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What is the Clearance Effect on a TIG Welder? Ultimate Guide

Clearance effect aka cleaning action or etching effect is a phenomenon that occurs during the TIG welding process, particularly during the use of Alternating Current (AC) for welding materials.

So, when you are welding aluminum or magnesium, this phenomenon takes place. It describes the process of removing the oxide layer on the surface of the material that you are welding.

If you are a beginner, then you might not know the significance of this process.

So, I decided to write a detailed guide that will help you learn about the process of clearance effect and also its importance in achieving high-quality welds.

Let’s get right to it.


Why is the Clearance Effect Important?

It is a crucial process in TIG welding because it allows you to remove the contaminants and oxide layers from the surface of base materials.

The removal of these barriers will allow you to achieve proper fusion and penetration during the welding process.

Hence, you will be able to achieve higher-quality welds and maintain better control of the heat input.

Also, you will be able to reduce the heat-induced distortion significantly.

The effect is induced by AC balance control which allows welders to adjust the ratio of electrode-positive and electrode-negative cycles.

Related: How to Use a TIG Welder? Ultimate Guide and Expert Tips

Understanding AC TIG Welding and the Role of Electrode Polarity

Alternating Current has wide applications in TIG welding, especially for metals like aluminum and magnesium.

These metals form a tenacious oxide layer on the surface which acts as a barrier and hinders proper penetration and fusion of the weld joint.

AC TIG welding provides the balance needed for the cleaning action that removes the oxide layer and provides proper penetration which ensures a good quality weld joint.

In this type of welding, the current alternatives between the Electrode Positive (EP) and Electrode Negative (EN) cycles.

During the first cycle, the cleaning action occurs, which breaks through the oxide layer and creates the clearance effect.

The latter cycle focuses on the penetration and heat input and is responsible for melting the base material and creating the weld pool.

The clearance effect is mainly determined by the ratio of EP to EN. You control the cleaning action and penetration by adjusting the AC balance controls for specific materials and welding applications.

Related: What Can You Weld With A TIG Welder? Ultimate Guide

How Does Clearance Effect Impacts Weld Quality?

The clearance effect has a significant impact on the penetration into the base material as well as the quality, strength, and durability of the weld.

When you are welding thick materials, then proper penetration is important. There are many joints that require full penetration welds and won’t hold anything short of full penetration. So, no compromises can be made with them.

The most significant role played by the clearance effect is in removing the oxide layer. By fine-tuning the AC control, you can achieve the desired level of oxide layer removal that will promote proper fusion and also reduce the risk of defects in the weld.

Adding to this, by managing the clearance effect you will also be able to better control the heat input during the welding process. This will help you minimize distortion and warping, especially when welding thin or heat-sensitive materials.

Moreover, this phenomenon also impacts the overall appearance of the weld. You can get visually appealing welds by managing the AC control to get uniform color and minimize surface contamination.

How to Manage Clearance Effect for Different Metals?

We have already discussed the case of magnesium and aluminum. The clearance effect is important for those metals because of the strong presence of an oxide layer.

However, when you are working with other metals like Stainless Steel, there is no oxide layer, so the clearance effect is not mandatory. But it can still contribute to improved welding quality and appearance.

You fine-tune the AC balance control for specific applications and material thickness to achieve desired weld quality.

Experimenting with different settings and observing the resulting clearance effect can help welders get desired results.

Related: How To Set Up a TIG Welder for Aluminum? The Ultimate Guide

Do Other Welding Parameters Impact Clearance Effect?

Yes, the other welding parameters do have an impact on the clearance effect. For example, selecting the appropriate amperage settings is required to create the desired effect.

Higher amperage can increase the cleaning action while lower amperage may provide a more focused arc but reduced cleaning action.

Adding to this, the flow rate of the shielding gas may also impact the cleaning action as it directly impacts the stability of the arc.

Electrode and filler rods can also impact the clearance effect. Properly grinding the electrode and using the appropriate filler material can have a significant impact.

Expert Tips to Maximize the Clearance Effect

Here are some of the expert recommendations that can help you enhance this effect:

  • Clean the base metal thoroughly to remove any dirt, debris, or paint that could potentially contaminate the weld.
  • Proper surface preparation is mandatory for getting the desired clearance impact.
  • You should maintain a consistent torch angle and arc length. A proper angle is also crucial to get the desired effect.
  • The travel speed of the torch is also significant. Maintaining a consistent and steady travel speed will get you optimal cleaning action.

Troubleshooting and Common Challenges

There are several challenges that you can face when trying to perfect the clearance effect.

If you are facing insufficient penetration or fusion of the weld, then you should consider increasing the amperage or adjusting the AC balance control.

Sometimes, you might face excessive oxide layer formation despite increasing the amperage. If that is the case, then you should increase the electrode positive ratio to increase the cleaning action.

This will reduce the penetration but increase the clearance effect.

In case you are facing any other issues, you should focus on the underlying cause of the issue. Understanding the common TIG welding problem helps you resolve them effectively and get back on track with your work.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the cleaning action in TIG welding?

It is a process in which the oxide layer on the surface of the workpiece is removed by use of electric current. Direct Current is not capable of doing so and the process only occurs with Alternating Current in TIG welders.

Do you need a clearance effect for all metals in TIG welding?

No, the effect is not required for all materials. Only Aluminum, Magnesium, and their alloys have oxide layer formation on the surface which requires this effect. However, it can enhance the overall welding process in other metals as well.

Can you get a clearance effect with DC TIG Welder?

No, the effect is only produced with Alternating Current. So, the TIG welders that do not have AC capabilities will not be able to produce this effect. You need to get a welding machine with AC capability to generate this effect.

Related: How To TIG Weld With A Stick Welder?

Wrapping Up!

To sum it all up, the clearance effect is an important phenomenon in TIG welding. It is an essential skill for a TIG welder and can help him tackle complex projects with confidence.

Hence, a welder should continuously develop his knowledge and expertise in this area.

The above post discusses in detail the clearance effect of TIG welders along with detailed insights and tips.

If you still have some questions, you could drop them in the comments section below and I will get back to you as soon as I can. Happy Welding!


Sheila James

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