A vehicle’s frame is like its skeleton. It is also known as the chassis of the automobile. It is the backbone of the motor vehicle. Its principal function is to provide support and to carry the load. And at some point, your chassis may need some repair. That is where welding comes in. Generally speaking, welding is a way of fabricating and repairing metal products. You have to add extra material to allow the joints of the substance to join together. Thus, they can build a strong bond.
Welding is a very intricate process that requires a lot of care. You have to pay attention to the details if you want to weld your chassis. There are many cases where the chassis looks welded from the outside. But that does not mean that they have welded the frame well and can carry your truck’s load. So, unless you are confident in your skills as a welder, take a professional’s help when welding.
What’s a Cut and Shut?
A cut and shut is a process of welding together the remains of two or more cars. Welders use this process to create a ‘new’ vehicle. These welded together remains are more possibly written-off parts. Cut and shuts may seem like a good thing. You may look at it as someone trying to make two written-off cars into a drivable one. But it is not so. Cut and shut vehicles work until there is an accident.
Even if you get a professional welder to carry out this task, it remains a hazardous vehicle. Cut and shut cars cannot stand up to the necessary amount of pressure resistance in the case of high-speed collisions. But thankfully, you can quickly notice a cut and shut vehicle. The trick is to check all the VIN points in a car.
Types of Frame Weldings on Trucks
Auto work is generally divided into two types of welding. They are both arc welding processes. They are as follows.
- Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG): In this process, a sharp tungsten electrode and a workpiece form the arc between them. The workpiece is in a static field of helium or argon. The pointed electrode provides a small yet intense arc. This is very suitable for precise and quality welding. TIG welding is more suitable for thinner metal pieces. But it is not advisable to use this process for welding your truck’s frame because it does not work well with thicker metal plates.
- Metal Inert Gas (MIG): In this process, the workpiece forms an arc with a wire electrode’s end. As a result, both the materials melt into the form of a weld pool. The welder protects the weld pool by using a shielding gas. They feed the gas through a nozzle that surrounds the wire. This process is versatile. And it is suitable for both thick sections and thin sheet components.
Now the question you can pose is which of the two processes is more suitable when you want to weld your car. According to the experts, the MIG process is a more practical process for welding any truck’s frame. They prefer MIG over TIG because MIG allows you to work with thicker sections. A truck’s chassis is generally assembled with thicker sections. That is why experienced welders prefer MIG welding when it comes to trucks.
Is It Legal to Weld A Truck Frame?
The FMCSA forbids any commercial vehicle with a welded frame on the highway. This is according to the FMCSA title 49: Subtitle B: Chapter 3. There is one exception. FMCSA will allow the vehicle if the welding follows the manufacturer’s recommendation.
This is not very surprising. Especially if you look at all the strict regulations that they have put in place due to safety risks. The FMCSA has also stated another vital fact in the same article. Unless the manufacturer recommends you to, you cannot drill a hole in the bottom or top rail flanges. This is a common thread between light-duty consumer and commercial vehicles.
So, chances are, if your truck has a welded frame, it may not be able to run on the highway. And if you have any confusion, you should seek professional legal help. And if you are not allowed on the highway anymore, you can keep operating it off the road. And here are some guidelines that you can follow to keep your truck on the highway.
- A professional welder has to perform any structural modifications, welding, repairs, or fabrications.
- If you want to make any alterations to your chassis, you will need a modification permit.
- You will need to install a modification plate.
- You must follow the guideline or welding procedure provided by the manufacturer. The policy states that you have to guarantee the vehicle’s occupants’ safety. It would be best to make sure any modification of the chassis has not compromised its integrity. You can make it sure by having an engineer inspect and certify your frame.
You will have to test and inspect the vehicle. You will ensure that welding and modification have not rendered the vehicle unsafe.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)
FMCSA means the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. They are a government body. They are responsible for setting out the guidelines for others to follow. These are regarding vehicular safety. Here are the rules that the FMCSA has enforced.
- Every commercial automobile’s chassis or frame will not be loose, cracked, broken, or sagging.
- Brackets and bolts that secure the vehicle’s body to the frame must not be broken, loose, or missing.
- Without any manufacturer’s recommendation, the frame rail flanges cannot be notched, bent, or cut.
- You can only accessorize your vehicle by welding if you keep it per the manufacturer’s instructions. You also have to maintain this law when welding your frame.
- You cannot drill any hole in the bottom or top flanges unless specified by the manufacturer.
Any rules that the FMCSA makes are federal regulations. So, if you do not abide by them, the authority can seize your vehicle. You may even have to pay a fine. And in the case of an accident, if they can trace the cause back to an aftermarket welding job, the civil court will hold the person responsible. Some insurance companies may regard their contract void in such cases.
Equipment for Welding
To start welding, you will need some tools. That way, you can prepare yourself to tackle any situations that may occur.
