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  1. #1
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    Default Concerned About Miller Quality

    Hi All, I have been a diehard Miller customer for several years and have been right on the edge of buying a Multimatic 255 and Trailblazer 325 since seeing their release. When I first started welding, I did my research on welders, looked at forums and talked with some very experienced folks about brands and quality. I had known the major US brands were Miller and Lincoln but wanted to hear about other brands quality, reliability, features and so forth. In the end I settled on Miller and bought a Multimatic 200, a Spectrum 875 Extreme and a Ti9400 PAPR helmet and all the small accessories.

    Bottom line, recent events have made me question the reliability of Miller equipment. I have had several warranty repairs done on all three pieces of equipment. My spectrum (MG244027P) needed a main board with only a few hours of use on the machine. I can’t say how much time was actually on it but seriously not much hence I say only a few hours. My Ti9400 needed a new glass as it was not turning off and killing batteries and I needed a new blower pack as it was giving me a Clogged filter warning when the airflow was at full force. In all three cases, Miller got the repair or replacement done. I called each time to make sure what I was experiencing was a legit warranty issue vs user error. The only drawback was each warranty claim cost me a week or two of working.

    Recently I have really come to question Miller quality. My Multimatic 200 (MG264020N) starting having issues. It started giving me over-temp warnings and forcing me to stop welding and let the machine cool down. The machine was three years old at this point and I wasn’t doing anything different then in all the welding I had done before. I called Miller service to verify that it was a possible warranty issue and not user error and was told the specific error is probably a main board issue. So, I took it to the ONLY repair shop in Albuquerque, NM. It took two weeks to get it back, I looked at the old board and sure enough some of the conformal coating was gone and a solder contact was arcing. Upon starting my project again, the machine started giving me a bridge current error, I called Miller, they said take it back and that the repair shop probably didn’t connect something properly. I was down another two weeks. When I got it back, the shop said they replaced the Interface board. I took it home, tried to fire it up and immediately got another bridge current error. I called Miller and took it back to the shop the following Monday. I was down another three weeks. I called the shop to get status, they said they were going through a 50-page trouble shooting guide and on the phone with a Miller Engineer. I called Miller to conform what the shop was telling me…they had no record of the interface board being shipped out and told me that component was on back order. They also did not have a record of having an engineer talk to the repair tech. I had always been polite on the phone with Miller but at this point I was getting really frustrated. I believe the repair tech damaged my machine and lied to me and Miller. When I picked it up they said it needed another Main board. That’s apparently two main boards and two interface boards.

    Prior to picking it up the THIRD time in TWO months I was entirely fed up. The unit was now well into lemon territory. I feel like my welder was damaged and I was lied to. I feel like I could not trust this welder and now that the warranty is up, what happens when that damage has other latent effects and my welder goes down again…I’m on the hook for repairs. So I talked to the service manager at Miller, explained my frustration and that between me and my dad we are planning to buy 4 to 5 welders in this fiscal year. I said that since I was looking at a Multimatic 255 I asked if she would credit the cost of my welder and I would pay to upgrade to a 255 and send my 200 to them. She said she would ask the product managers if that is possible and I have never heard back. I left a voice mail that was not returned. This really makes me question the reliability or Miller and their interest in their own reputation.

    Now I understand that there is no requirement for Miller to stick by the reputation others have given them. There is only a legal requirement for them to honor their published warranty. But with all the trouble and as patient as I had been I had hoped Miller would consider that this unique situation as one that should be solved with a unique solution. They did not.

    Now I’m left with a decision, I really like the miller look and features but will I be left up the creek without a paddle if I buy more miller product. I settled on Miller because people I know and trust said it is a reliable product line, it’s the Caterpillar of welders, “you’ll have it for 10 years” or “I have never had trouble with my Miller”. I paid a Miller price because I wanted that reliability. If I wanted Harbor Freight reliability, I would have paid a Harbor Freight price.

    So, my question to the forum is where to go…can I trust Miller or should I go with Lincoln. Am I going to buy another Miller and just be disappointed again or have my experiences been unique?

    I have posted this to Welding Web and Practical Machinist as well. Thanks for reading.

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    What you mention above is precisely why I have avoided purchasing "new" inverter, pc board controlled machines. That being said, my 1989 Millermatic 200 (black face) is 275 lbs. of bullet proof copper transformer welding machine, and my Miller 330 AB/P is 975 lbs. of the same. Great welding machines, still earning their keep, and I have absolutely no need to "upgrade" (ha!) to an inverter style mig, tig, or stick welder. I'm not welding anything for aerospace industry.

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    Good to know Miller is shit too.

    Fuck Lincoln. My new 256 MIG is a complete joke. I keep sending it back and they keep saying it's fixed, but really it's just a pile of shit and the 30 year old welder I replaced was better.

