If you’ve been welding for some time now, you might feel ready to go out on your own and start your own welding company. If you don’t want to start a shop or already own one but want to be more mobile, building a welding truck is a great option.
The biggest benefit to owning a welding truck is you can work from virtually anywhere. Rather than having business come to you, you can go to where the work is. This creates a lot more opportunities to find work and gain more experience.
How to Build Your Own Welding Truck
Before you get started building your welding truck, it’s best to put a plan together. Building a welding truck can be a serious financial and time commitment if you want to go all out. Make sure you do all the prep work that is necessary before taking on this big endeavor.
To help make the planning and building process easier, this guide breaks down everything you need to know about building your own welding truck.
Budget for the Costs
Before you start looking for trucks or begin sourcing equipment, you need to figure out the costs.
If you’re new to welding, you might be in for a surprise when you start to see the dollars add up. If you’re going to build your truck the right way, you don’t want to cut corners or compromise when it comes to buying equipment. Especially if you’re trying to start a new business or want to build a truck to support an existing business.
Besides needing to purchase equipment, the truck itself may require modifications that will create additional costs. If you don’t yet have a truck, that will obviously be your first and most expensive cost.
Start by budgeting out exactly what you’ll need to build the welding truck. In the next section of this guide, we’ve broken down all the equipment and accessories you’ll want to have on the truck. Do an inventory of the equipment you already own and what you’ll need to complete your build. Once you have all these costs down, make sure that you’re able to afford everything and have some room left over in your budget for any oversights or unexpected expenses.
Don’t forget about maintenance costs, insurance, and registering your business. If all of this is too much for your budget, you may want to consider taking out a small business loan or applying for grants to help you get started.
Purchase or Modify a Truck
The most important part of a welding truck is the truck itself.
Technically, you can purchase and modify any truck but it is better to choose something on the larger side.
A 3500 or 4500 heavy-duty truck or a flatbed will offer the space and power you need to transport and store all your equipment. Due to all the weight being carried, some guys look for a truck with dualies on the back for added stability and power but that’s totally optional.
Another option is to purchase and modify a trailer for your truck to pull. This can be a way to save on costs but creates its own set of challenges. But that is a different conversation. For this post, we’re going to focus on showing you how to build your own welding truck.
Build Your Welding Bed
Once you have procured a truck, it’s time for the fun part: building your welding truck!
Begin by building a custom welding bed.
If you’re using a standard pickup with a regular bed, you’ll have room for a portable welder and some equipment but space will be limited. But using a flatbed truck and building a custom welding bed will allow you to make better use of the space and set up the truck exactly the way you want it to be.
On most welding trucks, you’ll find the welding machine located directly behind the cab and flanked by toolboxes, hose reels, and gas cylinders.
Don’t forget to check any state or local regulations before you start building your welding bed. Every area is different and the last thing you want is a costly ticket from the Department of Transportation to ruin your plans.
Install Spools For Your Hoses
You won’t always be working from the bed of your truck. On some jobs, you won’t be able to get the truck close enough to the actual weld.
A good rule of thumb is to make sure you have at about 100 feet of hose for your oxygen/acetylene tank. Spools are an absolute must-have for any welding truck. They’ll help keep everything organized and save you space in the bed. Make sure that you install spools that can be locked in place so you don’t end up with hoses unraveling unexpectedly.
So where should you place your spools on the truck?
A popular choice is to mount them directly to the top of tool boxes or storage containers. A lot of welders building their own trucks will often build their own spools as well. There are plenty of tutorials you can find online and it takes very little time to complete. To construct a simple spool, all you really need is a piece of plate and a piece of flat bar that you bend into a triangle.
Make Room for Bottle Racks and Storage
The next part of your build should be focused on the bottle racks and storage.
You are going to need to make sure you have room to store all your tools and keep your gas cylinders secured. This is simply non-negotiable.
It’s an accident waiting to happen if you just toss the bottles into the bed of the truck and they aren’t secured down. All it takes is one big bump for that bottle to go off like a missile and cause some serious damage and harm. Trust us, an accident like that can be a lot more expensive than the cost of building a bottle rack.
On most welding trucks, you’ll find the bottles standing upright at the back of the truck beside the welding machine. Most bottle racks will have the bottom of the bottle resting in a well that is open on one end to make changing out the bottle much easier. At the top of the bottle rack, you’ll find a strap or chain to keep the bottle secured and prevent it from tipping over.
