How to MIG Weld Stainless Steel? [Explained]

how to weld stainless steel

MIG welding is a popular welding process that is used to join metals together. It is a relatively easy process to learn and is commonly used in many industries.

However, welding stainless steel with MIG can be a bit more challenging than welding other metals due to its unique properties.

One of the most important things to keep in mind when MIG welding stainless steel is that it requires a different gas mixture than other metals. The most common gas mixture used for MIG welding stainless steel is a tri-mix of argon, helium, and carbon dioxide.

This gas mixture is specifically designed to provide the right amount of shielding and to prevent oxidation of the stainless steel during the welding process.

Additionally, it is important to use the right type of wire for MIG welding stainless steel. Stainless steel wire is available in a variety of grades, and it is important to choose the right one for your project.

Another important factor to consider when MIG welding stainless steel is the welding technique.

Unlike other metals, stainless steel has a lower thermal conductivity, which means that it takes longer to heat up and cool down.

This can make it more difficult to get a good weld, especially if you are not using the right technique.

By following the right technique and using the right gas mixture and wire, you can ensure that your MIG welding project is successful and that your stainless steel joints are strong and durable.

Welding Techniques

When it comes to MIG welding stainless steel, there are a few important techniques to keep in mind to ensure a successful weld. In this section, we’ll cover the key welding techniques you need to know.

Preparing the Metal

Before you begin welding, it’s important to properly prepare the metal. Stainless steel is prone to contamination, so it’s essential to clean the metal thoroughly before welding.

Use a wire brush or grinder to remove any rust, dirt, or other debris from the surface of the metal. You can also use a solvent or degreaser to clean the metal.

In addition to cleaning the metal, it’s important to ensure that the metal is properly fit-up. This means that the edges of the metal should be clean, straight, and aligned. If the metal isn’t properly fit-up, it can lead to gaps in the weld and other issues.

Welding Positions

When welding stainless steel, it’s important to consider the welding position. There are four main welding positions: flat, horizontal, vertical, and overhead. Each position requires a different technique and approach.

For flat and horizontal welding positions, you can use a drag technique. This means that you’ll hold the gun at a slight angle and drag it along the surface of the metal.

For vertical and overhead welding positions, you’ll need to use a push technique. This means that you’ll hold the gun at a slight angle and push it along the surface of the metal.

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Welding Speed and Angle

The speed and angle of the weld are also important factors to consider when welding stainless steel.

It’s generally recommended to weld at a slower speed to ensure that the weld penetrates the metal properly. Additionally, the angle of the gun should be between 5 and 15 degrees from vertical.

Stainless Steel Thickness (inches)Welding Speed (inches per minute)Welding Angle (degrees)
18-22 gauge60-905-15 (push)
16-18 gauge50-755-15 (push)
14-16 gauge40-605-15 (push)
10-12 gauge30-505-15 (push)
3/16″ – 1/4″20-355-15 (push)

These values provide a general starting point for MIG welding stainless steel. However, it’s essential to note that you should always follow the specific recommendations provided by the manufacturer of your welding equipment and the welding wire you’re using.

Welding Speed: The welding speed largely depends on the thickness of the stainless steel. Thinner materials require faster travel speeds, while thicker materials need slower speeds. Adjust your speed to achieve a smooth, uniform bead.

Welding Angle: For MIG welding stainless steel, it’s recommended to use a push technique with a slight forward angle of 5-15 degrees. This means you should angle the MIG gun slightly in the direction of the weld travel. This angle helps in better gas coverage and weld penetration.

Equipment and Materials

When it comes to MIG welding stainless steel, selecting the right equipment and materials is crucial to achieving a successful weld. In this section, we will discuss the key components needed and what to look for when selecting them.

Selecting the Right MIG Welder

To weld stainless steel, you need a MIG welder that can handle the higher heat input required for this material. Look for a welder with a high amperage output and a duty cycle of at least 60%. A welder with pulse capabilities can also be helpful for controlling heat input and minimizing distortion.

Choosing Stainless Steel Filler Wire

Choosing the right filler wire is critical to the success of your weld. The most commonly used filler wire for welding stainless steel is ER308L. This wire is designed to weld 304 and 304L stainless steels, which are the most commonly used grades of stainless steel. Other filler wires, such as ER309L and ER316L, can be used for welding other grades of stainless steel.

