Overland Tech: Battery welding in the field

Welding with automotive batteries is one of those near-mythical skills, like seating a tire bead with starting fluid, that most people never even attempt. But unlike explosive bead-seating, which a quick YouTube search will confirm can go wrong easily, battery welding is pretty straightforward. Recently, Doug Manzer had an opportunity to try it in the backcountry of Utah. 

Doug and his 11-year-old son, Nick, were on a solo-vehicle trip in their Toyota FJ Cruiser, towing a military M416 trailer modified by Doug for camping duty. While climbing a series of 90-degree rock ledges, both front spring mounts tore off the trailer’s frame. Inspection revealed that insidious rust had weakened the mounts. 

Doug had seen Matt Savage’s video of battery welding on one of Overland Expo’s 60-Second Overlander spots, and realized he had the perfect opportunity to try it. However, he only had two batteries with him, and was lacking a few other needed items, so he and Nick left the trailer and made the three-hour drive to the nearest town, Green River, for supplies. 

Click for larger imageBack on site, Doug hooked up his existing AGM batteries, including the main Odyssey, in series (positive to negative) with a purchased lead-acid battery, to create a 36-volt power source. He used a standard jumper clip on the positive terminal and a welding rod holder on the negative end. A C-clamp and the Toyota’s receiver hitch served as a makeshift vise for cutting 2 by 5-inch rectangles of flat steel to create a spring mount reinforcement. 

In his first attempt, using 6011 and then 6013 rods, Doug actually found the arc too hot and focused. A 316 rod turned out to be perfect for the thick, mild steel. A few rough but strong beads later, and father and son were on the trail again. So adequate did those welds turn out that all Doug did on returning home was to clean them up a bit. He’s certain the battery-powered field repair is far stronger than the factory mounts.

An interesting postscript: The Odyssey battery, reinstalled in the FJ Cruiser, started it right up after welding duty. But a check of the new lead-acid battery at home showed it to be 90 percent discharged. Chalk up one more anecdote for the superb Odyssey.

(Editor’s note: For those intrigued by the concept of battery welding, but inexperienced at using sticks, check out the excellent Ready Welder, a wire-feed unit capable of welding steel up to 1/2 inch thick using three batteries.)