Proper Storage of MIG Guns and Consumables
As with any piece of equipment in the shop or on the jobsite, proper storage and care of MIG guns and welding consumables are important. These may seem like rather insignificant components at first, but they can have a big impact on productivity, costs, weld quality and even safety.
MIG guns and consumables (e.g. contact tips, nozzles, liners and gas diffusers) that are not properly stored or maintained can pick up dirt, debris and oil, which can hinder gas flow during the welding process and lead to contamination of the weld. Proper storage and care is especially important in humid environments or on jobsites near water, such as shipyards, since exposure to moisture can lead to corrosion of welding guns and consumables — particularly the MIG gun liner. Proper storage of MIG guns, cables and consumables not only helps protect the equipment from damage, but it also improves jobsite safety.
Leaving MIG guns or consumables lying on the floor or the ground can lead to tripping hazards that can negatively impact worker safety. It also can cause damage to the welding cables, which could be cut or torn by workplace equipment, such as forklifts. The risk of picking up contaminants is greater if the gun is left on the ground, and can lead to poor welding performance and possibly a shorter life span.
It is not uncommon for some welding operators to place the whole MIG gun nozzle and neck into a metal tube for storage. However, this practice puts extra force on the nozzle and/or front end of the gun each time the welding operator removes it from the tube. This action can cause broken parts or nicks on the nozzle where spatter can adhere, causing poor shielding gas flow, poor weld quality and downtime for rework.
Another common storage mistake is to hang the MIG gun by its trigger. This practice will naturally change the activation point for the way the trigger level engages the switch. Over time, the MIG gun will not start in the same manner because the welding operator will have to pull the trigger progressively harder each time. Ultimately, the trigger will no longer function properly (or at all) and will require replacement.
Any of these common, but poor, storage practices can weaken the MIG gun and/or consumables, leading to poor performance that impacts productivity, quality and costs.
Tips for MIG gun storage
For proper storage of MIG guns, keep them out of the dirt; avoid hanging them in a way that could cause damage to the cable or trigger; and keep them in a safe, out-of-the-way location. Welding operators should coil the MIG gun and cable into as small of a loop as possible for storage — make sure it’s not dragging or hanging in the path of high traffic areas.
Use a gun hanger when possible for storage, and take care that the gun is hanging from near the handle and that the neck is in the air, as opposed to pointing downward. If a gun hanger is not available, coil the cable and place the MIG gun on an elevated tube, so that gun and cable is off the floor and away from debris and dirt.
Depending on the environment, welding operators may choose to coil the MIG gun and lay it flat on an elevated surface. When implementing this measure, make sure the neck is at the topmost vertical point after coiling the gun.
Also, minimize a MIG gun’s exposure to the atmosphere when it’s not being used for welding. Doing so can help keep this equipment in good working condition for longer.
Consumables storage and handling
MIG gun consumables benefit from proper storage and handling, as well. A few best practices can help to achieve a high-quality weld and maintain productivity.
Storing consumables, unwrapped, in a bin — especially nozzles — can lead to scratching that can negatively impact performance and cause spatter to adhere more readily. Keep these and other consumables, such as liners and contact tips, in their original, sealed packaging until they are ready for use. Doing so helps protect the consumables from moisture, dirt and other debris that can damage them and minimizes the opportunity to cause poor weld quality. The longer consumables are protected from the atmosphere, the better they will perform — contact tips and nozzles that are not stored properly can wear before they are even used.
Always wear gloves when handling consumables. Oil and dirt from the welding operator’s hands can contaminate them and lead to problems in the weld.
When installing MIG gun liners, avoid uncoiling the liner and letting it drag on the floor when feeding it through the gun. When that happens, any contaminants on the floor will push through the MIG gun and have the potential to impede gas flow, shielding gas coverage and wire feeding — all factors that can lead to quality issues, downtime and potentially, cost for rework. Instead, use both hands: Hold the gun in one hand and uncoil the liner naturally with the other hand while feeding it through the gun.
Small steps for success
Proper storage of MIG guns and consumables can seem like a small issue, especially in a large shop or jobsite. However, it can have a great effect on costs, productivity and weld quality. Damaged equipment and consumables can lead to shorter product life, rework of welds and increased downtime for maintenance and replacement.