While most people think of welders fabricating pieces in a shop, there are other fields that welders progress their careers in. So what is mobile welding?
Mobile welding has many facets depending on the application, but it can be one of the highest paying ways to make a living in this business.
Generally, mobile welders will start out doing service calls in their local area. Emergency metal cracks and breaks will lead folks to call a mobile welder who can solve their problem with ease. We like to think of it as more of a “metal solutions” business than just strictly “welding”.
When a client has a metal problem that needs to be solved, a mobile welder becomes a problem solver for that client.
As a mobile welder, an engine driven machine is essential. You don’t want to rely on your clients power to finish the job. A Miller Bobcat or Lincoln Ranger can help you out a lot, whether mounted on a truck or a trailer.
These machines have multiple outlets for powering tools, and they provide a welding current while running off of gasoline. The 225 amp models (base models) can be purchased for about $4,000.
What Kinds Of Jobs Are We Talking About?
When I started my mobile welding business, I started off working on a lot of trailers, barns, fences etc.
Eventually it progresses into larger jobs with more money involved. Every job is different, and you gain knowledge as you acquire more clients.
The jobs listed below were some of my earlier calls when I started my business. The jobs were pretty simple, but they still required expertise and problem solving skills.
Metal preparation is essential, especially for mobile welders. You want to make long lasting welds that won’t crack months later. Some jobs are more essential in terms of safety precautions, because if your weld breaks then someone could get injured.
Removing paint, rust and mill scale will ensure that your welds are properly penetrating the base metal. Any contaminants can weaken the weld significantly. We like to use wire wheels and resin discs to remove unwanted material. Once you get down to raw steel, you can rest assured that your welds will be as strong as possible.
One of my first customers needed his trailer shortened for his air compressor. It was one of the larger Ingersoll Rand Industrial compressors. The tongue was too long and it was causing him problems on his job sites (he was a concrete guy).
Although this was a smaller job, he was very pleased that I got his trailer to the correct length. Now he could navigate crowded construction sites with ease.
The primary tools for this job were quite simple. Cutoff wheels used on an angle grinder were utilized to make quick work of chopping the extra material (that we wanted to get rid of).
6010 stick electrodes were used to tack the pieces together, and finally it was welded out with 7018 rods. I prefer stick welding for these types of jobs since they provide maximum penetration. I don’t want the welds to crack down the road – getting these calls from clients is really a bummer.
Hardwire MIG welds are more prone to cracking in some cases. Trusty stick electrodes really get the job done in situations like these.
When welding on trailers, try to make sure that the welds will last for the remainder of the trailers life. A matching coat of paint will prevent premature rust, so I always have some cans in my tool box.
One rain storm can cause your welds to start rusting, so having an assortment of paint is a great idea. Just make sure that the metal cools down before you apply the paint; hot metal will cause the spray paint to drip and bubble.
Trailer Jack Replacements
One really common problem we see is steel cracks on trailers. This is often on the trailer jack when it gets overloaded with too much weight. Cutting the old jack out and welding in a new one is a job that I have done for multiple clients.
Often times, these clients are contractors who use their trailer for their business just about everyday. They are willing to pay the price to get back on the road.
Another great way to make some cash is to work on heavy equipment repairs. There was a client who needed to fix the pin for his bulldozer. The pin carried so much weight that the end of it cracked and fell off.
For heavier repairs like this, I always make sure to preheat the steel and remove any paint/rust/oil from the piece.
I also welded out the crack on the left side, but I didn’t get a photo of it. I used 6010 rods for a rough “root pass” and then carried it out with 7018 rods.
Larger Job Example
This was one of the larger jobs I did in my first year of business. The townhome owner had hired a guy to fabricate a fence on the site. This involved setting posts and then adding channel and vertical pickets.
The original welder had been very unreliable and he wasn’t making any additional progress on the job. The homeowner hired me to carry out the rest of the project.
The original welder had set a few posts and added some steel channel, but the project was maybe only 10-15% finished. I bought the remainder of the additional material and carried the rest of the job out.
It took about 3.5 days in the middle of august (100 degrees). As miserable as it was at times, it was a great learning experience and the homeowner was quite pleased with the job.
Since all the welding was done on site, I had to paint the whole fence after it was completed. After several grueling days, the fence was done and it still holds up fine today.
Normally, this type of job would be done in a shop and then installed on site. Fabricating the whole fence on the property is a more unusual way of doing it, but it worked out pretty well.
These clients had a railing on their cat walk that needed some additional steel. Their grandkids liked to play out here and the openings were too big (which posed a safety hazard).
I added additional 5/8″ square tubing to the top and bottom openings. After this was completed, the railing looked more professional and posed less of a safety hazard. This was an all day job that was very profitable.
The clients said that they were going to match the paint for the additional steel that I added, which made my job easier.
Although MIG would have been an easier process for this job, I ended up using stick electrodes. Times like these can really call for a MIG machine since it is a quicker process, but sometimes you have to make due with what you have.
While all mobile welding jobs are different, many require the same set of skills. You never know what a potential client might need, but as your skills progress you will be able to tackle most jobs that come your way.
Fabricating in a shop requires specific knowledge and tricks of the trade – the same goes for pipeline work.
Mobile welding is a niche that requires the welder to be a problem solver. No one is going to fit the pieces up for you, you have to know what to do – completely on your own.
The work load is also more inconsistent than other fields of welding. You may not get a call for a week, and then the next week you might land a big job. As word spreads, you’ll become known as the reliable mobile welder in your specific area. Word of mouth spreads must faster than any form of advertising.
Some pipeline welders even do mobile jobs on the side. Since they already have their equipment ready to go, they can do side jobs for extra cash. Once you have your welder and tools, the possibilities are endless when it comes to the kinds of jobs you’ll do.
Thanks for reading.
Featured image credit : Pikist.com