On some welding trucks, you’ll find a storage container for extra bottles laying on their side along the bed of the truck. This is a great option if you want to carry extra gas and not have to worry about running out in the middle of a job.
Just be careful about what bottles you store there. Acetylene, for instance, can only be stored upright. Oxygen and Argon bottles, however, are fine to be stored on their side.
Mount a Headache Rack
An optional piece for your welding truck is a headache rack. This is used to form a protective framework around your truck bed and equipment. It’s similar to a roll cage and protects the vehicle from damage if it were to roll over during an accident. It also protects you from falling rocks or other debris if you’re working on a construction or mining site.
If you choose to add one to your welding truck, make sure that you include a plate or grating to protect the rear wind of the cab. With all that equipment back there, you’ll need to rely on your side mirrors anyway so don’t worry about the plate obstructing your view. It’s there to prevent any equipment from entering the cab and injuring you during an accident.
A headache rack can be built using anything from small square tubes all the way up to 2 ½ inch pipe. Calculate the costs and go with what fits your budget. When it comes to safety, you can’t really put a price on that. It’s recommended that you go with the heavy-duty option if you can. One key thing to note is the Department of Transportations rules on flagging. If any part of the rack extends past the bumper of the truck, you’ll need to make sure you have a flag.
Keep in mind, a headache rack won’t protect you and your truck from every possible situation, but it is a great preventative accessory to include in your build.
Tools You’ll Want to Have on Board
Now that you’ve got the big modifications for your welding truck out of the way, it’s time to think about the smaller tools you will need. Some of the smaller items you should have onboard your welding truck at all times include:
- Air compressors
- Lighting systems
- Bench and hand grinders
- Pipe cutters
- Bench vise
- Large hammer
- Rigging tools
Ultimately, this list will be determined by the type of projects you take on but the tools above are a good place to start.
Get the Right Safety Equipment
When it comes to welding, safety should always be your first priority. This means it is essential to have the right safety equipment in place for both you and your welding truck.
When it comes to your truck, you’ll want to have things like a spare tire, jack, tie iron, fire extinguisher, and first aid kit. Those are the bare necessities. Depending on where you live and work though, there may be additional safety requirements for your truck.
For instance, a backup alarm is usually required by law for any heavy-duty vehicle. This is especially important if you have a headache rack and plates blocking the visibility through your rear window.
If you’re planning to do any work on construction sites or mines, you’ll also need to have a buggy whip on your truck. This is necessary so that the larger construction vehicles moving around can see you.
As for your personal safety, you’ll want to make sure that you have the proper personal protection equipment on board as well. This includes standard welding protection like welding helmets, gloves, aprons, face shields, steel-toed boots, and ear protection.
Register Your Business
Once you’ve got your welding truck built and you’re ready to start working, don’t forget to register your business with the proper authorities.
Starting a business takes more time and paperwork than you might think. You’ll need to pick a unique name for your business, complete several different registration documents, and pay a registration fee. If you already own a welding business and this truck will be an extension of it, there’s less paperwork involved but some documents are still necessary.
Don’t forget to get insurance as well. You’ll want to make sure that you have the proper insurance for both yourself, your business, and your welding truck. Make sure to talk to different insurance providers to make sure you’re getting the best rates and coverage for your needs.
Maintain Your Welding Truck and Equipment
Make sure you have room in your budget for maintenance and upkeep. As you start to take on more work, you’ll quickly see that your machines and equipment require regular maintenance to continue running as smoothly as possible.
Traveling across rough terrain or long distances with so much weight on the truck bed will cause wear and tear on the vehicle. Make sure that you create a regular maintenance schedule and have the funds available. You don’t want to have to cancel a job because you can’t get your truck and equipment to the job site.
Accidents can happen and equipment can break unexpectedly so make sure you budget room for emergency repairs and purchases.
Join Welder101 to Save on Equipment Costs
If you are looking to save on welding equipment costs to make building your welding truck more affordable, enroll with Welder 101.
Not only will Welder 101 give you access to exclusive discounts, but it will also give you access to an ever growing library of tutorials and training resources so you can expand your skills or keep your current skill set sharp. You may even find some helpful tips and advice from our experts and our community in the private Facebook group!
Don’t waste any more time and enroll today.