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    About 3 years ago i bought a miller 211 mig welder. It seemed to be fine for what it is but i wanted domething bigger so i sold that and bought a 252. I have had no issues. Maybe you got a lemon?

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    I too avoid inverter welders, the boards just don't hold up, and the techs are not always tech material.

    The machine I use the most is an old Lincoln Idealarc Sp-200, not sure year of mfr, it was already old when I got it in 1990. It was an auction score, last lot of the day, I payed a whole $25 for it, only thing I did is add a new gun. Coming up on 30 years of usage, think I had to put a new plug on power cord about 10 years ago, otherwise it just works.

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    I'd contact the headquarters to discuss the issue and, if needed, to file a formal complaint.
    Based on what you wrote, aside from the Miller welders and their customer service quality, your local repair facility is a complete POS, and it can be discussed with Miller too. They authorized the facility to repair their equipment, didn't they?

    Have you considered an option to simply replace your welder with a new one under the "lemon law" (without any credits toward future purchases and other complicating matters)? If Miller still gives you a run around, there is an Attorney General office in their state, and their Consumer Fraud department accepts and mediates such complaints.

    And post your message on the Miller Forum. It will get noticed a bit quicker.

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    Out of curiosity I checked Glassdoor and other reviews on Miller Electric.

    On the plus side it's a subsidiary of a decent holding company, Illinois Tool Works. And that fantastic heritage the O.P. speaks to.

    On the minus it seems that after some layoffs, the company has a bunch of old timers in middle management who aren't all that good (probably had seniority in the layoffs) and has been hiring new people pretty pissed off at those middle managers, with a lot of turnover.

    I've seen lots of great old manufacturing companies, who knew one technology (e.g. transformer based welders) use hired hands, consultants, and sub-contractors to incorporate the disruptive new technology (e.g. inverter based welders?). Could be Miller is like that. If so, a company with a lot of in-house inverter technology might be the next new leader?

    Possibly another issue is that all sorts of industrial products used to be sold solely through dealer networks, providing sales and services. There's a lot of economic pressure on that sales model today (going direct instead), and local dealers that were once critical to success are now sometimes struggling and a drag on the OEM.

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    I'm with Garwood in post 3, It's not just a miller thing, Lincolns that I have are a heap of electronic trouble as well. Those "authorized" service centers are a joke and ruined my latest welder to the point Lincoln had to completely replace it in the first two months. The replacement has it's own issues, but so far none of them have kept me from losing work...... yet.

    I feel your pain!

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    I think there is a difference between occasional use, where you can justify searching out and buying a 20 or 30 or 40 year old machine, and a working shop that uses welders every day, and buys new ones every few years. If, like me, and the OP, you regularly buy NEW machines, and need new parts and service to be available locally on a pretty quick turnaround, the option of buying a 35 year old machine is usually not there.

    I have been running inverter machines since around 2000- and had zero problems with mine, all Miller.
    I have gotten much better quality welds, flexiblity, and general shop utility out of new Millers than the older miller, lincoln, century, and oddball machines I have owned over the years.

    If you need to buy new machines- you only have a few choices.
    Miller, Lincoln, and Esab, mostly, in the USA. HTP or Everlast are not serious choices for a full time shop, due to durability, and parts and service issues.
    Fronius is great- but in the USA, usually about double the price, with very limited service and parts availability.

    I am still pretty much a Miller guy, having owned them since 1980 or so, and having done enormous amounts of work with them with very little issues.
    Certainly, like all devices containing electronic circuits, shit happens. But my 1985 Miller transformer syncrowave still had a circuit board in it, and that circuit board still failed once. So you would have to go pretty far back, like to the early 70s, to find machines that had no integrated circuits in em.

    I have had a few employees in the last few years who spoke very highly of the latest generations of ESAB machines- they would be worth checking out. Inverters, of course. Most people I know have had good industrial service from both Millers and Lincolns, with the occasional IC failure, cause thats what they do. Fail. But I dont see a realistic industrial welding shop alternative to the big three- its either blue, red, or yellow.
    And all three actually have quite good service records, given how roughly they are usually treated, the environments they work in, and the essential heat issues with a machine whose sole purpose to turn electricity into heat.

    My most recent Miller is probably 3 years old now, a small inverter tig machine. No problems so far.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ries View Post
    My most recent Miller is probably 3 years old now, a small inverter tig machine. No problems so far.
    That's not the present generation of equipment.

    I think when the economy really started to tick up around 2017 all the OEM's spurt out their latest and greatest which is the subject of this thread.

    Lincoln has definitely cost me money. I doubt miller is any better.

