Do Welding Rods Go Bad?

Welding projects cannot be completed without welding electrodes, and in order to produce quality welds, your rods must be in good condition.

Electrodes can go bad relatively easily, so it’s important to know how to care for the electrode to not only preserve shelf life, but also to avoid weld defects from using a damaged rod.  

Regardless of whether you took your welding rod out of the packaging a few months ago or thirty years ago, it can go bad. This does not depend on the age of the rod, but rather the amount of moisture the rod has been exposed to. It’s crucial to keep the rod dry.  

In this article, I will be explaining everything you need to know about why welding electrodes go bad, how welding rods go bad, the effects on you weld from using a bad rod, how to prevent it from going bad, and what can be done to restore the bad rod.

What Causes Them to Go Bad?

In order to perform properly, the electrode must be dry. When electrodes are exposed to humidity in the air, the rods will absorb moisture, causing them to become wet and dissolve. Some electrodes are more sensitive to moisture than others, and the amount of moisture content an electrode can withstand depends on the type of rod.

Low hydrogen electrodes, such as the E7108, are designed to produce great welds of x-ray quality with sound impact properties and high ductility. These electrodes must be kept very dry because hydrogen-induced cracking can occur easily. The acceptable moisture content for low hydrogen rods is between 0.0-0.5%.

Non-low hydrogen electrodes, such as E6010 and E7014, need some moisture in its coating to function properly. If electrodes do not have the proper moisture content and are too dry, they may not function properly. On the other hand, excessive moisture can similarly have consequences. The acceptable moisture content for non-low hydrogen electrodes is around 1.0%.

How Do They Go Bad?

“When electrodes are wet, hydrogen gas coming out of H20 decomposition increase its ratio in the deposited metal, in conclusion it mainly causes cracks.” When electrodes are wet from moisture, the arc becomes unstable, spatters increase, slag is more difficult to remove, bead appearance becomes rough, and blow holes and undercut form.

What Does It Affect?

Ultimately, welding with a wet flux causes blow holes, pork marks, and pit generate, resulting in defects such as difficulties in removing slag and roughness of bead appearance. However, electrode damages as a result of contact with moisture depend on the amount of moisture it is exposed to and the type of electrode.

When exposed to moisture, the flux will become wet and deteriorate. If there is any rust on the rod, if the flux has formed a dry, powdery coating, or if the flux has softened, the rod is bad and should not be used for anything other than non-critical welding on mild steel. If welding electrodes absorb moisture on the flux, it can cause bubbles to develop in the weld. These bubbles will cause the weld to become porous and weak which can lead to cracking, ultimately producing a low-quality weld.  

Effects of moisture on low hydrogen electrodes

  • A low amount of moisture can cause porosity and may contribute to underbead or weld cracking.  
  • A relatively high amount of moisture can cause internal porosity as well as visible external porosity. It can also cause excessive slag fluidity, a rough weld surface, difficulty removing slag, and weld cracking.
  • Severe exposure to moisture can cause underbead cracking, severe porosity, unattractive appearance, slag problems, and weld cracks.

Effects of moisture on non-low hydrogen electrodes

  • When exposed to moisture for long periods of time, non-low hydrogen electrodes may operate poorly and deposit low quality welds.  

Rods that have been in contact with air and are potentially damaged from moisture should only be used for a short amount of time. If there is no rusting and the flux is solid with no powdery residue, the rod is fine, regardless of its age.

How to Prevent Your Rods from Going Bad

Keeping your rods in a warm, dry place will ensure that the electrodes maintain their bonding strength and will have a longer shelf life.

When initially opening the sealed can, only take out the rods you’ll be using. Leave the rest in the packaging and seal it immediately. Store the unused electrodes in a rod oven, an unopened vacuum can, or any another sealed container immediately after opening the original packaging.

Storing and exposure limits for low hydrogen electrodes

  • Purchase low hydrogen electrodes in hermetically sealed containers. These containers provide excellent protection from moisture.
  • Do not open the container until you need to use the electrodes.
  • Immediately after opening the container, place the electrodes you’re not using in a heated cabinet at 250 to 300℉ (120-150℃).
  • The exposure lengths for electrodes vary. E1708 electrodes can be exposed to air for approximately four hours before being damaged whereas E11018 electrodes can only be exposed to air for approximately half an hour.

Storing non-low hydrogen electrodes

  • Upon opening non-low hydrogen electrodes from hermetically sealed containers, immediately place them in heated cabinets at 100 to 200℉ (40-50℃).
  • Do not store them at higher temperatures, especially those in the “fast freeze” group

What to Do with Bad Rods

If your electrodes have been damaged from exposure to moisture, there are ways to revive them back to their original performance capability. Moisture-damaged rods can be re-dried, restoring the electrodes’ ability to deposit quality welds.

