Do welding rods go bad? The short answer is yes.
Over time electrodes are susceptible to moisture damage and other contaminants that affect their operational capability or sometimes render them useless.
The time depends on your rod’s composition and the condition you keep them in. However, a drop in performance after some time is inevitable.
Shelf life is an important parameter to determine how long an object retains its effectiveness.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the shelf lives of stick electrodes and look at different ways of getting the most out of your welding equipment.
This article is primarily aimed at mild steel welding electrodes.
Do Welding Rods Go Bad?
Welding rods, or electrodes, are the most important consumable materials for Stick welding process.
Electrodes play a huge role in any kind of arc welding as they determine the required current path.
Stick electrodes are consumable and melt during the process, whereas TIG electrodes (the tungsten) do not disintegrate.
Theoretically, welding is a pretty straightforward process. However, getting a perfect weld is hard because there are so many variables that can affect the results including poor arc starts or the rod sticking to the workpiece.
Having proper and effective equipment to carry out your welds is an important requirement for getting the best results.
This is very important for any critical welding on lifting equipment or high-pressure pipe or vessels.
Non-consumable welding electrodes used for TIG welding are an exception to the above statement. They have no shelf life as they remain unaffected by environmental conditions.
What Causes Welding Rods To Go Bad?
The main culprit behind welding rods going bad is moisture content. The flux that provides the shielding gas for the ARC welding instead of shielding gas like MIG or TIG.
For optimal performance and getting quality welds, it’s important to keep the electrodes free from any moisture.
The composition of the electrodes flux coating determines their sensitivity to humid conditions.
Low hydrogen rods electrode coating, for example, are extremely sensitive to moisture. They may become unusable if the moisture content increases the threshold of 0.5%.
Low hydrogen electrodes will tend to stick during the scratch start technique, and will not run for a long period before dying out.
Moisture may dissolve the surface layer of the electrode and leave a black residue on the low hydrogen electrodes (7018’s) flux or a white powdery residue on the 6010’s and 6013’s, which makes the rod unusable.
If mild rods have been neglected for a long time can become rusty.
Moreover, high moisture content also produces Hydrogen during the welding process and introduces spatter, cracks, and other welding defects.
Another reason that causes welding rods to go bad is the temperature.
Generally, welding electrodes thrive on higher temperatures and in sealed containers. It is crucial to store the electrodes in a warm, dry place after the packaging is opened to get the best performance from them.
How To Stop It?
Welding rods go bad a lot of times and often you can’t stop it from happening.
However, it is possible to slow down the process. There is a direct relationship between the temperature, humidity in an environment, and the shelf life of an electrode. Therefore, keeping the storage space warm and dry can have a significant impact on the overall lifespan of your welding electrodes.
As composition determines the sensitivity of an electrode to the humidity and temperature, you can repair some electrodes by keeping them in a high-temperature environment until they have reached the drying temperature.
The process can take several hours and only works on some types of welding rods.
The Average Shelf-Life Of Welding Rods
Multiple factors affect how long a welding rod can last. Typically, a regular welding electrode can perform consistently for 2–3 years only if all the conditions are ideal. Since that’s not always the case, your electrodes may not last as long.
How To Store Welding Electrodes For Better Shelf Life
Quality welding rods are commonly sold in 5 & 10 pound sealed containers.
If you buy the cardboard rods the flux can be damaged. Keep the rods in an airtight container and add some moisture-absorbing silica beads to the containers to keep the rods as dry as possible.
A good practice is to make some robust sealed containers using plumbers plastic pipe and glue a blank for the bottom and a female threaded union on the top for a screw-on lid. Make the plastic pipe just long enough to fit the rods to limit the air in the containers.
For low hydrogen electrodes, use a vacuum sealer to bag the rods to remove all the air and seal them to extend their life. This way you can buy larger packs of rods and break them up into smaller bags so it is more economical.
I recommend using a rod oven or if you don’t have one, find a benchtop oven second hand and use that as a cheap alternative.
Cook the rods for 1-2 hours at 180-2200 Fahrenheit / 80-105 degrees then up to as high as 450 -500 Fahrenheit 230-260 prior to welding to get the best results from the rods.
This is not a practice that you would use in a professional coded welding situation on critical work. But it is excellent for the home hobbyist or small fabrication shop to extend the life on the rods.
It makes a noticeable difference when starting and running the rods, with minimal porosity.
More On Welding Rods: Common Types And Their Uses
Various categories exist for consumable welding electrodes. Each type comes with its own set of advantages and features, which make them suitable for specific ARC welding applications.
Each electrode type also has its own ideal shelf life, as the base material and composition are different.
