Master the Basics to Advance Your Welding Skills

04/25/2024 by Blake Baker and Ed Valle, I-CAR Trainers, Program Delivery


A lot is changing in welding equipment, materials, and techniques; but even if you're up to speed on these trends, you'll be at a disadvantage if you haven't mastered the simple basics. These are the fundamentals that have guided generations of welders, going back to the day of traditional MIG welding equipment. Yet, we see these well-established basics being overlooked by many of the structural technicians we work with.

We often see opportunities for experienced technicians to enhance their skills by improving their knowledge of welding fundamentals. Our objective in writing this blog is to take you back to the basics - the building blocks for skills development - so you can reach your highest possible potential as a welder.

Understanding Electrical Theory

There is an underlying science in every phase of the collision repair process, from the physics of energy transfer occurring in a collision to electrical theory as it applies to modern collision repair welding processes. Welding is a precise process, and it is the mark of a professional to understand Ohm's Law, which is simply the relationship between voltage, current, and resistance.

Ohm's Law Formula Explained: Ohm's law is a mathematical equation that defines the relationship of voltage, current, and resistance. Voltage is one of the three parts in Ohm's Law. When voltage is used in an Ohm's Law equation, it is represented by the symbol V. Current or amps is another one of the three parts in Ohm's Law. When it is used in an Ohm's Law equation, it is represented by the symbol I. Resistance is another one of the three parts in Ohm's Law. When resistance is used in an Ohm's Law equation, it is represented by the symbol R.

Practical knowledge gained from hands-on training and experience with operating welding equipment is invaluable, but theory knowledge helps reduce inefficient trial-and-error learning. Understanding electrical theory will help you expertly adjust machine settings, troubleshoot problems quickly, and consistently produce high-quality results. Knowing electrical terminology also will help you interpret equipment manufacturers' operating instructions.

More often than not, technicians we work with have an incomplete understanding of electrical theory. As a result, a number of issues can arise. The most common ones we see in the field are difficulties identifying proper machine settings and adjustments, wasted time and materials, and poor-quality results.

We recommend these I-CAR courses to build your theory knowledge:

It Should Be Clear You Need Good Vision

It should go without saying that good vision is necessary for the precise work of welding; but unfortunately, it's not uncommon for us to encounter technicians who have problems seeing clearly. It's a sure tip-off when they struggle to follow a welding joint.

If the problem is a dirty or worn outer cover lens on the helmet, it's an easy fix. The solution may be as simple as cleaning or polishing the lens, but often it needs replacement. Worn or damaged outer cover lenses can hinder a technician's performance during an I-CAR Welding Training and Certification in-shop event, and most importantly, may negatively impact the quality of vehicle repairs. Replacement cover lenses (inner and outer) are consumable items and are readily available from welding equipment suppliers. Keep a few inner and outer cover lenses on hand and replace them before their condition adversely affects your weld quality.

Other problems commonly faced are environmental. When welding overhead or underneath vehicles, auxiliary lighting may be required. As a simple fix, welding helmets are now available with built-in lighting, alternatively a light can be added to your existing helmet. Like everything else, welding helmet technology has been evolving. Advancements in auto-darkening lens technology such as enhanced optical clarity, a broader color spectrum, and increased number of arc sensors all contribute to the best view possible when welding.

We're always surprised by how many technicians are unaware of their need for prescription glasses or contacts. If you already wear glasses, follow your ophthalmologist's recommendations for how often to schedule eye exams. Even if you've always had 20/20 vision, recognize that you will need to get your eyes checked more often as you age. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends healthy adults get a baseline eye exam with an ophthalmologist by age 40.

Wise Up to 'Smart' Tools

Today's welders have sophisticated user interfaces that offer synergic programs specific to each wire alloy and diameter, as well as advanced features such as pulse, double pulse, 4T trigger modes, in addition to hot start and crater fill timers. A thorough understanding of welding equipment has always been a basic principle of welding, but the learning curve to utilize all of the advanced features on today's sophisticated machines can overwhelm technicians.


Our advice: Get to know your welder. Understand how synergic programs function and are adjusted according to material thickness. Perform test welds prior to welding on vehicles. The time you invest learning about your welder will minimize user errors and ultimately decrease the amount of time needed to identify optimal weld settings.

Many equipment manufacturers have websites offering a variety of resources. Their model-specific operator manuals can typically be viewed online and downloaded when paper manuals are unavailable. This is a vastly underused resource. If you want to prioritize what to read first in these manuals, we suggest looking up information on the location of all machine adjustments and reading all information on synergic programming. It's also worthwhile checking out the official social media platforms of equipment manufacturers which may lead you to training videos and other resources. Finally, don't overlook your equipment vendors and suppliers as potential sources for technical support.

I-CAR instructors also are a resource to help you set up, safely operate, and maintain your equipment. If we're coming to your shop for a Welding Training & Certification, don't hesitate to ask for our help so you're prepared for the in-shop event. You can also check out our Repairability Technical Support (RTS), now available as an app too. There are a wealth of resources here to assist before, during, and after any welding training. In addition, I-CAR also offers equipment manufacturer-specific courses, including:

Back to the Basics

Something that will never change about welding is that before you pull the trigger on your welding gun, you have to pay attention to these simple, but essential basics:

  • Understand electrical theory to help you identify the proper welder settings to consistently perform complete, safe, and quality repairs.
  • Make sure you can see well with adequate lighting, a clean cover lens, and, if needed, glasses or contact lenses with an up-to-date prescription.
  • Know your welder inside out by reading the user manual and using other manufacturer resources, completing training, and reaching out to your I-CAR instructor for guidance.

Now that you have studied electrical fundamentals, learned everything there is to know about your welder, and taken care of any vision issues, it's time to practice and put all this knowledge to work. You can order practice coupons from the I-CAR website.




About the Authors

Blake Baker is currently a Trainer, Program Delivery with I-CAR, first joining I-CAR part-time in 2018 as a Welding and Hands-On Skills Development Instructor. He has 20-plus years industry experience, and until 2022, had been working as a full-time collision repair technician.

Ed Valle is currently a Trainer, Program Delivery, for the North and South Central Regions. In his prior role with I-CAR, he served as a full-time Welding and Hands-On Skills Development Instructor, first joining I-CAR part-time in 2014. He came to I-CAR with extensive teaching experience, previously teaching the auto collision repair technology program at Scott Community College for eight years in Bettendorf, IA. His background also includes 11 years in the industry as a structural technician.