Best Wire for MIG Welding Aluminum, the Which, Why and What

By Bill Byers / July 15, 2018
Best Wire for MIG Welding Aluminum

After extensive research I lead you through my choice of best wire for MIG welding Aluminum. I tell you which wire is the best to use, why and what you should know before welding Aluminum.

Aluminum is a soft metal, sensitive to heat and it is better to understand a few things before you jump right in and weld.

Best Wire for MIG Welding Aluminum Type ER4043

1. Hobart ER4043 Aluminum Welding Wire

  • Weight 1 lb.
  • Diameter Sizes Available: 0.030 diameter and 0.035 diameter
  • General Purpose Aluminum Welding wire
  • Can be used with welding 6000 series Aluminum alloys
  • Welding positions supported flat, vertical, horizontal and overhead
  • A well regarded wire with solid Amazon feed back reviews

2. Blue Demon ER4043 Aluminum Welding Wire

  • Weight 1 lb.
  • Diameter Sizes Available: 0.030 and 0.035 diameter
  • General Purpose Aluminum Welding wire
  • Can be used with welding 6000 series Aluminum alloys
  • Welding positions supported flat, vertical, horizontal and overhead
  • A well liked Aluminum welding wire with good Amazon feed back reviews

3. Lincoln Electric SuperGlaze ER4043 Aluminum Welding Wire

  • weight 1 lb.
  • Diameter Sizes Available: 0.030 and 0.035 diameter
  • General Purpose Aluminum Welding wire
  • Can be used with welding 6000 series Aluminum alloys
  • A well liked wire. Can be difficult to source individual spools on Amazon due to the way it is supplied by Lincoln in bulk cartons.
  • All welding positions supported except vertical down
  • Can also be used with an Argon/Helium shielding gas mix
Example of Aluminum Weld

Example of Aluminum Weld

Best Wire for MIG Welding Aluminum Type ER5356

1.Hobart ER5356 Aluminum Welding Wire

  • Weight 1 lb.
  • Diameter Sizes Available: 0.030 diameter and 0.035
  • Good with salt water applications
  • Welding positions flat, vertical, horizontal and overhead
  • A well regarded wire with good solid feedback
  • To be used with 5000 series Aluminum Base Metals

2. Blue Demon ER5356 Aluminum Welding Wire

  • Weight 1 lb.
  • Diameter Sizes Available: 0.030 diameter and 0.035 diameter
  • Good with salt water applications
  • Welding positions supported flat, vertical, horizontal and overhead
  • Lots of positive Amazon feedback on this wire.
  • To be used with 5000 series Aluminum Base Metals

3. Harris ER5356 Aluminum MIG Wire

  • Weight 1 lb.
  • Diameter Sizes Available: 0.30 diameter
  • Good with salt water applications
  • Widely well regarded in the market place
  • Welding all positions flat, vertical, horizontal and overhead
  • For 5000 series Aluminum Base Metals

4. Lincoln Electric SuperGlaze ER5356

  • Weight 1 lb.
  • Diameter Sizes Available: 0.035 diameter
  • Good with salt water applications
  • A well liked wire. Can be difficult to source individual spools on Amazon due to the way it is supplied by Lincoln in bulk cartons.
  • All welding positions supported except vertical down
  • Supports Multipass welding
  • Can also be used with an Argon/Helium shielding gas mix

Note: All the above wires may be available in larger diameter wire sizes. I have concentrated here on the home hobby welder in my assessment.

Frequently bought with the Hobart Aluminum welding wire is the Hobart spool runner 100 spool gun, Hobart 0.030 contact tips and Hobart nozzle gel.

And for good reason, they are what you need to get going with your spool gun supporting Hobart welder.

Aluminum MIG Welding

Aluminum MIG Welding

What are the Need to Knows When Welding Aluminum with a MIG Welder?

Aluminum is a soft metal that is easily damaged as well as being sensitive to heat.

It dissipates heat four times faster than mild carbon steel. Which is why welding Aluminum well needs a welder that can generate the right type of heat as Aluminum welding is said to suck heat out of a welder.