Generally, consumable electrodes used for stick welding can be divided into the following categories:
- Low hydrogen electrodes
- Metal cored electrodes
- Flux-cored electrodes
The American Welding Society (AWS) characterizes stick electrodes with a uniform code for easier identification and uniformity.
Each stick welding rod is coded in the basic EXXX format. Beginners don’t need to stress too much on the codes but they should be able to understand the information it delivers.
The E at the start is the sign of a current-carrying electrode. The first two digits show the tensile strength of the electrode while the next digit shows the welding position, which can either be 0 (horizontal) or 1(all positions).
Finally, the last digit shows the performance and operational details of the specific electrodes.
To understand, let’s take an example of E8018.
The code indicates that this is a current-carrying electrode with a tensile strength of 80,000 psi.
You can carry out the welding process in all positions and the 8 shows this electrode’s polarity, penetrating power, and other operational characteristics.
Here Are Some Examples Of The Most Popular Welding Electrodes Today
1 – E7018
E7018 (lo hy) is extremely sensitive to humidity and can become useless in only a matter of months if you are not careful.
In critical applications, the electrodes can only be out of the heated cabinet for a matter of hours.
The electrode coating may also crumble or become extremely fragile during the re-drying process, which means that you need to pay a little more attention to proper storage methods.
E7018 is dubbed as the most popular stick welding electrode in the market. The electrode delivers high-quality welds, especially for carbon steels.
The results of this electrode are free from major defects and cracks by limiting the amount of hydrogen seeping into the weld pool.
As its name suggests, the welding rod has a tensile strength of 70,000 psi and can easily work in all positions.
How To Store 60,000 Tensile Strength Electrodes
The 60xx series rods do not have the specified requirements of the 70 series. You shouldn’t put in welding rod ovens.
This will alter the characteristics of the flux. Seal opened containers as best as you can and keep in a dry environment. Next to a boiler or hot water cylinder is a great place for the home hobbyist.
2 – E6010
The E6010 stick welding electrode is another popular choice for general welding applications.
This rod has no special characteristics, which makes it a suitable option for a huge variety of welding jobs.
This electrode is designed for DC applications and has a sodium cellulose flux coating on its surface. This rod generates a lot of spatter.
3 – E6011
E6011 is very similar to the character of the 6010 in metal deposition rates and welding positions. They can be run on both AC and DC currents.
4 – E6013
Designed for welding beginners, the E6013 welding electrodes are among the most convenient welding electrodes available in the market.
These electrodes have a potassium-based outer coating and can be used on both AC/DC currents.
In a professional environment, you’ll find E6013 being used for sheet metal work and general repairs of thinner materials. They do not need to be stored in a rod oven so they are a popular choice.
The Use Of A Rod Oven For Welding Electrodes
Rod ovens are an important tool for welders, as they can help in increasing the overall shelf life of their stick electrodes.
As discussed before, temperature and humidity are the biggest causes of welding rods going bad before their time.
With rod ovens, you can ensure a warm and moisture-free atmosphere for your welding electrodes.
The process of re-drying also needs a rod oven. There is no such thing as a uniform drying temperature as it is dependent on different factors like the composition and absorbed moisture of the welding rod. Even two identical welding rods can theoretically have different drying temperatures.
Rod ovens can handle a range of temperatures, so you can always make sure that your welding electrode is properly dried.
For professional welders, rod ovens handle another important process called electrode reconditioning.
Code-work requires users to follow a strict timeline and recommends keeping electrodes at a specific temperature for some time before using them for a weld.
Even if you are performing code work, keeping your electrodes in the oven would improve their shelf life and keep the performance consistent.
However, you must be careful and ensure whether your welding rod is suitable for an oven or not.
For example, consider the example of the popular welding electrodes discussed above. Conversely, keeping E7018 in an oven is crucial to keep it’s 70,000 tensile qualities
How Long Can An E7018 Welding Rod Be Out Of The Oven?
The recommended oven temperature for an E7018 welding electrode is 250F.
Once removed from the oven, you can keep the welding rod outside for about 4 hours max.
Exposing the welding rod longer than 4 hours would require you to recondition the electrode before using it in the future.
Conclusion Of Do Welding Rods Go Bad
Let’s recap. Yes, welding electrodes go bad over time because they tend to absorb moisture from the environment.
Store them correctly to save money and frustration from poor performing rods and prevent cracks, and porosity.
Even when your stick welding electrode is damaged, there is sometimes you can make them usable again by following processes like redrying and reconditioning.
However, there are many instances where it becomes impossible to reverse the damage when they are too rusty.
There is no method of eliminating the chances of your welding electrodes going bad, but you can slow down the process by properly storing the rods in a warm, dry place.