Preventing Cracks in Aluminum Welds

Why do you get "crater cracks" in aluminum and how do you prevent them?

Crater cracks happen for three reasons:

1. High thermal rate of conductivity

2. The relatively large change in volume when aluminum solidifies

3. The concave shape of the crater 

Aluminum cools so fast that it doesn't provide adequate time for the weld bead to flatten or the crater to fill. The deep depression of the crater quickly freezes in a concave shape, exerting high tensile stresses on the surrounding metal. It is in this area that a crack will propagate through the weld metal. As the weld cools, crater cracking is common if proper steps are not taken to minimize the problem.

Preventing Crater Cracks in Gas Tungsten Arc Welds (i.e., TIG)
It is usually fairly easy to fill the crater in a TIG weld. Just be sure not to leave the crater concave. It should be flat or convex. You do this by decaying the welding current smoothly. While doing that, add two or three small drops of filler metal to the weld until the crater is filled.

Preventing Crater Cracks in Gas Metal Arc Welds (i.e., MIG)
Filling the crater in MIG welds is considerably more difficult because you don’t have independent control of the heat and the filler wire addition. If you just take your finger off the trigger at the end of the weld, you will get a concave crater and possibly a crack. Even if the welding power supply has a "Crater Fill" function, it is often not completely effective. The easiest way to prevent crater cracks in aluminum MIG welds is to "back step" at the end of the weld.  Instead of releasing the trigger at the end of the weld, reverse the travel direction back into the already welded material. Continue to weld back over the already welded material for about ½” (12 mm) and then release the trigger to end the weld. This will make the deposit in the crater area thicker, changing its shape from concave to convex. 

View Lincoln Electric Aluminum MIG and TIG Welding Products

View More Aluminum Welding How-To Articles

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