Aluminum melts at 1100 degrees. I mention this because Aluminum is also reactive with air and oxidizes when exposed to air.

This oxide layer if not cleaned off before you weld not only gives off soot as you weld, it melts at 3700 degrees meaning that you will need even more heat from your welder to weld dirty Aluminum and you may find porosity in your weld when you do.

Why use a MIG welder rather than TIG to Weld Aluminum?

Using a MIG to weld Aluminum is much easier for a beginner or even for the experienced MIG welder that has welded a lot but never Aluminum.

This is because good results can be achieved with lower skill and experience.

MIG welding is a quicker process just because there are fewer items to handle and get right as you are welding compared to TIG.

A push technique is recommended when MIG welding (at a 10 to 15 degree gun angle) as a pull technique can lead to porosity in your weld when welding.

If you would like to find out about the merits of the different welding processes, take a look at my document – Best Welding Method for Beginners.

Example of Aluminum Fillet Weld

Example of Aluminum Fillet Weld

Types of Aluminum and Aluminum Wire

It is worth taking time to find out what kind of Aluminum base metal you are planning to weld.

Pure Aluminum would be too soft to use in casted parts so other metals are used to stabilized the Aluminum and form the alloys.

As a home hobby welder there are a few types of Aluminum Alloy you are likely to come across – the 4000 series alloys, 5000 series and 6000 series alloys.

In these alloys Aluminum is of course the main element typically over 90% of the alloy.

Silicon is added to 4000 series Aluminum and Magnesium is added to 5000 series Aluminum.

Both Silicon and Magnesium is added to the 6000 series Aluminum.

When you weld you match the filler metal to the additive added to the Aluminum alloy.

4043 and 5356 are the two most commonly used Aluminum filler metals in a MIG welder.

ER 4043

4043 is a general purpose Aluminum welding wire. The addition of silicon makes welding easier as it is more forgiving to the person welding.

4043 wire produces a weld that is less sensitive to cracking and one with a shinier, brighter finish. Is used for welding 4000 and 6000 series Aluminum.

ER 5356

5356 is probably the most widely Aluminum wire used.

Although it is more difficult to weld with, however it is a stronger wire than 4043.

It is a better all purpose Aluminum wire. It is generally used for welding boats because it is good with salt water.

It is used for 5000 series Aluminum.

5356 is also used to weld bicycles, pressure vessels and Aluminum car parts.

Feeding Aluminum

The main thing to be aware of is that Aluminum is inherently a soft metal.

And that means Aluminum wire takes more care to feed up to your welding tip.

I use that term, because to weld Aluminum successfully a spool gun is used. The spool gun holds the spool of Aluminum wire, so you’re effectively feeding the wire six or seven inches from the spool to the point of weld, as opposed to eight or ten feet through the hose of your MIG gun to your torch tip.

Aluminum Welding With Spool Gun

Aluminum Welding With Spool Gun

Using a spool gun means that you will need a welder, capable of having a spool gun attachment and you will need to buy that spool gun before you can weld Aluminum.

Will I need Shielding Gas to Weld Aluminum?

Yes,

100% Argon gas is used as the shielding gas and that gas needs to be run at 20 to 30 cubic feet per hour to provide the right level of shielding.

Not sure where or how to get a cylinder of shielding gas have a read of my article on the site.

The requirement to use shielding gas with Aluminum welding wire means that you will need a MIG welder capable of using shielding gas.

Diameter size of Aluminum Wire 0.030 or 0.035

For example Hobart recommends 0.035 to be used with 1/16 to 1/4 inch thick base metal. But depending on the max Amps your welder can reach you may be better with 0.030 wire. Match the Amp needed to use/melt 0.030 or 0.035 to what your welder is capable of. Have a look at my document on the site where discussed are the pros and cons of 0.030 wire versus 0.035.

Pre-heating thicker Aluminum joints before welding may also assist if your welder is lacking in power.

Why buy Brand Name Aluminum Welding Wire

When you buy cheap generic Aluminum wire spools you may find yourself with a few issues you hadn’t counted on.