The re-drying temperatures and times are not uniform for all electrodes. They depend on the type of electrode being re-dried and the condition it is in.  The temperatures at which electrodes are re-dried are generally higher than the temperatures at which should be stored at to help eliminate excess moisture.  Refer to the manufacturer’s specifications for the proper re-drying and storing temperatures.

For all electrodes, regardless of the type and condition its in, each individual electrode being re-dried should be removed from the can and spread out in the oven to ensure that each rod reaches the proper drying temperature. If they are not spread out, the effects of re-drying will not be uniform, as each electrode will not be able to reach the necessary temperature. Prior to re-drying the rods in heat, dry them in a sealed container for one to two hours. This will reduce the likelihood of coating cracks or oxidation of the alloys in the coating.

Re-drying low hydrogen electrodes:

  • Low hydrogen electrodes should be disposed of if excessive drying causes the coating to flake, become fragile, and break off while welding. If the electrode shows noticeable differences in handling or arc characteristics, it should be disposed of as well.
  • Re-dry the electrode in a heated cabinet for one hour at 250 to 300℉ (120-150℃).
  • Do not dry them at higher temperatures, for it further could damage the electrodes. Moisture becomes chemically bonded to the electrode coating. Those bonds need to be broken at the proper temperature for the proper length of time or the electrode can get damaged.
  • Several hours at lower temperatures are not equivalent to one hour at 250 to 300℉  (120-150℃).
  • Do not put the can of electrodes in the oven. The cardboard liners can burn and the heat won’t be evenly distributed among the electrodes.
Specific temperatures
  • For electrodes that have been exposed to air for less than a week and have had no direct contact with water, you do not need to pre-dry them.
  • The final re-drying temperature should depends on the type of electrode.
  • For E7018 and E7028, dry them at 650 to 750℉ (340-400℃).
  • For E8018, E9018, E10018, E11018, dry them at 700 to 800℉ (370-430℃).

Re-drying non-low hydrogen electrodes:

  • Electrodes from opened containers should be stored in heated cabinets at 100 to 200℉ (40-50℃)
  • Do not put the can of electrodes in the oven.
  • Do not store them at higher temperatures, especially electrodes in the “fast freeze” group.
Specific temperatures:
  • For electrodes in the “fast fill” category, pre-dry them for 30 to 45 minutes at 200 to 230℉ (90-110℃) before final drying to avoid cracking of the coating.
  • The final re-drying temperature should be 400 to 500℉ for 30 to 45 minutes.
  • For electrodes in the “fill freeze” category, pre-dry them for 30 to 45 minutes at 200 to 230℉ (90-110℃) before final drying to avoid cracking of the coating.
  • The final re-drying temperature should be 300 to 350℉ for 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Re-drying of electrodes in the “fast freeze” category is not recommended.

Can welding Wire Go Bad?

Yes, unfortunately, welding wires can also go bad. In the same way that electrodes can be damaged from moisture, welding wires can too be damaged from moisture. Moisture damaged-wires can produce porosity in the weld. Rust and other contaminants can also damage the quality of the weld.
While moisture on its own does not damage the wire, it is when the heat and arc break the moisture down into hydrogen and oxygen, and hydrogen in or near the molten weld can significantly reduce the weld quality.
Storing Welding Wire
To protect the welding wires from moisture, store them in an oven at specific temperatures when not in use. For coils, Masonite spools, or wire baskets, storage temperatures should not exceed 300℉ (150℃). For plastic spools, storage temperatures should not exceed 150℉ (65℃), as plastic is unable to withstand high temperatures. The exact temperatures and times should be obtained from the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Another good way to store welding wires is in hermetically sealed containers. Only take out the amount of wire you will need for the weld and immediately store the rest in a hermetically sealed container to protect it from moisture.

Re-drying Welding Wire

Like electrodes, welding wires can also be re-dried to restore them to their proper function. The exact temperatures and times for re-drying depend on the wire and spool material. Wire coils, Masonite spools, or wire baskets should be re-dried at 230 to 300℉ (110-150℃) for longer than six hours but shorter than 12 hours. Plastic spools, on the other hand, cannot be re-dried because the plastic is unable to withstand such high temperatures.

Conclusion

I know this is a lot of information and it may be overwhelming. The most important things to take away from this article is that welding rods need to be dry. If exposed to humidity in the air, the electrodes will absorb the moisture and damage the rod. Store the electrodes in air tight containers to protect them from moisture. If your electrodes have been damaged, you can restore them to their previous function by re-drying the damaged rods.

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