Sharpening Your Knife


November 12, 2014 Comments (1) Field Craft

Off-Road Emergency Welding

You can feel the adventure and fun simmering away, ready to go to a full boil as you load up your rig for an off-road camping or over-landing journey: your tent, water, sleeping bag, stove, cooler, food, refreshments, and the miscellaneous basic necessities. You even check your spare tire, your jack, toss in a couple cans of fix-a-flat, shovel, some basic wrenches, vice-grips, electrical tape, and jumper cables. Some of you may even go farther: traction boards, winches, full-on tool kits and multiple spare tires, and even an extra battery. You’re Set!! You’ve got the full Paris-Dakar chase truck set-up!

Now this may not get you an x-ray quality weld, or even a pretty one, but it may get you home.

And as you barrel down the washboard, watching your cell signal fade away…you grin.. finally!! Whoa! But you didn’t that the road’s been washed out and while watching your cell phone signal disappear you barrel into a deep wash. And you heard that sick metallic snap. Exhale. Exit the vehicle. Winch yourself out and slid underneath. Breath again. Broken tie-rod.

No cell phone. Maybe you’re alone. Maybe you’re with a group. If you’re with a group it’s not such a problem, but if you are alone it’s a huge problem. How many miles back was there reception? You could walk back the 20, 30, 40, or more miles and call a tow truck. And then the ambulance as you’ve just had a coronary hearing how much the tow will cost to extricate you.

I don’t mean to bring doom and gloom to off-road adventures. But the above scenario is totally possible. Maybe not likely, but not unlikely. But there is a solution. When you are back home simmering with excitement, planning and packing for your trip, think about buying a few items, that won’t take up much space and could help you get out of this mess: An Emergency Off-Road Welding Kit.

You would need 2 car batteries( so just one extra, which isn’t a bad idea to have anyway), 2 set of heavy duty jumper cables, a cheap welding hood or a welding lens ( #10 or #11 shade) gloves, a stiff wire brush, and some 1/8” or 3/32” stick welding (SMAW) rod( E6010 or 6011, or 6013). You can get all this at your local hardware store.

So instead of walking back, you would get out your batteries. Take one set of jumper cables and wire the two batteries in series. Take half of one jumper cable and connect the positive side of one battery(A) to the negative side of the other(B), leave the other half of that jumper out of the way. Now take your positive cable from your second jumper and attach to the positive side of the B battery and negative side of the cable to the A battery. Keep the ends of the jumpers totally separate. Get out your gloves, and your welding helmet or your welding lens.

Do your best to get the broken ends of the tie rod together. This may require hammering, or maybe not. Vice-grip the broken ends as closely together as possible. Attach your free negative cable to the vice-grip, somewhere away from the joint you are about to weld. Put a welding rod in in the positive jumper cable. Get ready: Relax, lower your helmet or hold up the shade, and strike the welding rod end near the joint your are about to weld. Strike your arc, as you would lighting a match, scratch it and pull back a smudge. Keeping your arc going, and not sticking your rod is tricky. Get a sense for it before you need to. Begin depositing weld metal, being careful not to weld the vice-grips to the joint. You can remove the vice-grips after you have a bit of weld metal on there. You can execute the weld simply; strike your arc, and add a puddle of metal. Chip off the slag with a hammer or rock, brush it clean. Repeat this all the way around the break/joint.

Now this may not get you an x-ray quality weld, or even a pretty one, but it may get you home. It’s best to get a little practice before this happens, so you know what to expect. You don’t want this to be the very first you strike an arc. Also, as there is no amperage control, this is a very compromised welding set-up, but it may be enough to save your butt.

{Disclaimer and warnings: Electricity can be dangerous. Welding and Welding arc rays and fumes are dangerous! Do not look at an open arc without proper eye protection! Do not breath the welding fumes. Welded materials are hot, do not touch them until you are sure they are cool! And let them cool in the air, do not douse with water. }


One Response to Off-Road Emergency Welding

  1. Yes, you have to learn those skills, so that you can perform welding during your off road adventure.

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