- Auto-darkening Welding Helmet: This helmet will help you save time. It can also assist you in starting the wedding process without any guessing. These affordable helmets are a must-have for every welder.
- Gloves: Welding means you will be handling intense heat. So, you will need gloves to take the melting steel. TIG gloves are thinner and provide higher dexterity. However, it does so by sacrificing a considerable amount of insulation. On the other hand, MIG gloves provide excellent insulation at the cost of agility.
- Welding Coat: As you are working with fire, without proper precautions, you can be in danger. So, it would be best if you got yourself a welding coat. It can be of leather or non-synthetic flame-resistant material. It is also a good idea to cover your head with a baseball cap or a bandana to not burn your scalp.
- Angle Grinders: When welding, you will not be able to clean your welds. You cannot flush all the time as well. So, you will need an angle grinder to grind away any excess fillers. You can also use it to prep surfaces, remove scale, smooth welds, and chamfer corners. If you have two of these, you can save yourself the trouble of changing discs for every other task.
- Pneumatic Saw: You have to line up your fits while welding. That is very crucial to the output. That is why you need to use a pneumatic saw. They are very good at making precise cuts. They can help you line up the welds you are going to make on the frame.
- Aviation Snips: Having aviation snips can help you to cut patches out of the sheet metal. This is the easiest way to do so. The good ones can cut out stainless steel at 23 gauge and cold reel at 18. They have many welding applications.
- Welding Clamps: It will be best for you to get lockable welding clamps. Then you can use them to keep the metal in place during welding. You will find them to be quite useful when you are welding from below.
- Dolly Set: While the aviation snips can help you cut through the metal sheets, a dolly set enables you to shape them. Having a dolly set and a hammer can be beneficial when working to shape bodywork.
- Sheet Metal Gauge: If you can gauge your sheet metal, it will be precious for you. And if you are a MIG welder, it is crucial to your work. That is because by knowing the gauge thickness of your metal sheet, you can get a more precise setting work going.
Is It Safe to Weld A Truck Frame?
The answer is an outright no. Unless you possess the skill and experience, it is not safe for a novice to weld a chassis. If you have any welding needs, you should get experienced welders and shops to help you. They are generally able to repair a cracked truck frame by using the available techniques. But, if a novice tries to weld a frame, the result will be low. That can make the structure weaker in the process. And in turn, this can lead to wear and tear of various vital parts. This may even go as far as to cause chassis failure.
And when working on something that exposes you to extreme heat, safety comes first. So, make sure to take the necessary precautions. For instance, never forget to put on your welding gloves, welding coat, and welding helmet. That is if you do not want to turn into one of those campfire stories.
Common Problems in Truck Frames
Most truck frames can suffer from two common problems. Various factors can cause these two problems. The factors involved are usually low craft, stress, and fatigue. It can also be a combination of these three.
- Bending: Various factors such as overloading or a sudden drop in load can cause your truck frame to bend. This disproportionate impact on your chassis can change its shape permanently. As a result, your truck may lose its ability to pull efficiently.
- Cracking: Cracking is the separation of the frame from itself. It can be the result of overloading, fatigue, bending-caused stress. Poor craftsmanship can also be a crucial factor in cracking. To repair the cracking of your chassis, you need to track down the reason. Otherwise, any repairs you do will be in vain.
Challenges of Welding Truck Frames
Welding a truck frame is much more complicated than it seems. There are a few hurdles that you need to overcome when welding a truck frame.
- Safety Risk: Amateur welders make one common mistake. They weld the bases and join them only at the surface. But, a sturdy chassis should include only one solid piece of metal. Without soldering it in such a way, your chassis may not be able to withstand significant pressure.
- Control Is Crucial: When welding a truck frame, you must prioritize control. And this control is not only about the welder’s skill. You must also control the supporting conditions of the structure at work. That is why professional welders do their work under controlled conditions.
- The Success Rate of Welding: 80 percent of welding jobs are more likely to fail than manufactured frames. It can fail even if you get a professional’s help. And if the craftsmanship is lacking, the chances of failure increase.
The issue on Weakened Frames
It would be best if you used a solely manufactured frame rather than welding a broken bracket. While welding a chassis is possible, its success depends on the craftsmanship and the type of weld. People think that welding their frame when the original frame cracks. The factor determining whether you can fuse your chassis back to a good shape is the amount of damage. If the chassis is still repairable, you can try welding it.
Welding is an intricate process. While it is not illegal to weld every vehicle, it is not safe for everyone except for passenger carriers. So, if you need to weld your truck’s chassis, do not do it yourself. Get a professional to do it and make sure they follow all the manufacturer’s guidelines. And if you are thinking of taking up welding, start on something small and work your way up. And we hope that this article could help you with what you needed.