MIG Welding Wire Feed Troubleshooting

Today’s guest post is by Ben Romenesko of Miller Electric.

Do wire feed troubles with your MIG welder ever leave you frustrated? Burn
back, wire slipping, birdsnests… These are just a couple common problems
customers call us about. The wire feed system is vital to successfully getting
your MIG welder to perform.

Today I’ll walk you through the key components in the wire feed system so you
know what to look for in each component.

Spool Hub

SpoolhubThe first place you’re going to want to look at is the source of your wire:
the spool hub. The inner spring on your spool hub sets the brake tension on your
spool of wire. The intent is to prevent the spool from over-spooling when the
wire stops feeding, but there is a fine line between over-spooling and
over-tensioning the spool. I like to optimize the brake tension by turning the
wire feed speed to its max and then cycling the trigger with at least 6” of run
out. The spool should coast so the first loop of wire just starts to loosen on
the spool. A general factory setting is having the tension nut flush with the
end of the threads, but each hub is slightly different. Be sure that when
putting a spool in the machine the loose end of the wire is not fed through any
of the other loops. This will cause feeding problems.

 

Wire Drive

Wire DriveThe second place to look for wire feed problems is the wire drive. There are
two main adjustments at the wire drive; the drive roll groove and the drive roll
tension. First, you’ll want to check to be sure the diameter of weld wire
matches the drive roll groove you’re using. Be sure to use a knurled roll for
flux core welding and a V-groove roll for steel. The knurled groove provides
more traction on the softer flux cored wire so the drive doesn’t crush the wire.
A knurled groove will provide more traction on solid wire, but it will also plug
the gun liner much faster as well so we don’t recommend it on solid wire.

The other component of the wire drive is the drive roll tension. This is
adjusted with the numbered tension knob seen in the picture. More tension is not
always the best. Cranking down the tension all the way deforms the wire, causes
shaving that plugs your gun liner, and allows the drive to birdsnest. Not enough
tension will cause wire to slip in the drive rolls and result in inconsistent
wire feed speed. Under the hood, it will look like the arc is pulsing. Here is a
brief
video
that goes through the proper way to set your drive tension.

 

MIG Gun

MIG GunThe final component of the system is the MIG gun. The first thing to check is
that your gun is completely inserted in the drive casting and tightened down
with the thumb nut. The next component to look at is the contact tip. The size
of the tip printed on the side, needs to match your diameter of wire. As contact
tips wear, that hole will start to become oblong. This will change how the
current picks up through the tip and potentially cause weld performance issues.
If the hole looks out of round, replace the tip.

If you’ve checked all of these things and you still see problems with wire
feeding, it may be time to change your gun liner. There is a monocoil liner
inside the MIG gun that guides the wire from the drive rolls to the contact tip.
They can become kinked, plugged, or just wear out over time. As an initial step,
compressed air can be used to try to clean out shavings that plug liners. This
should be done on a routine basis to extend the life of your liner. Liners are a
consumable of the MIG gun so they are relatively inexpensive if you need a new
one. They turn out with a nut on the powerpin end. New liners need to be trimmed
to length so you need to remove your contact tip when replacing a liner. Also
note that it’s important to lay the gun out straight when replacing the liner so
you cut it to the correct length. Here is a video that
walks you through changing your liner.

 

Wire Feed Troubleshooting

Symptom Possible Causes
Birdsnests
  • Clean liner with compressed air or change liner
  • Check contact tip for size or obstruction.
  • Properly adjust drive roll tension
Wire won’t pass through torch
  • Check contact tip for correct size
  • Change gun liner
Drive roll slips on wire
  • Check spool hub tension
  • Check drive roll groove condition
  • Check drive roll tension
  • Check contact tip for correct size
Arc length is inconsistent
  • Check spool hub tension
  • Check drive roll groove condition
  • Check drive roll tension
  • Check contact tip for correct size
Burn back (pinned contact tip)
  • Check spool of wire for binding
  • Check spool hub tension
  • Check drive roll groove condition
  • Check drive roll tension
  • Check contact tip for correct size
Wire feed starts slow
  • Run-in feature is working (speed will increase when arc is
    established)

 

About Today’s Guest Blogger

Ben
Romenesko has been with Miller for over 5 years and his entire career has been
spent with the Millermatic products. He originally came to the company as a
mechanical engineer. He is currently a product manager at Miller’s Integrated
MIG systems and oversees the Millermatic and ArcStation products.

 

 

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7 thoughts on “MIG Welding Wire Feed Troubleshooting”

  1. fred kleinsasser says:

    Hi, I have a millermatic 185 welder and it did not come with a spoolgun switch, I installed a 207642 spoolmate switch kit, but the wire feed runs backwards, would you know what the problem might be? Would appreciate any help ! thanks fred

  2. Cory says:

    Hey Fred, It sounds like a wiring issue. When you installed the switch, did you run the wires correctly? I would either refer to the manual you received or give Miller a call directly to make sure the switch was installed correctly. I hope this helps!

  3. Jim says:

    Hi Ben, I have a Millermatic 135 and the wire speed is un-controllable. It is wide open, i couldn’t slow it down by turning the switch from 4 to 1. Please advise! Thanks!

  4. John LaManna says:

    I have a Millermatic 180. Bought it used from a friend who used it with a spoolgun only, never used the mig. It works fine with a faster wirefeed (60 or 0ver), but if you are welding thicker steel like 1/4″, it’s putting out too much wire and not enough heat to penetrate. If I slow the speed, it pops and stops feeding wire, and the machine sounds like it’s still feeding wire, and none is coming out, and it’s not birdnesting.

  5. Hal Ward says:

    Hi:
    I have a millermatic 180 mig that suddenly fails to arc. The wire feeds and the power into the machine will run a miller stick welder. My local repair shop is a month out for looking at the machine. Are there some tests i can conduct to determine the problem?

  6. Chris linder says:

    I have a miller 110 and the drive motor won’t come on

  7. Terry says:

    I can not turn up the wire feed it’s a miller 200 and can not get it hit enough to penetrate pplz any suggestions

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