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.
For heating element located at the back of the electric smoker (Type 2):
- Find the screws holding the rear metal panel of the smoker in place.
- Unscrew them and remove the back panel. You will find a layer of insulation, with our without the heating element being visible. If it is visible, it should generally be in the shape of a black box protruding out of the back. One of the cardinal points to remember while learning the tips for repairing an electric smoker is not to pull the heating element from the back.
- Remove all trays/pans and clean out the debris inside the machine.
- You will find a 3-screw assembly holding the heating element against the back of the smoker.
- Remove the screws on either end. Leave the one in the middle untouched.
- Draw out the heating element to some extent and inspect it.
Inspecting the Heating Assembly
As may be obvious from our electric smoker buying guides, the heating assembly is vital to the smoking process. Look for signs of charring, rusting or denting on the heating element. If there are any such signs, do not try to repair the heating element as this may lead to injury. Instead, you should take the heating element to the nearest hardware specialist and have it inspected for possible recovery. If recovery is not possible, purchase a new heating element.
After the heating element, note the condition of the cables running from it. If there are signs of:
- Rusting on the leads
- Shorn or damaged insulation
- Torn or damaged wires
- Rust on wires (if exposed)
- Wires loosened from leads
Replacing Heating Assembly
If the issue is confined to the heating element alone, all you have to do is remove the leads holding the wires and take out the heating element. Thereafter:
- Draw out the wiring to the maximum possible extent so you don’t have to work inside the electric smoker.
- Remove the wiring from the leads using a standard wire cutter (but take care not to damage the wiring).
- Remove the heating element from the electric smoker and store it away/dispose of it.
- Take the new heating element and wind the wiring around the leads carefully.
- Depending on the type of assembly, push the wiring down and out of the smoker (Type 1) or out of the back of the smoker (Type 2).
- While holding the heating element in place, take the cover and place it firmly on the heating element, ensuring that no wiring or other parts are sandwiched or otherwise sticking out from the cover.
- Secure the screws you had removed and ensure that the assembly does not shift when mild pressure is applied.
Any tips and blog page associated with electric smokers will suggest that the electrical wiring of the smoker be in top shape. If any of the faults mentioned above have been detected, you should replace the existing wires with high temperature ones. These are not hard to obtain from a hardware store. The “how to repair an electric smoker” with faulty wiring solution is as follows –
- Remove the heating element using the steps mentioned above.
- Pull out the wiring from inside the smoker either through the bottom (or bottom of the back) or through the back, based on the type of smoker you have.
- Cut away the insulation of the wiring at the point where the two wires that attach to the heating element. This point is usually the point where the temperature control is present. While learning how to repair an electric smoker, it is important that you remember the color of the two wires. These differ from product to product, but generally follow standard electrical wiring conventions. The wires you purchase should match or parallel the color combination.
- Remove the wiring from the leads of the temperature control (or any other intersection where this wiring terminates) and dispose of it.
- Take the new wiring and trim it to proper size.
- Attach the wiring to the leads of the temperature control.
- Place the heating element inside the electric smoker and measure out the wiring to see if there is any excess or deficit. Now attach the wiring to the heating element leads.
- Replace the element following the steps given above.
Every electric smoker has its own make and specialty, but the internal components tend to be more or less uniform. This allows us to chalk out how to repair an electric smoker without having to go into the specifics of each machine. However, it should be remembered that repairing is a delicate task and if possible, should be left to professionals. Further, repairing a product within the warranty period can lead to the warranty being voided. Repair your smoker if and only if professional help is unavailable, unwilling or economically unviable. If you do have to learn the tips for repairing an electric smoker, we believe the above guide should allow you to have your electric smoker up and running in as little as an hour.