While many of the so-called malfunctions of electric smokers can be “fixed” by following electric smoker maintenance tips, sometimes one has to confront a truly non-functional smoker. By non-functional we mean one that is incapable of producing the heat required to smoke the food, or otherwise incapable of containing the heat. As such, most tips for repairing an electric smoker fall into two categories – how to fix the external components that may be letting out heat prematurely, and ways to fix the heating itself. Fixing external components is usually a simple task involving taking off the hinges holding the various doors/lids and checking for rust and/or damage. Depending on the severity, one can replace the hinges or screw the existing ones tightly into place. Repairing the heating element is somewhat more complex and for this reason, we shall focus on fixing the heating element and its associated problems.
Removing The Heating Assembly
The heating element in a majority of electric smokers is located at the bottom of the smoker or is situated within the back wall of the smoker. To access the heating element requires removal of one or more cover elements based on where the heating element is situated.
For heating elements situated at the bottom of the smoker (Type 1):
- Remove all trays, wood chips box and water/drip pan. Unplug the power cord and ensure that the heating element has not been used in the last two hours.
- Remove any debris that may be present on the floor of the smoker. The best electric smokers produce minimal debris but if you’ve not cleaned your smoker in a while, this may be a great time to do so.
- The element is usually covered by a layer of sheet metal, held in place by three screws (or four depending on the make). Usually there are two or three peripheral screws and one central screw. While learning tips for repairing an electric smoker you should remember never to unscrew the central screw as it holds the shaft connecting the assembly to the smoker walls (unless the problem is very specifically associated with the shaft).
- Gently raise the cover and place it in a dry shaded area.
- The heating element can be soldered to the bottom or more commonly, be attached with screws to the shaft and floor. If the element is soldered, it would be impossible to remove and you will have no option but to replace the smoker. Most smokers however come with detachable elements. You will also notice two wires running out of the heating element and then out of the smoker.
- Unscrew the element and store away the screws carefully. As the element is freed, you will find that you can lift it and inspect it and the wiring using a standard electric torch/pen light.