Here’s a big YES! Just like other welding equipment, it’s unfortunate that welding rods may go bad as well. Welding rods are basically electrodes or filler metal that melts to join the two other base metals in metal arc welding. Welding projects are incomplete without these rods to fill the gap between two metals. Good welds result from good rods; if your rods are damaged, welding defects occur more often.
It’s not only the shelf life of a welding rod that determines its integrity but the way you keep them matters as well. Over time these rods are much more prone to contaminants and moisture damage that affects their operational capability.
Let’s get right into the details that how do welding rods go bad, and what measures you need to take to preserve them!
- Why Welding Rods Go Bad?
- The Mechanism Behind This!
- How Long Can You Store the Welding Rods?
- Optimal Storage Conditions for The Welding Rods
Why Welding Rods Go Bad?
Here are a few factors that affect the electrode’s health adversely!
There could be nothing worse than exposing your welding rods excessively to moisture! These welding rods are made up of either stainless steel, high steel, or low alloy steel. They need dry storage conditions with low humidity for optimal working. However, if you expose them to wet and humid conditions, they will absorb moisture and tend to soften and dissolve.
There are different types of welding rods with different compositions. Truly speaking, it’s the composition of the rod that determines its endurance against moisture. Some electrodes have more endurance while some go bad even on little moisture exposure.
Let’s take an example! The low-hydrogen rods i.e, E7108 which are highly ductile and have high sound properties to produce x-ray quality welds, need to be placed in extremely dry conditions. Even a little moisture exposure may lead to hydrogen-induced cracking, hence compromising their functioning. They tend to stick while the scratch start technique and they live for shorter periods. You must have to keep in mind that their moisture endurance is somewhere between 0.0-0.5%.
Moreover, on the other hand, non-low hydrogen rods i.e., E7014 and E6010 do need some moisture in their coating for their proper functioning. If such electrodes don’t have balanced levels of humidity, they shall become too dry to serve as a filler metal. The acceptable moisture content for these electrodes is up to 1.0%. Increasing the humidity above this level may have consequences as well.
The temperature usually affects the electrodes once they are opened and exposed to air. If you don’t store them at optimal temperature, they again tend to absorb moisture and become humid. Lower temperatures have higher humidity, so it becomes mandatory to store these rods at temperatures somewhat higher than 250 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
However, you can even store some packaged and sealed electrodes at room temperatures – that might be due to packaging or their composition that allows them to be suitable at room temperatures.
Type of rod
As we have discussed before, it’s the type of rod that mainly determines its endurance against various environmental conditions such as moisture, temperature, and contaminants. Their different compositions, and different metal contents, either make them sturdy against these conditions or make them prone to damage.
The E7018 welding rods that are commonly used for general carbon steel welding purposes are basically the fastest in going bad. Despite having a tensile strength of 82,670 psi, these electrodes get damaged due to extreme sensitivity to humidity.
However, the shelf life of E6013 rods is way better than E7018, they may go bad over time, being less sensitive to moisture. Although the higher number means greater numbers of coating that definitely doesn’t determine the moisture endurance.
Moreover, E7024 has the tensile strength same as that of E7018, but it greatly varies in its composition. It basically comprises of higher content of iron powder along with low-hydrogen Flux. These electrodes are AC/DC that have higher deposition rates for wider and convex seams. Since these are low-hydrogen rods, they demand extremely dry storage conditions to prevent their contact with moisture and cause hydrogen-induced cracking.
The Mechanism Behind This!
So the main culprit is moisture which tends to make the electrodes non-functional. Either it’s the type of rod or the temperature, ultimately it’s the humidity that makes these electrodes wet. Let’s see what actually happens when these electrodes get wet!
The greater moisture content increases the ratio of hydrogen gas in the deposited metal from the decomposition of H2O. The hydrogen gas is responsible for causing cracks in the electrode.
How can we expect that a cracked welding rod will produce stable seams? This even causes the arc to become unstable and the splatters increase leading to the more difficult removal of slag. Ultimately, the appearance of the bead becomes extremely rough and irregular and it starts to blow holes in it. That’s what leads to the expiry of the electrode – hence, compromising its integrity.
<h2>What should be done with expired electrodes? Restoring the Wet Rods!</h2>
Reviving the rods that have gone bad due to moisture back to their metal-sealing performance always seems to be a daunting task. Once you learn how to revive them back, believe it or not, you’re no more going to worry about the humid rods.
The thing you have to do is to re-dry the rods and that’s it! You’re done! But wait. It’s not that simple because the re-drying temperature and exposure durations aren’t constant for all the rods – depending totally on the type of rods.
Generally speaking, the temperature at which you are going to re-dry your rod is higher than the temperature at which you had been storing it for evaporation of moisture. Regardless of the type and composition, all rods need to be removed from cans and spread evenly in the oven for uniform distribution of heat to each side for drying. However, if you don’t spread them evenly in the oven, each rod won’t get the desired temperature and the re-drying process will be incomplete.
