I do appearance grade welds on all thicknesses (22g-1/2") my 180 can handle. Never had a problem. I don't use the auto set as it's a gimmick for novice welders. I use .023 and .030, never .035. The .023 is a little tougher to get set up just right but runs nice once it's set up.
What exact problems are you having with the .023?
welding 1/2" with a 180? it's good your not looking for structural integrity unless you hang it on a wall in an earthquake zone with the couch under it.
Whys that? I do it very rarely, with proper joint prep, on butt welds. takes me about 5 passes which is time consuming but I have never had an inspector ever bock at one of my welds. I'm by no means claiming this is an ideal machine for that thickness but when I've been in a pinch it's worked fine.