Trail welder for less than $100?

by Chris Lewis

Yes, it is possible for you to build your own 24-volt (dual automotive battery) trail welder for less than $100 using just a few common tools! Follow along as we show you how simple it really is! You'll be asking yourself why you didn't do this years ago!

A quick trip to the local Napa store netted us all the necessary parts to assemble our welder. Pictured here is 40' of #4 welding cable, a stinger, ground clamp and 4 side post adapter battery cable ends. A complete parts list with parts numbers is at the end of this article.

All the parts required.

All the tools required.

Here are all the tools it took to assemble our welder, a sharp shop knife to strip the insulation from around the welding cable, a quality solder with a paste flux and a propane torch.
This is the finished product. It's very simple and took less than an hour to assemble.

Step 1. Fold the 40' of #4 welding cable in half. Cut out a 2' length from the middle, leaving two 19' leads and the 2' jumper lead.

Step 2. Strip each cable end back about one inch.

Step 3. On the 2' jumper lead, solder a positive battery cable end to one end and a negative cable end to the other.

Step 4. Using one of the 19' leads, attach the welding stinger to one end, to the other solder on a positive battery cable end.

Step 5. Using the other lead attach the ground clamp and solder on the last negative battery cable end. Note: be sure to solder the marked (+ or -) battery cable ends on each cable as listed in these directions. This will aid you in hooking up your welder in the proper and SAFE manor.

Complete welder setup.

Trail welder setup in series.

Here is the finished welder attached to a pair of standard automotive Gel Cell batteries. When using automotive batteries as a power source, to batteries (24 volts) are needed to maintain an arc. To connect the batteries in series, the positive terminal of the first battery is connected to the negative terminal of a second battery using the 2' jumper cable. The lead with the stinger is connected to the remaining positive terminal and the lead with the ground clamp is connected to negative terminal on the second battery as shown in the picture. This creates 24 volts of electricity, sufficient for most trail repairs. Be VERY careful not to short circuit the stinger to the ground clamp. This will result in a dead short between the batteries and could lead to burns and cause the batteries to explode!
This Photo shows why it is important to attach the battery cable ends as outlined in the directions. As you can see the cable end is clearly marked with a positive symbol (+), and that it is hooked to the positive battery post. By doing it in this manor each cable end will be labeled with the proper terminals required to link your two batteries in series. Warning: Hooking two batteries together in series produces 24 volts. It is important to disconnect your vehicles 12-volt electrical system to prevent damage to electronic components and for SAFETY when using this type of welder.

Be sure to have proper ends welded in proper positions.

First weld produced using 6013 rod on 3/16" steel.

Even though were now accustom to welding with a wire feed welder, it took only a little practice to produce quality welds with good penetration using our new trail welder. If you're not an experienced welder, it may take some time to get used to welding with this set up. It is highly recommended you consult an experienced welder for tips. This photo shows one of our first practice beads using 6013 rod on 3/16" steel.
Here is our first attempt at welding two pieces of metal together. We purposely left a small gap between them that had to be filled in. This simulates many trail repairs that are often done in less than ideal situations.

As you can see we were able to fill in the gap and produce a solid weld. Look closely at he edge of the material above the bead; you can see how much penetration this weld gave us. Now breakage that once would have left us stranded is a thing of the past.

Simulated trail weld.

We've put together a bag of accessories to help us produce good welds on the trail. Here are a few suggested items for your "welding kit".

A full face welding helmet is important. While they are somewhat bulky (stay away from the smaller goggle style lenses) the protection they provide from the heat and radiation generated from welding is a must. Throw in a good pair of leather welding gloves too. A wire brush and a chipping hammer are also necessary. We've collected a variety of welding rods in a waterproof container, 6011 and 6013 in both 3/32 and 1/8 inch sizes. Also available are specialty rods to weld cast and even aluminum. It's a good idea to carry a little of everything just to be prepared.

It is important to stress safety while using a homemade welder. It is recommended that you remove your batteries from your vehicle while welding and cover them with something like a floor mat to shield you from possible battery explosions. If your welding rod sticks to your work while welding it dead shorts your batteries and will quickly begin to melt the entire circuit. Be aware of this and immediately release the rod from your stinger. You are responsible for your own safety and for the safety of those in the area when using this type of welder. BE CAREFUL AND RESPONSIBLE!!




#777-1430 WELDER GROUND CLAMP, $16.99

#777-1439 WELDING HOLDER "STINGER", $16.49 (on sale)

#1440-0134 6013 WELDING ROD

total cost after tax: $89.58

RockModified is not responsible for any damage or injuries occured. This article is meant to be an information guide, please do all the necessary research before attemtping something like this. Serious damage or injury may occur.

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