MIG Welding a Key Part of Auto Collision Repair Program
Students in the auto collision repair program at Grant Career Center in Bethel, Ohio, have a strong focus on welding processes. Photo by Ric Kruse
Students in the automotive collision repair program at Grant Career Center in Bethel, Ohio, are preparing for a lifetime of working with metal. Because of this, instructor Ric Kruse includes a welding component in many of the program’s classes, to better prepare students with the welding skills they’ll need after graduation.
“We have a responsibility to prepare our students for the real world, and I have never seen a collision repair facility that did not include welding — from an old-world restoration shop to a modern collision mega-shop,” he says. “Welding has always been a part of the collision repair process.”
What has changed in the 20 years Kruse has been with the school’s auto collision repair program is the type of welding that students need to master. The focus has shifted to MIG welding, as that process over the years has become common in auto repair applications.
Advancements in MIG technologies and equipment make the process easier to learn and use. Take, for example, the Auto-Set™ function found on many MIG welders from Miller Electric Mfg. Co., a feature that automatically sets the machine to the proper parameters for quick and easy setup. The MIG process also has become mandatory when working with more modern steels in auto collision repair, Kruse says.
“In the beginning of the junior school year, after intensive safety instruction, I get all my students up to speed with MIG welding,” says Kruse, who is Master Collision Certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) and teaches the 11th-grade students in the program. “They are usually a little apprehensive, until I show them how easy it is to weld using the basic auto-body style welders with minimum controls.”
Kruse and his teaching partner teach several classes in the collision program, covering topics such as safety, mechanical/electrical, structural, nonstructural and refinishing. They include a welding component in both the structural and nonstructural classroom applications. They have two semesters in the two-year program, with typically 16 to 20 new students entering into the program at the junior level every year.
The collision program students perform MIG welding on mild steel parts with a Millermatic® 140 and two Hobart Handler® 140 machines, all set up to weld .023 mild steel. Kruse would like to expand the program’s machine offerings with another MIG welder dedicated to aluminum welding.
One recent class project was the repair of the rear clip on a 2010 Chevy Cobalt. The students take on jobs from the community when it fits into the instruction and curriculum of the program. They also do a lot of repair and welding work on farm implements, since the school is in a rural farm setting.
“First and foremost we exist to teach our students — and in the process, doing live customer service work is a wonderful training tool,” Kruse says.