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Thread: welding safety on aluminum hull boats

  1. #1

    Default welding safety on aluminum hull boats

    Prior to welding on an aluminum boat hull (rails, cabin, sides, etc.... NOT THE FUEL TANK), how many of you do any of the following:

    1. disconnect positive and negative leads from both terminals of all batteries.
    2. disconnect all hot wired electronics or motors at either the battery or the device
    3. drill air relief hole on sealed tubing or other sealed compartments (not the fuel tank !)
    4. remove, or drain and fill the fuel tank with water (even though you are welding on something else other than the fuel tank.
    5. cover fuel vent openings with a wet rag.
    6. remove and or disconnect any other fuel fired devices or their tanks (oil fired or propane).
    7. stand on a rubber mat (and/or wear rubber boots) if you are on the boat while welding.
    8. connect welder work lead close (within a foot or so) of the welding area.

    I know you should drain and fill a fuel tank with water if you are going to weld on a surface touching the fuel or fuel vapors. I don't plan to weld directly on a fuel tank.

    These questions are with regard to the rest of the boat. My understanding is the fuel tanks typically ARE electrically connected to the hulls via mounting bolts (i.e. they are not electrically separated by dielectric connectors), but it is not necessary to drain/fill with water or remove the tank. I asked a welder at one of the major NW aluminum boat building shops about this, and he said he welds on boats (not the tanks) with gas in the tanks all the time but does cover the vents with a wet rag if welding near the vent.

    I have welded a bunch of loose stuff on the welding table in the garage, but nothing directly on a boat or car. Trying to get the safety stuff in order first .............

  2. #2
    Member ironartist's Avatar
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    I would disconnect the battery and ground directly what your welding on thats all I have ever done, other than that any questions you might call someone like gary at greatland or another quality boat repair shop
    Visions Steel/841-WELD(9353)
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  3. #3
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    Default welding safety

    Quote Originally Posted by titobandito View Post
    Prior to welding on an aluminum boat hull (rails, cabin, sides, etc.... NOT THE FUEL TANK), how many of you do any of the following:

    1. disconnect positive and negative leads from both terminals of all batteries.
    Just disconnect the positive of all batteries. You will be fine.
    2. disconnect all hot wired electronics or motors at either the battery or the device
    If all positive terminals are disconnected doing this is a moot point.
    3. drill air relief hole on sealed tubing or other sealed compartments (not the fuel tank !)
    Depending on the area this might be necessary but not always.
    4. remove, or drain and fill the fuel tank with water (even though you are welding on something else other than the fuel tank.
    5. cover fuel vent openings with a wet rag.
    I've done repairs including full bottom replacement without draining or removing the fuel tank. You do need some common sense in any repair. If in doubt remove it from the list of things that can go wrong. Don't over think it IE: use common sense. Removing the tank would be easier than draining and filling then draining and filling back up with fuel. It's the vapors you need to be more concerned with here more so then liquid fuel.
    6. remove and or disconnect any other fuel fired devices or their tanks (oil fired or propane).
    Again use common sense here. If you don't have any find somebody that does.
    7. stand on a rubber mat (and/or wear rubber boots) if you are on the boat while welding.
    This is hilarious, If your worried about being shocked maybe you should take a basic class in AC/DC electricity.
    8. connect welder work lead close (within a foot or so) of the welding area.
    I've always just made sure I had a good ground connection on the piece I'm welding on. Distance means nothing compared to a good connection (IE grounding point).

    I know you should drain and fill a fuel tank with water if you are going to weld on a surface touching the fuel or fuel vapors. I don't plan to weld directly on a fuel tank.
    If your not welding directly to the fuel tank, I wouldn't worry about it. Your better off filling the tank full. As I said you should be more worried about vapors then raw fuel.

    These questions are with regard to the rest of the boat. My understanding is the fuel tanks typically ARE electrically connected to the hulls via mounting bolts (i.e. they are not electrically separated by dielectric connectors), but it is not necessary to drain/fill with water or remove the tank. I asked a welder at one of the major NW aluminum boat building shops about this, and he said he welds on boats (not the tanks) with gas in the tanks all the time but does cover the vents with a wet rag if welding near the vent.
    If welding near a vent or fill I always cover it with duct tape. Be sure you know whats behind the surface you are welding ALWAYS!.

    I have welded a bunch of loose stuff on the welding table in the garage, but nothing directly on a boat or car. Trying to get the safety stuff in order first .............
    Safety is good but don't over think it. Current follows the path of least resistance. This rule never changes.

  4. #4
    Member fullbush's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by titobandito View Post
    Prior to welding on an aluminum boat hull (rails, cabin, sides, etc.... NOT THE FUEL TANK), how many of you do any of the following:

    1. disconnect positive and negative leads from both terminals of all batteries.
    2. disconnect all hot wired electronics or motors at either the battery or the device
    3. drill air relief hole on sealed tubing or other sealed compartments (not the fuel tank !)
    4. remove, or drain and fill the fuel tank with water (even though you are welding on something else other than the fuel tank.
    5. cover fuel vent openings with a wet rag.
    6. remove and or disconnect any other fuel fired devices or their tanks (oil fired or propane).
    7. stand on a rubber mat (and/or wear rubber boots) if you are on the boat while welding.
    8. connect welder work lead close (within a foot or so) of the welding area.
    Sounds like a pre-job safety meeting on the slope....Not practical in the real world or any production fab shop I've ever been in. Except the slope

  5. #5

    Default Nobody Died ...............

    There you have it ...................Installed 2 bait station rail mounts.

    1. waited for sunny day for boat to be dry
    2. disconnected batteries
    3. made sure of good ground (work lead) close to welding location

    Trickier than it looks because of

    a. small pieces with risk of melting out or overheating
    b. vertical up on small pipe
    c. lots of pre-cleaning to remove pitted corrosion contamination on rail







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