MIG Wire Tensioning And Installation

One of the most popular welders in the US for hobbyist is perhaps the MIG welder. MIG welding is a simple and easy way to learn the basics of welding. However, there are some difficulties that offer a challenge to new welders. One of the very first challenges one encounters is the loading of the welding wire.

Depending upon the size of the wire roll, the welding wire must be mounted onto the spool holder. This is accomplished easy enough, unless a special spacer must be removed or added, in the case of smaller MIG wire rolls with a small center hole. Usually, it is a piece of plastic tubing or a large washer that must come off to allow for the small diameter center of the roll to be mounted. Once it is loaded, the welding wire must be carefully unlaced from the side of the roll, where it is usually tied off. This is one of the more tricky moments to loading a MIG wire spool. Care must be taken NOT to allow the welding wire to unravel. A firm grip on the wire and spool will help you unwrap the wire enough to begin to feed into the feeding mechanism. This spring should be released to allow the wheel or bearing to be opened up so the welding wire can be fed over the top of the bottom drive wheel or roller. Most commonly, as with the Everlast, the drive roll is held down with a spring or a special tensioner that provides tension to a wheel or bearing. The MIG wire should be carefully snaked through the tensioner until sufficient wire is beginning to enter the gun. It must be properly centered into the correct groove diameter that matches the wire diameter. If the groove does not carry the welding wire, then the wire will not feed no matter what is done. But before you are ready to unspool a little wire, you must tighten the tension on the MIG wire roll enough to keep it from freewheeling and despoiling excessive wire.

Once the MIG wire is fed through the tensioning mechanism and into the gun a few inches, the tensioner should be closed, and retightened. However, it must be done in conjunction with the tensioner on the welding wire roll. The roll should move easily, but stop when it no longer has pressure on it to move. Once it is tight, the welder should be turned on and the gun should be held as straight as possible and the torch switch pressed. This will allow the welding wire to feed automatically through the gun. Once the wire feeds through properly, the tensioners should be adjusted together so that when the trigger is pressed, and the gun is held on a wood board so the wire will contact it, it will feed the wire so that it begins to curl up and out. This assures proper feeding and reduces birds nesting, a nasty little issue that crops up from time to time. However if the gun is jammed straight down, only enough tension should be applied to prevent the MIG wire from buckling and allow the rollers to slip.

Every tensioning mechanism can be different, but most are similar across the industry to some extent. Once you learn to properly adjust a MIG tensioner, it will make it easier to get to the more exciting things in welding.