For the re-drying process, the welding association recommends drying the rods in a sealed container, before heating them. It will prevent oxidation of the alloys and cracking in the coating. Classifying the electrodes into low-hydrogen and non-low hydrogen rods, let’s discuss the moisture removal process of each of these!
Re-drying Low-hydrogen Electrodes
The low-hydrogen electrodes are quite sensitive to higher temperatures so they need quite a vigilant handling. You only have to keep the temperature of the heated cabinet between 250 and 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the electrodes into it for not more than an hour by spreading them evenly.
However, if you think that further increasing the temperature would help you restore the rods quickly, it’s not true. Higher temperatures lead to excessive drying of rods, hence their failure. Moreover, the moisture tends to form chemical bonds with the contents of rods; this bonding needs optimal temperature to be broken for the required duration.
If you find that you have heated the rods much that their coating is flaking, rods are fragile, or they are breaking while welding –you need to dispose of them now. It either indicates that you have failed the process of re¬-drying or the rods were too damp to be revived. Moreover, make sure you don’t put the cans in the ovens to heat the rods in bulk; it will burn the cardboard liners and prevent even distribution of heat.
The electrodes that have been unsealed less than a week ago need no pre-dry process because they haven’t absorbed much moisture. The specific final re-drying temperature for E7024 and E7018 is 650-750 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the temperature can go up to 700-800 degrees Fahrenheit for E9018, E11018, E8018, and E10018.
Re-drying of Non-low Hydrogen Electrodes
The normal storage temperature for storage of non-low hydrogen electrodes should not exceed 200 degrees Fahrenheit. It goes especially for the ‘fast freeze’ group; they can’t endure higher temperatures. Let’s talk about their re-drying once you get them humid or damaged!
The ‘fast freeze’ electrodes need to be pre-dried at 200-230 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 45 minutes before your get into the final drying process. It will help you prevent cracking of coating, hence maintaining its integrity. However, the final drying temperature for this category is 400-500 degrees Fahrenheit. The re-drying of the ‘fast-freeze’ electrodes isn’t a suitable thing.
How Long Can You Store the Welding Rods?
Welding rods do expire as they age! The longer storage periods of these rods tend them to become fragile. So it means that there’s an ideal time during which you can use your welding rods with uncompromised function. If you’ve kept your welding rods in the ideal storage conditions, they may last for up to three good years.
Despite this time duration, the electrode life does also depend upon manufacturers and the material. We can classify welding rods into consumable and non-consumable electrodes.
The consumable electrodes first melt to serve as a filler metal to join the two base metals; however, the non-consumables don’t melt and serve as an electrical conductor to join the two workpieces. Surprisingly, the non-consumable electrodes usually don’t have a shelf life as they aren’t coated by any material that’s affected by external conditions.
Optimal Storage Conditions for The Welding Rods
When the sparks are flown away, the welding has been done, the welding electrodes now need some optimal storage conditions. That place should be dry with consistently high temperatures depending upon the type of rod you choose.
1. Storage options
You need a container that’s proficient at maintaining both the temperature and moisture. However, if your welding rods aren’t opened, you don’t need to store them, they are already moisture-free and sealed. You can for the following storage options:
- Red ovens are suitable for the bulk of welding rods because of their higher capacity. Some of them come with a built-in thermostat for temperature regulation and moisture management. But they are a little costly!
- Hermetically sealed containers are good for a smaller number of welding rods. They are a lot better on the pricing but once they are opened they need to be stored in a cabinet having 200-300 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Dry boxes are quite suitable for the insensitive electrodes that can be stored anywhere that’s dry and airtight. Even a reasonable plastic bag is good to go for it, but for a shorter storage time.
2. Maintain the Moisture-free Environment!
As moisture is the main culprit for damaging the rods prematurely, so you have to maintain a moisture-free and dry environment for optimal storage.
In general, the harder metals are way more brittle and become cracked easily. The moisture usually affects the coatings of the electrodes. Hence, they won’t be able to weld effectively due to hydrogen entrapment in the welds.
3. Keep the Temperature Optimal
If rods are sealed, you don’t necessarily need to store them at higher temperatures, room temperature is quite optimal. But once you open the seal, you have to make sure to store the rods at higher temperatures.
These higher temperatures are important because they prevent moisture absorption by evaporating water vapors.
The answer to your question do welding rods go bad? is YES! Whether you have low-hydrogen welding rods or non-low hydrogen electrodes, they can go bad if not stored in optimal conditions. However, you simply have to keep the temperature high and the environment dry to increase the shelf life of the welding rod. Even if your electrodes have been damaged due to moisture, simply revive them by the method mentioned above.