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Chicago Electric is another brand that many welders haven’t heard of, and that’s because buyers tend to just choose already known brands. It’s uncommon for anyone, professionals and amateurs alike, to try another brand, especially one that’s not usually talked about. However, many relatively unfamiliar brands produce quality products. That’s true in the case of Chicago Electric welders, which you probably have read about only now.
Chicago Electric Welders – Who makes them?
Chicago Electric welding machines are made by the same manufacturer known for making tools. Harbor Freight has been making things like miter saws, table saws, impact wrench, and other power tools that professionals, hobbyists, and DIY technicians use. It’s a company that manufactures a number of brands for tools, including Chicago Electric and Titanium welders.
We’re talking about a massive company with more than 1,000 stores all over the United States. The company was founded in 1977, and since then it has been in the industry making and developing machines and tools. It originally began as a mail-order tool business, and now it has more than 20,000 employees. The company continues to grow and sees an annual revenue of more than $5 billion.
Unlike your household brands, Chicago Electric welders come at prices so unbelievably low that you might think these are dirt cheap models. The truth is the opposite. Despite the ridiculously low prices, which are the primary reason these machines get bought, these welders offer quality. That’s because the company itself is committed to providing products with good quality. You can go to any of Harbor Freight’s manufacturing lab, and you will see modern machinery making the tools you use.
These welders go through a series of tests to ensure the quality and durability of each machine. So you can trust that when you’re buying a Chicago Electric welder, you’re buying something that works and lasts. What makes these welders much cheaper is the absence of middlemen, whose services drive costs up. Without them, you can get the products at much lower prices.
Another concern skeptical buyers have about Chicago Electric welders has something to do with where they’re made. As you may have guessed, manufacturing has been outsourced to China to keep overhead down. Some parts may be made in Taiwan. That doesn’t mean these machines have terrible quality. A lot of manufacturers farm out operations in Asian countries. This has been a common practice among many companies now (1).
The Quality of Chicago Electric Welders
Eventually, we judge a product not by its brand but by its functionality, performance, and durability. Some cheap welders have a reputation of failing after a few weeks of use. That’s why many buyers take reviews of cheap welding machines with a grain of salt. After all, no one wants to buy cheap only to see the machine becoming out of commission. Many buyers share the same doubt about Chicago Electric welders because it’s not a popular brand.
Since these are inexpensive machines, there has to be a compromise somewhere. They don’t perform as powerfully as Miller or Lincoln welders. To be fair to this brand, its products are not touted as heavy duty machines that professionals must use. These welders are for beginners or occasional hobbyists doing mostly DIY projects.
Chicago Electric 170 Amp MIG/Flux
Chicago Electric Welding Systems 170 Amp
Perhaps the best way to prove that Chicago Electric welders are good is to cite an example. One of the best Chicago Electric welders is the 170 Amp machine, which is made for beginners. If you’re an occasional weekend warrior, and not someone doing frequent heavy duty welding, this machine is appropriate for you. This 170-amp machine generates stable arcs and good penetration. Capable of welding up to 1/4-inch steel, it really is a handy tool for piecing together thin metals.
The Chicago Electric 170 Amp comes with a thermal overload protection, which is a feature that protects the machine from overheating. This feature automatically shuts down the machine if its internal temperature reaches the critical point. This safety feature also kicks in when you’re using the machine past its duty cycle.
The performance is not terrible. You can go as low as 30 amps and as high as 170 amps. However, the duty cycle suffers as you increase the amperage. At 110 amps, you get only 20% duty cycle, which is underwhelming. But at 60 amps, you get 60% duty cycle. If you’re operating at 30 amps, you enjoy 100% duty cycle, which is incredible for a machine at this price point.
Are there better welders out there? Of course. But it’s hard to ignore the features and capabilities of this welder and other Chicago Electric welders once you take into account the price.
Harbor Freight Tools makes a number of Chicago Electric welding machines. They have 80 amp, 90 amp, 125 amp, and 180 amp welders. They also make welding accessories. All these units are inexpensive but functional and durable. If you want to be sure, you can always check out reviews for each product on Amazon to help you make the right decision.
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