We Test Miller's Renegade 180

Generator can work with flux core wire or MIG.

Published on: Sep 30, 2008

With many farms and ranches switching from stick welders to modern wire welders, Miller's new Renegade 180 offers a shop-quality welding experience along with portability, and some standby power ability all in one package.

The Renegade 180 is a portable Kohler-powered generator capable of 4500 watts continuous (5KW peak) equipped with 230 VAC and 115 VAC outlets. As a wire welder, the Renegade comes equipped for outdoor use with flux-core wire, but the machine is capable of operating as a MIG (with shielding gas) with an optional gas bottle carrier. All that's required to switch from flux core wire to MIG operations is a simple polarity swap of leads in the welder and the addition of shielding gas. The plumbing and solenoids for the gas are built in.

MULTIPURPOSE MACHINE: The Miller Renegade 180 is a "one man band" when it comes to setting up shop in remote areas. Here, we use the machine to build a steel fence, including running a chop saw and grinder to make the parts as we went.

Operators will find the machine capable of welding mild steel from 24 gauge to 5/16-inch on wall power, and from 24 ga. to 1/4-inch on the generator.

We used the Renegade on a fencing project that saw more than 2,000 welds on 16 ga. tubing running .035 and .030 flux core wire. The 10-hp electrically-started Kohler Command engine and Miller's welder and alternator combination worked flawlessly (except for when I had the feed drive adjusted too tightly and "embossed" the welding wire to the point it broke every time I started it after finishing a weld. That cleared up, I'd say the machine worked without fault.)

CONTROL PANEL: The Renegade's control panel is straight-forward with 230 VAC and 115 VAC outlets, knob controls for wire speed and voltage, plumbing outlets for shielding gas, a thermal-overload warning light and engine controls.

The first thing I noticed about the Renegade was how smoothly it runs. In fact, while it was supplying power to an abrasive cutoff saw, grinder and the welder, during our fence project, I found myself placing my glasses (can't weld close with trifocals) Channel Locks, and LockJaw clamping pliers on the machine like a shelf. Not once did anything vibrate off!

The other standout feature is arc stability. While my wife was cutting pickets with the cutoff saw -- an intermittent load -- I realized, even with the current draw of starting the saw while all was being powered with the Renegade's generator, there was absolutely no difference in arc quality. That's good design in the alternator and welder control circuits!

I also noticed nearly continuous welding only once brought an "over temperature" warning on the machine's control panel. The Renegade is rated at a 30% duty cycle, and we pushed the envelope on that several times.

Switching from one size wire to another is a snap with Miller's easy-to-swap drive pulleys. Changing polarity from electrode negative to electrode positive is also simple with two easy-to-reach and clearly marked lead ends inside the Renegade's drive compartment.

As with all high-quality welders, Miller has included a handy reference chart inside the welder's drive compartment to match suggested starting wire speed and voltages with various thicknesses of metal, types of welding wire and selections of shielding gases. Each time I moved from one project to another (16 ga. tubing, to a receiver hitch installation that involved 3/16-inch steel) the suggested settings would put me very close to that "frying bacon" sound that expert wire welder operators will tell you is the "sweet spot" for wire speed and voltage. In addition, Miller provides a handy stainless-steel thickness guide with the Renegade, along with various welding consumables such as feed-gun tips from .023 to .035 gun tips.

CLEAN MIG WELD: After about a week's worth of work outside using flux-core wire on a fence project, we took the Renegade inside to mount a receiver hitch on a Jeep CJ5. With shielding gas the welder produced clean, uniform welds nearly anyone could take pride in -- even a journalism major!

In our opinion, flux-core welding is always messier than MIG construction, mainly because of the slag and deposits the wire's flux leaves on the finished project. Still, the flux-core welding we did always provided an easy arc, and one that "fried" its way through whatever position or "less than perfect" fit up we were welding. Taking the machine inside and using an Argon/CO2 shielding gas, we found the Renegade capable of very nice MIG welds, and more than capable of handling the heavier materials we were using.

The Renegade is easy to move about on its tall, pneumatic wheels, even though it weighs 275 lbs. (We'd put a hitch on it if it were ours, so we could pull it around the place with a four-wheeler or garden tractor.)

At about $2700 list price, the Renegade offers a high quality welder with up to 4.5KW emergency standby power for the farm and ranch, or rural home. With a 1.8 gallon fuel tank, there'd be a lot of refueling in an extended power outage using the Renegade as a power source, but the machine could be very handy in a pinch - as well as providing all the welder (30-180 amps) a lot of folks would need in their shop.

THICKNESS GAUGE: With the Renegade comes a handy chart to give operators a suggested starting point for wire speed and voltage. Also, this stainless-steel material thickness guide helps identify how thick various work pieces might be to get the settings right.