Can You MIG Weld Outdoors?

There are a few reasons why you might want to take your welding project outdoors. Maybe you’re working on a project that can’t easily fit inside your workshop, such as a car. Maybe you just want some fresh air and better ventilation than you can get in a cramped shop. Whatever the reason, you probably want to know if you can use your MIG welding machine outside the same way you would use it indoors.

MIG welding machines are a lot harder to use outdoors because the argon gas shield blows away easily. Even the smallest breeze can affect your ability to weld properly. You can technically weld outdoors, but you need to take extra precautions to make sure it works properly.

If you do decide to take your MIG welder outdoors, here are some tips to help make that happen.

mig welding outdoors

Why MIG Welding Outdoors Is Not Recommended

Any type of welding outdoors comes with additional challenges. However, it is even harder for MIG welding.

The reason is that MIG welding relies on a gas canister. The gas flows out of the torch along with the filler wire, creating a gas shield around the weld that prevents oxidation. When you weld outdoors, the wind can blow away the shield gas, making it much harder to weld. That is why MIG welding outside is harder than stick welding, which uses a solid flux coating as the shield material.

There are other reasons welding, in general, is harder outdoors. You’re exposed to more extreme temperatures, which make it harder to move your hands with the same dexterity. The sun can affect your visibility. Finally, even the smallest amount of rain can damage your welding machine. 

How to MIG Weld Outdoors

Although MIG welding isn’t recommended for outdoor use, there are some situations where you have no choice. For those situations, here are some steps to MIG weld outdoors properly.

1. Set Up Your Equipment

MIG welding outdoors requires a bit more preparation than in your workshop.

First, you need to figure out how to protect your welding machine from any wind. Setting up a tent, tarp, or other shield around your weld will protect your welding set-up from any breeze that could blow the shield gas away.

Bring your MIG welding machine outside. Make sure you have an extension cord that is long enough to connect to an indoor power source. Be sure to attach a grounding cable to your work table as well because you don’t want to shock yourself.

Finally, put on your protective equipment, such as your helmet, clothes, and gloves.

2. Strike the Arc

Strike the arc by moving it against the base metal. Move the arc from right to left to bevel the edges. Beveling helps with accuracy when welding outdoors (welding accurately is harder due to weather conditions). Plus, heating both metals evenly, which happens when you move the arc from side to side at first, ensures a more even joint. Don’t skip these preparatory steps, as you want the flux material to settle into the metal evenly.

3. Weld along the Joint

The rest of the welding process is the same as MIG welding indoors. Move the welder along the joint to create an even bead.

The only difference is you should start off with some tack welding to hold the two metals in place. There is a higher chance of them moving when you are welding outdoors than indoors.

4. Finish the Project

Once you’re done welding, turn off the electrode and clear away the MIG welding machine. Let the metal cool someplace where it won’t be exposed to the weather and flying debris. Later, you can clean up anything you need to clean.

Safety Equipment When MIG Welding Outdoors

When you’re MIG welding outdoors, you need to take precautions to protect your own safety, just like when you’re welding indoors. This includes wearing the right safety equipment:

  • Fire-resistant long clothing, such as coveralls
  • UV-resistant eye protection
  • A welding helmet
  • Leather gloves
  • Sturdy work boots 

Tips and Mistakes to Avoid

Even with the best protection, you might have to run more gas than usual because some will blow away. Make sure you have enough supply.

Avoid heating the metal unevenly or focusing on just one spot. Thicker metals are prone to cracking when you MIG weld outside. 

No matter your set-up, if it’s raining or very windy, don’t bother MIG welding outside. No makeshift shield can protect you from the weather enough to allow you to weld properly.

Final Thoughts

MIG welding outdoors is more challenging than other types of welding outdoors because the shield gas blows away. Increasing the gas level, putting up a wind shelter, and carefully welding is how you can still get the job done.