    I would rather fix a board on an 80's machine than deal with a new machine that just flat does not work reliably at any cost.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ries View Post
    I think there is a difference between occasional use, where you can justify searching out and buying a 20 or 30 or 40 year old machine, and a working shop that uses welders every day, and buys new ones every few years. If, like me, and the OP, you regularly buy NEW machines, and need new parts and service to be available locally on a pretty quick turnaround, the option of buying a 35 year old machine is usually not there.
    bably 3 years old now, a small inverter tig machine. No problems so far.
    My old Lincoln may be down to just occasional use today, but I worked it hard for 20 years. I know for a fact you can run it so long the gun gets too hot to hold, picked up a water cooled gun for it a few months ago, just in case I ever need to run that hot and long again. True, if it ever breaks I might be sol on parts.

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    My 13 year old Miller Synchrowave 180 conked out on me a few weeks ago too. I haven't had time to dive into it yet though.

    Last week I was talking to a friend and he was telling me that his Miller 250 amp mig has a bad transformer and it isn't available from Miller. I'm thinking maybe Miller isn't as good as it once was.

    edit" Forgot to add that a friend in Arizona has a Miller Synchrowave 250 with a bad board that isn't available anymore.

    I'm wondering if there is anyplace that repairs the Miller parts like boards and transformers.

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    The OP says he needs to buy 2 new welders right now, and 4 to 5 (I assume, including the first two) in this fiscal year.

    Is buying an array of 20 year old Lincolns really his best bet?

    I think he is going to be buying new machines, and the question is, from who?
    I think the quality would definitely be the highest from Fronius and Kemppi, but both are quite pricey, have very limited US availability, and very minimal parts and service here.

    then, you are back to either Red, Yellow, or Blue. I think they are all pretty good, actually, but I am unaware of one being clearly better than the other two, although on a model by model basis, there are probably better and worse choices for, say, a 300 amp inverter tig machine, or a pulsed mig machine.

    What we are really talking about is the way that pretty much every sophisticated machine these days, from a new car to a VMC to a washing machine to a welder, has a lot of electronics in it, and that electronics, generally, have a finite lifespan. As opposed to 100 years ago, when everything was analog and mechanical, and there was much less that could go wrong.
    But essentially, this is the same issue that makes people complain about the mother board on their VF-2, versus the bullet proof nature of that 1940s horizontal mill. But the fact is, the new welders are often much more productive than the old ones- I have a friend who autongenous welds schedule 10 stainless pipe, for breweries, where every weld must be 100% perfect. The new Miller inverter tig he uses, on jobsites in breweries, does things that the old P&H refridgerator sized machines just could not do.

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    There is just NO possibility whatsoever of using a non inverter TIG (GTAW) welder in an actual manufacturing environment.
    The non- inverter units work by wasting the energy not used in the welding arc as heat,(the Lincoln Squarewave is a notorious useless pig on account of this). The cost of electricity (particularly here in New York City), what with the demand charges, absolutely precludes their use.

    It would cost me well over 4000 dollars a year to switch from my Dynasty 200DX to a Squarewave, let alone the loss of extremely usefull features.

    That said, yes they break. Nothing lasts forever, and I have had terrible experiences trying to get repairs done, but there are some good folks out there, ask around.

    Locally, I’ve found Awisco to be worse than useless, there is an independent guy named Elvis who is GREAT. Ask at Liberty in Red Hook.
    Last edited by cyanidekid; 09-30-2019 at 11:05 PM.

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    Oh, and try checking that Squarewave in on your next flight

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    Allot of great information here, thanks. I had thought of a straight lemon replacement and the upgrade option. Seriously after two main boards yo would think they would just send me a reman unit. I would accept a FACTORY reman. Miller service was pretty "Johnny On The Spot" its just the fact that I had so much trouble. I suppose all these inverter boards are made by the scum sucking commies in China...at least eh electric components are. so we are all pretty stuck. On the topic of old welders, my dad bought a Lincoln Tombstone in 1972...still has it. His two millers are 12 to 15 years old and starting to show their age so its getting time to replace verses keep repairing. I may just sell mu multimatic 200 and do the upgrade anyway. If a repair is needed I'll either have it shipped to Miller or do it myself.

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    Don’t blame the “ commies” for your local incompetent meth head repair operation, find someone better. If you can.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cyanidekid View Post
    Don’t blame the “ commies” for your local incompetent meth head repair operation, find someone better. If you can.
    Maybe this:
    Arcon > Why Arcon > Welding Improvements

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    IGBT versus SCR. I've noticed many older TIG and MIG welders used SCR's instead of IGBT.

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    As with many other things, you're doing yourself a real disservice by limiting yourself to domestic manufacturers.

    I rarely do any welding, but everyone I know who uses them talks very highly of Kemppi.


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