The welding wire can be wound so tight it jumps off the spool or is damaged or

The opposite, the wire is wound so loose you end up with a birds nest of wire, before you have even started to weld.

Either way you get the chance to practice many changes of your contact tip because the poor wire feed has caused burn back on your tip!

MIG Welding Thin Aluminum

Welding thin aluminum certainly is much more difficult because of the way the metal behaves with heat. Thin metal is easy to burn through with a MIG welder.

14 gauge Aluminum is really the thinnest a standard MIG welder should go. Particularly for a beginner or if you lack experience in welding Aluminum.

Welding thinner than 14 gauge demands a specialized MIG set up or ideally a TIG setup to weld.

Start Welding with Clean Aluminum

A clean base metal is important if you are to successfully MIG weld Aluminum.

The part to be welded must be clean of any oils, oxidization, paint or any other contaminant.

A hand metal wire brush is perfect to use,

A power brush will smear the surface trapping impurities unless the speed is kept low and the brush used with consideration to the soft metal.

Example of Dirty Aluminum

Example of Dirty Aluminum

Whether a hand brush or a power brush is used, use a brush saved exclusively for use with Aluminum – have I mentioned it is a soft metal?

You don’t want to introduce minute flecks of other metals you have used the brush against into the Aluminum you are trying to weld.

MIG Welding Aluminum Polarity

When welding Aluminum setting the correct polarity of your MIG welder is very important to a successful weld. Aluminum wire needs your MIG welder set to DCEP (direct current your MIG gun electrically positive).

That means your MIG gun connected to the positive terminal within your welder.

It’s easy to forget to change the polarity, particularly if your welder is able of welding with flux core wire and you have the MIG gun polarity set to DCEN for that.

If you are having arc problems with your Aluminum wire, double check your polarity. You may need to change it.

MIG Welding Aluminum with a Spool Gun Video

Use of a spool gun is highly recommended if not a must if you want to save yourself a lot of time and frustration. Have a look at this eight minute seventeen seconds video by Bob Moffat as he leads you though the procedure of using a spool gun for welding Aluminum

Tips for MIG Welding Aluminum Lap Joints with a Spool Gun

Video Credit: Weld.com

How do I Store My Aluminum Welding Wire

Storing Aluminum needs care.

A critical problem with Aluminum is that left exposed to the air Aluminum oxidizes. Producing a film coating that leads to excess soot coming off as you weld, In addition you will have electrical and wire feed resistance and difficulty in laying down your Aluminum wire.

You may then blame your welder. You may then change out your contact tip, blame your spool gun for incorrect feeding.

Even think your shielding gas is contaminated or just not flowing through. Play about with the wire tension when all the while your Aluminum wire is oxidized.

Store your Aluminum in a well sealed container to prevent air from getting to your wire, away from damp or excessive cold. Even moving cold wire to a warmer humid place could result in condensation build up inside the packaging.

MIG Welding Aluminum Without Gas

Can these wire be used gasless – no.

There is no Aluminum Flux core wire – want to know why? Take a look at the document here on the site.

Welding parameters charts

It is always a good idea to take a look at the welding parameters suggested for your choice of Aluminum welding wire. That way you can check the wire is compatible with the settings your welder is capable of. i.e. Amp settings needed to melt the wire, Voltage setting needed, compatible base metals and recommended stick out length.

Here are the links to the welding parameters charts of the best wires recommended.

Hobart Maxal ER4043 data sheet

Hobart Maxal ER5356 data sheet

Blue Demon ER4043 wire specs

Blue Demon ER5356 wire specs

Lincoln Electric ER4043 wire specs

Lincoln Electric ER5356 wire specs

Harris ER4043 wire specs

Harrus ER5356 wire specs

Last Words

And there you have it, the conclusion of my research on the best wire for MIG welding Aluminum, the which, why and what.

The welder’s mantra is the same for Aluminum welding as it is for any type of MIG welding. Practice, practice and more practice makes for the best weld.

 

Additional Resources

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