REPAIR WELDING OF A CRACKED ALUMINUM FRAME
A fellow tadpole rider I know stopped by my house recently. (His stop had nothing to do with this subject.) While he was here he told me that the frame of his ActionBent trike was broken at the crucifix. He mentioned getting it welded. Being a professional weldor (now retired) I told him that the aluminum frame is heat treated and that complicates things as far as welding it. I cautioned him about not just taking it anywhere to get it welded … that he needs to find someone who is not only very knowledgeable but capable of doing the job right. I want to state upfront that although I am a very good weldor and was highly certified, I make no profession of being very knowledgeable and capable of doing the repair weld on his trike. First of all, I no longer have the welding equipment needed and most certainly I don’t have the means of heat treating the aluminum (nor the knowledge of how to do it). I have welded a lot of aluminum in my life and was certified in aluminum welding, but this is a specialty. I am not familiar with it. And I would think that it is probably not easy to find someone around who is knowledgeable, qualified and equipped unless one is in the right place such as a large city. I doubt if such a welding business exists around my area. I would rather imagine that going this route is not something usually done. I would think that purchasing a replacement frame is the more common way to go. Of course, some manufacturers offer free replacement under warranty. In the case of ActionBent they are defunct … totally out of business … gone … history. His other option is, of course, buying another trike … which he mentioned. It might be the more practical solution to his dilemma. I know that this problem is not uncommon so I thought I would post this article about it. It also happens with chrome-moly steel frames and mild steel frames although they are much simpler to make welding repairs on. I would highly recommend adding gussets to strengthen the joint where the crack occurred. The manufacturers should have done this to begin with. As a professional weldor and fabricator I would have if I were designing and building a trike.
Here is a picture of a cracked frame right at the edge of the weld on the crucifix:
It is not something you want to see on your trike. This particular trike is made of chrome-moly steel.
Some trikes are made from 6061 T-6 aluminum, but the better ones are made from 7005 aircraft grade aluminum. All Catrike frames are made from 7005 aircraft aluminum alloy. All this adds complexity into the picture … knowing what you are dealing with and what needs to be done.
When my 2009 Catrike Trail frame developed a hairline crack at the edge of the weld on the underside of the crucifix I was concerned as I know it could get worse and in time fail. If they would have put a gusset on the back side of the crucifix like they did on the front side I don’t think this would have ever happened.
So I contacted Catrike knowing that they offered a lifetime warranty on the frame. They readily replaced the frame although certainly not without cost to me much to my disappointment. The “space frame” that I had was no longer made so they sent their new frame. I much prefer what I originally had and wished they would have just taken my frame back and repaired it or replaced it with another one like it, but they don’t offer either so I was stuck with having to deal with the new frame. Although I appreciate Catrike standing behind their product and replacing the frame for me I was not (and am not) pleased with the outcome of not being able to get the same frame I had. Everyday I ride it I wish I had the old space age frame instead of this new design. I just don’t think much of the new design. The space age frame was far superior. Sometimes I regret having the frame replaced under warranty. It is possible that the hair line crack in the weld would have held up fine and given many more years of service. I will never know the answer to that matter. At the very least I could have delayed getting the replacement and kept riding my trike as is hoping for the best. At least up until the time it would fail I would have a superior frame.
Anyway, if you are having or do have this problem of a cracked weld or tubing on your trike keep in mind what you are up against here. If the job is not done right you will probably end up in deep doo doo. Having sudden failure in a weld or frame could be very dangerous. It could happen if the job isn’t done right.
Be safe out there!
Posted on May 15, 2014, in construction/design, safety, tadpole trikes, tips and tagged cracked weld on tadpole trike frame, repair welding of tadpole trike frame, Steve Newbauer, tadpole trikes. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.