ESAB Thermal Arc 181i Stick, TIG, and MIG Welder Review

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. ToolPickr is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.Learn more

In Brief: Thermal Arc 181i Welder Review

The Thermal Arc 181i combines a portable and lightweight design with simple functions to create an excellent household welder. This welder offers a user-friendly setup and design that continually produces quality welds and can be adjusted between stick, TIG, and MIG capabilities.

The Thermal Arc product line falls under the ESAB and Victor brand names. These two companies joined to create a larger collection of welding accessories, equipment, and products and to broaden their horizons.

Although Thermal Arc once existed under the Thermadyne company, it now shares its new parent companies with other brands.

Nevertheless, the Thermal Arc line continues to provide durable welding machinery to customers around the world.

Hobbyists and professionals looking for a welder that combines TIG, MIG, and stick capabilities often choose the Thermal Arc 181i welder. This machine fits in well as a household welder and completes light projects with ease.

Key Specifications of the Thermal Arc 181i

Firepower W1003182 Thermal Arc Fabricator 181I With Cart Mig44; Tig and Stick Welder

The Thermal Arc 181i welder provides a unique combination of stick, TIG, and MIG capabilities in one easy-to-use package.

The welder offers enough power to handle household and auto projects and encourages beginners to learn more about the hobby.

Check out the Thermal Arc 181i in action here –


Discover the long list of Thermal Arc 181i specs below:

TIG, MIG, stick
Supply Voltage
230V at 15%
Supply Frequency
Output Range
Input Current
32 lbs.
Duty Cycle
20% at 180amp 23V
16 in. l x 8-1/4 in. w x 17-3/4 in. d
WarrantyCheck Manual
FeaturesArc stability control
Fan control
Automatic overload protection
Accessories12ft. gun cable

Unique Features

The Thermal Arc 181i includes basic features to help beginners and home hobbyists enjoy their welding experiences.

Knob Control

With a simple knob control style, users can choose precise wire feed speeds depending on the wire and metal used in the project.

MIG Adaptor

Designed specifically for use with the Tweco MIG gun, this adapter allows customers to switch the welder to MIG capabilities.

Arc Force Adjustments

When using the welder in stick mode, customers can control the arc force used in any individual project. Arc force alternations change the amount of penetration through the metal.

Arc Control

When in MIG mode, the welder enables its arc control function. This function allows the user to change the intensity of the arc and reduce the risk of splatter.

Overload Protection

The Thermal Arc 181i shuts off the power source if the duty cycle is overloaded. The machine must then cool itself down using its built-in fan until it can be used again.


Performance & Ease of Transportation

Despite some performance flaws with the Thermal Arc 181i, many customers enjoy using it for light projects and learning.

This portable welding machine makes the most of its small size by incorporating plenty of features.


The Thermal Arc 181i welder performs well when used for mild steel. However, most customers recommend avoiding aluminum when welding with this product, which limits its range of materials.

Additionally, the Thermal Arc 181i causes more splatter than some other comparable welders. It requires more skill to use than other lightweight beginner-focused machines.

Despite its slight flaws, the product’s versatility in terms of welding style allows it to perform well enough for the majority of household and everyday consumers.

Ease of Transportation

At only 32 pounds, the Thermal Arc 181i offers one of the lightest overall weights of the portable welding machines on the market.

However, it does not include many add-ons, which often increase the weight of the welder.

Additionally, the Thermal Arc 181i doesn’t include a carrying bag, unlike many other models. Despite this, it remains useful for travel and for transporting around the home or workshop.


Weld Quality and Available Options

Customers usually report good results and solid weld quality from the Thermal Arc 181i welder.

Although it doesn’t hold up quite as long or offer as many settings and adjustments as other welders, it regularly produces smooth, clean welds.

It may take some time to get used to the three types of welding available in this machine. However, customers who put in the time and effort to practice are rewarded with excellent project results.

There are no additional options available with the Thermal Arc 181i. It does, however, include some add-on accessories:

  • Tweco TIG Torch Package: This product comes from the same parent company and works specifically with the Thermal Arc 181i welder.
  • Foot Control Pedal: Available from a few manufacturers, the welder functions with an optional foot pedal for precision control.

Ease of Maintenance, Repairs & Warranty

Customers may have some difficulty getting in touch with Thermal Arc for issues related to repairs and replacements.

Since Thermal Arc itself does not exist as a company anymore, customers must contact the parent company ESAB instead.

Some parts required for repairing the Thermal Arc 181i welder exist only as secondhand items and are no longer produced by the company.

Therefore, most customers contact licensed technicians to repair their welders.

Maintenance requirements for this welder involve crucial upkeep that customers should perform regularly.

Cables should be checked every three months and replaced when necessary. Doors and hinges should also be replaced as soon as they no longer function.

Clean the welder at least every six months, or more often for more frequent use. Change any tips and spools used when they wear out.

The Thermal Arc 181i welder is covered by a limited warranty from the Thermadyne Company. This warranty covers damage and malfunction that occurs when the product is used and installed correctly.

The warranty includes 5 years of parts and 3 years of labor for power supply components.

It includes 2 years of parts and labor for regulators and 180 days of parts and labor for welding torches. Most additional items include 90 days of parts and no labor.

The parent company, ESAB, provides warranty information at 1-800-ESAB-123.


Can the Thermal Arc 181i welder handle aluminum?

Not without additional accessories. Some aluminum spools function with the Thermal Arc 181i, but these require a more intermediate level of skill to use properly.

How can you stop the wire from getting caught in the feed mechanism?

Check the wire feed tension and adjust it using the knobs on the welder. Try cutting back on the inductance as well.

Which accessories come with the Thermal Arc 181i?

Usually, it includes only the gun and cable, and other accessories cost an additional fee. However, some kits include guns, spools, clamps, and cables. Most kits exclude the power plug.

How user-friendly is the Thermal Arc 181i?

The Thermal Arc 181i provides a user-friendly design that works well for most beginners and intermediate welders. However, its settings require more precision than other, similar models.

Price of the Thermal Arc 181i

The Thermal Arc 181i is more affordable than most of the other welders in its category.

Compared to other small portable welders intended for household or beginner use, it comes in well under budget for many customers.

However, it also excludes several features that come standard with more expensive models. If you’re looking for many features, this product offers little value for the cost.

But if you need a simple welder with basic functionality, the Thermal Arc 181i provides a good price.


Who Should Buy the Thermal Arc 181i?

Customers who dabble in welding now and then enjoy using this product. It remains best suited to individuals who use welders for their auto repair, hobby work, and light household needs.

Small projects look great when completed with this welder.

The welder offers a good solution for beginner and intermediate hobbyists as well as anyone who needs a portable solution for light welding needs.

Since it can be used for MIG, TIG, and stick welds, it functions well as a general use welder.

As long as you are comfortable working solely with steel, this welder provides enough capabilities to get you started.

Our Recommendation

Despite a lack of performance in some areas, the Thermal Arc 181i welder works well for many customers. It provides enough functionality for basic use and incorporates several add-on features for additional welding work.

We recommend this welder for customers in need of a simple welder to handle tasks around the home.

We do not recommend it for professionals, experienced hobbyists, or those who make their living welding.


Last update on 2024-04-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

About Michael Adams

Michael has been providing handyman services for the last 14 years. He also contributes as a writer sharing his experience and experience for design projects.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.