THE IMPOSSIBLE Aluminum Hot Water Heater Repair

This job came in right after opening my welding shop doors to my welding business when it was only months old.

We have to remove all the electrical components off the top of this tank.

Aluminum mig tig welding hot water heater pressure vessel.

I was the youngest welding shop being brand new and Google ranked me in last place, meaning I was the hardest one to find when you searched on Google for Aluminum welders. Now 03-25-2017 Google has moved me to first place.

Aluminum mig tig welding hot water heater pressure vessel.
The owner of this tank had tried five other welding shops and they said they couldn't fix it. They said it was beyond repair and it was also too thin to weld. It was only 1/16th thick.

Aluminum mig tig welding hot water heater pressure vessel.
This hot water heater came out of a RV camper. He came down from up north for one of our southern events. He planned on staying for two weeks and living in his camper.

After he got here, he turned on his water for a shower to discover it was leaking everywhere. At some point the weather got too cold, it froze and split open.

Aluminum mig tig welding hot water heater pressure vessel.

He called the manufacture to buy a new tank, but it was going to take 3 weeks to build and ship. That meant no showers for his entire vacation in FL?

That was not the answer he wanted to hear.

One of his friends that came down from up north with him, kept on Googling searching further. Finally he found me. I was his last hope.

Aluminum mig tig welding hot water heater pressure vessel.
When I looked at it, my first response was, "you can buy a new one cheaper than I can repair this one for."

Aluminum mig tig welding hot water heater pressure vessel. "You can really fix it", he says? "Every body else says it cant be fixed", he told me.

"Yah I say, they also tell me you cant weld holes closed in Air conditioning coils that leak. But yet I have a 80 percent success rate", I tell him.

Aluminum mig tig welding hot water heater pressure vessel.
You should have seen their eyes. When they saw how easy it was for me to close the tank back up for welding, their eyes were bulging as if they'd just watched Jesus walk on water.

And these guys had all been drinking. They were very amusing and entertaining, and well, they were on  vacation. Technically, I was the only one on duty.

Aluminum mig tig welding hot water heater pressure vessel.
Ok, I got a little lucky. It did close up a little tighter than I expected. But you don't think I told these drunks that do you? 

Excuse me, they weren't drunk, Tipsy is today's politically correct word isn't it?

Aluminum mig tig welding hot water heater pressure vessel. I have to clean the aluminum metal down to bare shiny virgin metal for aluminum welding to be successful.

I warned then, the contaminates inside the tank, would interfere enough to not expect real pretty welds. But I could make it hold pressure again.

I couldn't get inside the tank to clean it out.

Aluminum mig tig welding hot water heater pressure vessel.

Above: You can see me cleaning the weld zone with a grinder and my special attachments just for aluminum.

Below: This aluminum was super thin so I'm practicing and dialing in my welder on thin scraps before moving over onto the valuable tank.

Aluminum mig tig welding hot water heater pressure vessel. The window of success here was so small, I had no room for error in order to achieve success.

I make changes to my welder and settings about 6 times before I'm satisfied I'm ready for the super fragile tank weld.

Below: I'm practicing and dialing in on some equally thin scrap aluminum.

Aluminum mig tig welding hot water heater pressure vessel.

You ever dial in a rifle scope before?

If you don't dial it in from one situation to the next, if you think the same settings you used last time will always work this time, then you wont be a living sniper for long.

Aluminum mig tig welding hot water heater pressure vessel.
I'm satisfied everything's on the mark now, so its time to do it. Its time to leave excuses' behind and produce results.

You know what I like about snow? I don't care what a person tells me, I can tell by his tracks where he's been.

Aluminum mig tig welding hot water heater pressure vessel.

Aluminum mig tig welding hot water heater pressure vessel.

Aluminum mig tig welding hot water heater pressure vessel.

Aluminum mig tig welding hot water heater pressure vessel. Right now I'm doing a first pass. Its primary purpose is to hold the tank back together. Notice the weld is not very wide yet.

Aluminum mig tig welding hot water heater pressure vessel. Later I will do a second and a third pass for the purpose of guaranteeing a pressure tight seal. TRANSLATION: To be sure it wont leak again. 
Aluminum mig tig welding hot water heater pressure vessel. That strap is going to be in my way at some point soon.
Aluminum mig tig welding hot water heater pressure vessel. First pass done on either side of the strap but not beneath the strap. How close can you weld to a strap before you melt it?

Aluminum mig tig welding hot water heater pressure vessel. But now I have enough of the tank reconnected, that I can take the strap off  and the tank wont split apart again.

Then I can weld below where the strap had been.

Aluminum mig tig welding hot water heater pressure vessel.

Aluminum mig tig welding hot water heater pressure vessel.

Aluminum mig tig welding hot water heater pressure vessel.
First pass complete. Now I can work on the 2nd or 3rd pass which assures me any pin hole I might have missed the first time, I will get this time.

Aluminum mig tig welding hot water heater pressure vessel.
So it looks like I'm done, but I keep on welding.

Aluminum mig tig welding hot water heater pressure vessel. The FrankenStein Heater. We only had one priority. Hot showers for the customer.

Aluminum mig tig welding hot water heater pressure vessel.

Aluminum mig tig welding hot water heater pressure vessel. While I was working, my customer ran across the street and bought two pizzas and another 12 pack. Celebration time.

Aluminum mig tig welding hot water heater pressure vessel. An Rv water system generally only runs at a pressure of about 30 PSI. We reassemble it and test it to 110 PSI and it passes our leak test.

This is when I got scared. I thought he was going to kiss me. He got a very strange look on his face.

His buddy's reassure me he's not gay, he just hasn't had a shower for three for four days and my success has him very excited.

Aluminum mig tig welding hot water heater pressure vessel. I am so fortunate. I love my job. Some of my customers will come in the shop with me and we'll work on things together. I've had some really fantastic customers.

Some times we have so much fun, we just forget its a job and we feel like kids at playground just having fun.

What problem can I solve for you? What can I do to make you happy. But you have to promise, no kissing.

Remember, I work by appointment only. 904-638-8338  Call me, 9 Am to 7 Pm, any day of the week




 

 


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