Gas Selection

When MIG welding stainless steel, the shielding gas is just as important as the filler wire. Argon is the most commonly used shielding gas for welding stainless steel.

A mixture of 98% argon and 2% oxygen can also be used to provide better arc stability and reduce spatter. When welding thicker materials, a mixture of argon and helium can be used to provide better penetration.

By selecting the right MIG welder, filler wire, and shielding gas, you can ensure a successful weld when MIG welding stainless steel.

Post-Welding Procedures

After completing the welding process, it is essential to follow proper post-welding procedures to ensure the longevity and durability of the weld. Below are the two crucial steps that we need to follow:

Cleaning the Weld

Cleaning the weld is an essential step that should not be overlooked. It helps to remove any slag, spatter, or debris that may have accumulated during the welding process. We can use a wire brush or a grinder to remove any surface contaminants. After cleaning, we need to wipe the area with a clean cloth to remove any remaining debris.

Inspection and Testing

Inspection and testing are critical steps that help to ensure that the weld is of high quality and meets the required standards. We need to inspect the weld visually to ensure that it is free from cracks, porosity, and other defects. We can also perform non-destructive testing (NDT) to detect any hidden defects that may not be visible to the naked eye.

NDT methods include ultrasonic testing, radiography, and magnetic particle testing. These methods help to detect any internal defects that may affect the structural integrity of the weld. After completing the inspection and testing, we need to record the results and document them for future reference.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

When MIG welding stainless steel, there are a few common issues that can arise. Here are some troubleshooting tips to help you resolve these issues and ensure a successful weld:


Porosity is one of the most common MIG welding defects. It occurs when gas becomes trapped in the weld metal, resulting in small holes or voids.

To prevent porosity, it’s important to ensure that the welding surface, wire, hose, and gloves are clean before starting work. Use metal grinders like steel wool or chemical solvents to clean these surfaces.


Burn-through is another common issue that can occur when welding stainless steel. It happens when the heat input is too high, causing the metal to melt and creating a hole in the weld.

To prevent burn-through, reduce the heat input by adjusting the voltage, wire speed, or travel speed. You can also use a smaller diameter wire or a lower amperage setting.


Warping is when the metal distorts or bends during the welding process. It can occur when the heat input is too high or when the metal is not properly supported.

To prevent warping, use clamps or jigs to hold the metal in place and distribute the heat evenly. You can also use a lower heat input or a slower travel speed.


Cracks can occur in the weld or in the heat-affected zone (HAZ) around the weld. They are often caused by high stress levels or improper cooling.

To prevent cracks, use a lower heat input and ensure that the metal is properly cooled after welding. You can also use preheat or post-weld heat treatment to reduce stress levels.

By following these troubleshooting tips, you can avoid common issues when MIG welding stainless steel and ensure a successful weld.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which gases are considered optimal for MIG welding of stainless steel?

When MIG welding stainless steel, it is important to use a shielding gas that will protect the weld from contamination. The most commonly used shielding gases for MIG welding stainless steel are a mixture of argon and carbon dioxide. The exact ratio of argon to carbon dioxide will depend on the specific application. For welding thicker stainless steel, a mixture of 90% helium, 7.5% argon, and 2.5% carbon dioxide is often used.

Can stainless steel be effectively joined to mild steel using MIG welding techniques?

Yes, it is possible to MIG weld stainless steel to mild steel. However, it is important to use the correct wire and shielding gas for the job. In general, 309L wire and a 98% argon/2% carbon dioxide gas blend are recommended for welding stainless steel to mild steel.

Is it possible to MIG weld stainless steel using a no-gas technique?

While it is possible to MIG weld stainless steel using a no-gas technique, it is not recommended. Welding stainless steel without a shielding gas can lead to contamination and poor weld quality. It is recommended to use a shielding gas to ensure a clean and strong weld.

Should the MIG welding technique for stainless steel involve pushing or pulling the weld pool?

When MIG welding stainless steel, it is generally recommended to push the weld pool rather than pull it. This helps to prevent contamination and ensure a clean weld. However, the exact technique used will depend on the specific application and the preference of the welder.

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