Work enough jobs and you’ll eventually encounter broken construction equipment. And no, we aren’t talking about easily replaceable equipment like hammers, or even power tools.
At some point, the bucket on your excavator might break, and be rendered useless in the middle of a time-sensitive job. Getting such a large piece of equipment into repair shop would take a long time, and cause huge delays in your job, resulting in lost money.
When time is of the essence, you’ll need some basic welding repair skills so you can fix your equipment on the spot. With a proper field welding equipment and the right skills, no broken tool or piece of equipment will stay broken for long.
So what does construction welding require in the field? Read on below to find out now.
Determine the Problem
Before you start a weld repair, you need to figure out what happened in the first place. You need to identify a clear problem before coming up with a solution.
Was the metal faulty or worn out? Was the equipment used improperly? Is this the right tool for this environment, or does this setting call for an alternative piece of equipment?
The problem isn’t that the metal just simply failed. That’s just the result of the bigger problem. Determining the problem can not only help determine how to fix it, but can help prevent other problems from occurring in the future. And it can also create safer job sites as you learn from each incident.
Ensure Proper Handling and Storage
Welding requires the use of filler metals to make repairs. But for repairs to be effective, filler metals need to be stored and handled properly before welding begins.
It’s imperative that filler metal be kept dry. Moisture coming in contact with filler metal introduces hydrogen to the welding process, which can lead to cracking. Other contaminants like grease, oil, or dust should also be avoided.
When handling filler metals, always wear clean, dry gloves to prevent contamination from your skin to the metal. And before using the metal, let it adjust to the ambient temperature where you will be performing the welding field repair.
The Welding Repair Process
Repairing steel in the field requires three main steps. First, you need to remove the failed part. Then you’ll need to prepare the new metal to be added. And finally, you’ll weld the new piece onto the existing material.
Removing the Failed Metal
There are multiple methods of removing damaged metal from a component. Common methods include oxyfuel, plasma cutting, or carbon arc gouging.
Oxyfuel torches are very common on job sites. They work for basic steel cuts but take a long time. They also can’t cut through stainless steel or aluminum.
Plasma cutters are faster and more effective. They have a smaller and more direct cut-width and heat-affected-zone, making it easier to pierce the metal. You can use plasma cutters on any electrically conductive metals, unlike oxyfuel.
Carbon arc gouging requires the use of a welding generator capable of running between 300 and 500 amps. This process utilizes a carbon electrode to melt the metal surrounding the defect.
The melted metal is blasted away with a huge stream of compressed air.
Regardless of which method you choose for your field repairs, you’ll follow the same process. First, cut around the entire defective area to remove it from the surrounding material. Then, use your equipment to smooth out all rough edges, to make it easier to fit the new material in.
Completely remove all cracks from the source metal, or it could continue cracking, even after your new metal is added.
Prep New Material
First off, you need to select the right metal to be added to the defective equipment. Not all metals are created equal.
In general, try using the exact same metal as the source. Otherwise, choose something stronger than the source metal. If you choose a lower quality metal to add to your equipment, it will fail.
Using the same, or better material will ensure a long-lasting fix and prevent additional downtime.
With the ideal metal chosen, you’ll want to start cutting it down to size to fit into the broken part. Make sure to bevel the edges at 30 degrees to maximum welding penetration.
Make sure you keep the entire process as clean as possible. Welding in the field can expose your weld to dust and debris, so extra care needs to be taken during the welding process when outside.
Welding the Joint
With your new alloy prepared for attachment, and with all materials cleaned of dust, grease, and oil, you can place your new material into the broken piece for final welding.
With material in place, you may need to preheat the surface before starting the weld. Contact between extreme heat and cold metal can lead to embrittlement and eventually cracking. Preheating the metal can remove hydrogen and other gases while limiting the potential for shocks, distress, and distortion.
You can add a rosebud tip to propane or an oxyfuel torch to head up the pieces for most welding applications. Thicker materials or specific metals may require certain preheating procedures for proper welding.
Once preheated, you begin the actual welding process. You can begin using your welder to fuse the corners of the material together equally on both sides. After each weld, clean the area with a wire brush to remove any slag.
With the corners welded together, you can go back over the rest of the materials and fill in the seams with bead wells. Be sure to maintain a consistent angle and speed throughout the welding process for consistency.
Growing Your Construction Company
Heavy construction equipment, from bellydumps to excavators is always in demand. As an equipment operator, you need to ensure your machines are always in good shape, to ensure you can continue providing construction services. Learning basic welding repair skills can help you save tons of time and money by keeping each job moving forward at all times
And if you’re looking to grow a steady stream of incoming jobs for your construction company, make sure to check out WeberDex. We are the go-to directory for heavy construction companies, helping your business get found by more of your potential customers.
Listing your company on WeberDex is easy and affordable. You can get started now and have your listing complete in less than five minutes, so you can start growing your business.