire on the exact position where you want to weld then pull the trigger of the MIG welder. Ensure that the wire speed is not too high to avoid spooling too much material. Space your tacks evenly on the panel then leave it to cool. Go back and weld tacks between the original ones. Then, you can start welding the beads, which should not be continuous because that will cause warping. You can start with beads of an inch each, and once they are complete, they will connect to a full weld.

Tips for MIG Welding

  • Find out which the best welder for sheet metal is because not every machine will give you satisfactory results.
  • Never forget to clean the metal (even the new one) when welding because even small particles from residue grease, oil or dirt will degrade the quality of the weld, making it weak.
  • Wear protective gear before you begin. Get the right welding gloves, goggle, earmuffs and a welding helmet. For a person who burns easily, sunblock is advisable.
  • Find out the correct sheet metal welding tools that are required for the processes. Besides the welder, in this instance, you need clamps, acetone, callipers, and body saw.

Read Also: How to Choose, Cut and Bend Sheet Metal for a Camper

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