Smoker Maintenance

  • The methods described here are illustrated in the following University of Minnesota Instructional Poster “Smoker Maintenance” Download a .pdf here.

This shows the necessary maintenance needed to keep a smoker operating efficiently.

1. Do you remember how well your smoker
worked when you first bought it? Maybe it
did not stay lit but that was probably not the
smokers fault. All smokers need
maintenance to keep them operating

2. At some point your smoker will start to
give off only a little smoke even though
the fire is going well and you pump like
crazy. If you do maintenance a couple
times a year you will prevent this from
happening. If it is already happening, do
the maintenance to repair it.

3. First clean the inside of the smoker by
scraping with a hive tool or screwdriver.
By scraping around the lid you will make it
open and close easier. Pay special
attention to the hole where the smoke
comes out.

4. You do not have to get it perfect but
remove the majority of the soot and
carbon. Removing the crud from the can
makes it easier to get the grate out in the
next step.

5. Remove the grate from the bottom of the
smoker. I find it easiest to use a long
needle nose pliers. Put one nose into
each of 2 holes close to the edge and pull.
You can also bend a wire or rod to fit in a
hole near the edge and pull it up.

6. Sometimes the grate will be all plugged
like this one. You will need to scrape it
with a hive tool.

7. Be sure you clean inside the holes. You
can use the corner of the hive tool for this
or a screwdriver of the proper size.

8. You may find debris and/or soot in the can
under the grate. Scrape this and dump it

9. Often the air tube becomes plugged. I
have tried many tools to clean this without
removing the bellow. None are
satisfactory, so remove the bellows.

10. To do this remove the four nuts holding
the smoker to the bellows. If they are
rusty use some penetrating oil. Do not
turn too hard on rusted nuts or you will
strip the screws and then not be able to
get them off.

11. Separate the smoker from the bellows
and clean the tube. Notice how clean
this tube is.

12. Sometimes the tube is completely
plugged like the top one. It only takes a
partial plug like the bottom one to make
the smoker operate poorly.

13. Check the bellows for leaks. To do this
hold your finger over the air outlet hole
and squeeze the bellows. Some air will
leak but large leaks need to be fixed.
Duct tape works as temporary fix but
replacement with new one is best.

14. Replace the grate being careful to place a
leg on either side of the inlet tube.
Replace the bellows and tighten the 4
nuts. Putting a little oil on the threads
makes the job easier next time.

15. After cleaning the smoker will again
make plenty of smoke.

University of Minnesota Instructional Poster #160, Gary S. Reuter and Marla Spivak, Department of Entomology

Download the original Smoker Maintenance.pdf here.