Informational Guide

How To Set Up A Mig Welder

This guide shows you how to set up a MIG welder and the correct settings to ensure a job is done well.

As a beginner, it’s possible to get a reliable weld from your new MIG welder. However, you must set the correct parameters for the metal you are working with. We show you how to set up a MIG welder to ensure a job well done.

It doesn’t matter if you find the best MIG welder for beginners if you don’t know how to set a MIG welder up. Without learning how to set up a MIG welder for welding, you could end up with an ugly final product. Even worse, it could be fragile or brittle, thereby reducing the integrity and strength. We will help you find the optimal MIG welder settings for any project.

MIG Welder Setup Considerations


What type of metal & thickness will I be welding?

To learn how to set up a MIG welder with gas, you must first examine the metal you are using. Each type of metal alters the machine settings, gases used and electrodes needed. That's because each material has a different melting point. Additionally, it would be best if you considered the thickness of your material.

How will I prepare the joint?

Even if you know how to set up a MIG welder for stainless steel, your work will mean nothing if you don't prepare the joint properly. You must remove all of the oils, rust, dirt, paint, and other contaminants from the surface. Otherwise, you won't get a clean weld, and the setting might not provide an effective weld.

Do I have the right gas and electrode/filler wire?

Unless you want to learn how to set up a gasless MIG welder, you need to choose the right shielding gas and electrode. Carbon steel tends to use ER70s electrode, plus C25 gas (argon and carbon dioxide). Stainless steel welding often requires ER308L with C2 gas (argon and carbon dioxide), while you would want an ER4043 with aluminum and pure argon gas.

Important Parameters When Welding

Welding current

The welding current is the amount of electricity jumping across the arc gap between the metal and your electrode. This electric current is just a flow of electrons that can be adjusted to produce more heat and temperature.

Welding voltage

When welding with your MIG welder, you will almost always use DC power. With this voltage setting, the electricity is flowing from the metal to the welding handle, making the handle the positive end of the circuit. To change this setting, which you wouldn’t want to do, you would unbolt the internal leads and flip them. Simply put, the MIG machine isn’t designed to go the other way.

Wire electrode extension

The wire stickout is how long the unmelted wire extends past the contact tip end. This variable is essential because it controls how much resistance the electrode wire has before it ends up melted into the weld pool.

Arc travel speed

The arc travel speed highlights the rate at which the arc is moving across your workpiece. This setting will often be expressed as either inches or meters per minute. If you don’t have this set right, the weld could look bad or not be as strong as it needs to be.

How to Setup a MIG Welder (Most Important Considerations)

How to Set the Welding Current

Your material thickness determines the amperage you need. For example, you will need a different setting when learning how to set up a MIG welder for mild steel versus how to set up a MIG welder to weld aluminum. As a general rule of thumb, figure one amp of output for every 0.001-inch of thickness. For example, if you are working with 0.125-inch thick material, you will need 125 amps. You also need to choose the right wire size based on amperage. Here’s a handy guide as you learn how to set up a Lincoln 180 MIG welder.

welding current table
How to Set the Welding Voltage on a MIG welder

DC voltage is the only option when welding with a MIG machine. Your voltage determines how much penetration occurs, so you want to use the manual provided with your welder. If there isn’t a chart or manual available, you can adjust the voltage while welding to determine when the arc gets stubbed in the workpiece. Adjust the voltage level until the arc becomes disorganized and sloppy.

How to Set the Gas for MIG Welding

Unless you are learning how to set up a MIG welder without gas, this is an important step. Your gas flow rate setting regulates the gas transfer to protect your welding area from contaminants. The lower setting allows less gas out, which could result in porosity. Going higher might result in extra turbulence that can also lead to contamination. You will probably need to run some trial and error on scrap metal to find the right settings for your project.

How to Set the Wire Feed Speed

Wire feed settings determine just how fast your wire gets fed into the joint. You find settings are made by inches per minute or IPM. If you have the speed too high, it could create burn through, but when it is too slow, it creates an unstable arc. Overall, the faster you can feed the wire into the weld joint, the better contact it receives.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Do you need gas for MIG welding?

To weld without gas, you need a special type of welder. However, it’s not difficult to learn how to set up a MIG welder for flux core.

What kind of gas do you use for MIG welding?

Just like when using a TIG welder, you will use a mixture of gases to MIG weld. Your gas options include carbon dioxide, argon, oxygen, and nitrogen.

How do you adjust a welding regulator?

Turn the valve’s tank counterclockwise slightly to open it. Adjust the regulator until the gauge begins to register. You also want to open the torch valve on the handle until it stops moving.

Do you push or pull when MIG welding?

It depends on what you are working on. When you push weld, you see where you are going, whereas when you pull, you watch where you’ve come from. Pulling gives you the chance to see the bead at the moment it is created, which is what many welders prefer.

What power source is needed for GMAW MIG welding?

You will want a constant voltage, direct current power source with GMAW.

Where can I find a MIG welder setting chart?

It’s best to check the manufacturer’s website of the model you own for the best results.


Even if you purchase a cheap MIG welder, you can produce a solid product, as long as you use the appropriate settings. Take time to acclimate yourself with the right settings and practice until you get it right.