And..... that's all she wrote for now......<sigh>

JpsBBQ

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Just a quick update. Unit is working after a second visit by the tech. I have modified my auger to prevent it from committing ritual suicide again. I plan to run it for a month or so before passing on the modification to my dealer who promised to pass it on to Weber.

It turned out the age of the pellets were part of the issue. Excessive age allows them to crumble which lead to the auger failure, but the dulled surface allows them to bridge in the narrow tapering auger chute, causing flameouts. If I can get fresh pellets (shiny, slippery surface) from that manufacturer, I'd be happy to use them. I'm currently using some fresh Weber pellets (skid had just arrived at the store), but I'll be investigating other brands, provided I can confirm they are fresh, as I don't care for the smoke flavor I'm getting from the Weber pellets.
🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

Can’t make these things up. 🤷🏼‍♂️
 

Goneincognito

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How did you modify the auger?
Old pellets also just dont burn well.
What Weber ones did you get?
 
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kaptain_zero

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Once I've run the modified auger for a month or so, I'll post what I did. It does not improve on pellet feeding at all.... It was strictly done to prevent the auger self destructing should it run into a batch of less than pristine pellets.

The only Weber pellets available in Canada are Hickory, Apple and Grill Master Blend. Grilling/smoking season is about 6 months long, and the rest of the year is unpleasant with temps hitting -40 at it's worst. The odds of getting last years pellets is quite likely at the beginning of the season, so when I saw they just got a pallet of Grill Master Blend, I decided to try a couple bags. Due to the design of the chute in the SmokeFire, bridging with *any* brand of last years pellets (even Weber) is more likely if the pellets don't have that slippery, shiny surface anymore. A small amount of crumbling is not a concern with a modified auger, the failure I experienced occurred during shutdown and I took steps to prevent that from happening again.

Hopefully Weber will create a new design with a pellet hopper more like the Rec Tec 700. A retrofit does not seem likely, too many changes are needed.

It's a bit tricky to try and end up with no leftover pellets at the end of the year, the weather being unpredictable with the winter season sometimes arriving in October and other times it doesn't show up until the end of November. Sadly, stocking up on good pellets, only to get hit by an early winter, means the unused bags have to sit over winter..... and thus get old. I think most pellet grills can handle 12 month old pellets, but the Weber design seems extra finicky.

I worked outside for 30+ years, I'm not standing outside in the cold just to cook something now! :D
 

Goneincognito

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Modifications can be a good thing but just be careful as things are designed the way they are for a reason and you may do more harm than good.
It's very possible you will also kiss your warranty goodbye if any further damage occurs as a result.
Its concerning that you are being so secretive about what you have done and why you don't want anyone to know?
At this point I would be getting confirmation from Weber directly that whatever you have done is ok and not take the word of a dealer.

"I think most pellet grills can handle 12 month old pellets"...
Too many factors at play for me to agree with that (storage conditions and quality of the pellets to begin with for example) but the SF is definitely specific when it comes to pellets which is something we have said from the start.
 
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bbqking

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I love a good mystery. The suspense…the intrigue….the anticipation…..I can’t take it.
 

Goneincognito

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I guess it really is that's all she wrote....
 
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kaptain_zero

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A much belated update on my modification. Sadly I've had multiple medical and mental issues (the latter caused in part by loosing my wife in August 2020) has resulted in my tardiness and for this I apologize.

First off, as we are dealing with auger issues, I'll start with some auger information:

The first documented auger was invented in 250 B.C. by Archimedes.

An auger conveyor is suitable for the transport of cereals, livestock feed, grains, wood pellets and other agricultural or industrial products. Screw augers can convey any kind of dry material, whether in granular or powder form,

Livestock feed augers used for lumpy/sticky/moist feeds tend to use center-les
augers which allows the auger to conform to any inconsistency of the material being moved.

The problem I encountered with the updated auger/one piece chute was that the auger and cotter pin self destructed after about 3 cooks. I was offered a replacement once again, but I wanted to find the "root" cause of the issue, rather than just blindly replace the part again.

I spent some time looking at various auger designs and realized that the feed auger of the smokefire was not correct. I'll paste a photo of a typical agricultural auger conveyor and I've circled the area of interest:

Auger photo.gif
The auger vane does not quite reach the plate at the end. In this particular unit, I suspect it would not be harmed if run backwards such as the Smokefire unit when shutting down, but I found it interesting that it's done anyway.

My failed auger looks like this:

auger.jpg

Note that if you carefully examine the hole where the cotter pin went through, it failed when the cotter pin and drive shaft of the motor attempted to turn it in the opposite direction to retract pellets from the feed tube. As the augers vane goes right to the plate that stops pellets from feeding towards the motor, the pellets will crumble and eventually seize the auger by packing into the last 1/2" of the pellet chute auger housing at the motor end. Thus the motor attempts to continue to turn the auger, which is seized from the crushed pellets and simply destroys the cotter pin and auger.

The fix is to create a small relief by removing about 1/2" or so of the vane next to the plate that blocks the pellets from coming out at the motor end. About where the cotter pin is, is about right. This will have zero effect on feeding pellets for smoking, but allows a clearance so that any dust or pellets won't be crammed into that small, enclosed area when the auger turns the opposite way during shutdown. I put a line at the approximate point where I cut my vane off with a cut off wheel on a small angle grinder. It could also be easily done with a hack saw.

auger-fix.jpg



As for pellet fires in the feed tube, it appears that the simple fix is to position the fire pot cover in a particular position and I found that tidbit on the Facebook Smokefire page. The key is to not place it like this:

IMG_20210707_163315.jpg



Place it like THIS instead and all should be good:
IMG_20210707_163305.jpg




As for pellets, I've settled on Lumber Jack pellets as I happen to like Cherry pellets for Chicken and Pork. These pellets are the same diameter as Weber pellets and there is some suspicion that Weber pellets are made by Lumber Jack, but I have no first hand knowledge about that.

I can however highly recommend the Lumber Jack "Pour and Store" containers. I went with several of the 40lb units, I saw little point in the 20lb size.

Lumber Jack Container.jpg


And lastly, my thoughts on flame out, or pellets failing to feed during a cook. To me, it looks like the pellet chute is simply an inadequate solution. Rectec seems to have a much better design. The long tapering chute invites bridging of solids. It would have worked perfectly if it were used for liquids, but when it's solids, anywhere from fine flour to pebbles, it invites bridging and there is NOTHING that can be done other than using as fresh and shiny/slippery pellets as possible. The wire guard will increase the likelihood of bridging, so I would remove it, as many others have suggested, but otherwise it's a by guess or by gosh situation with bridging during a cook. There is no way to predict when it will happen and no way to "fix" it, short of a complete redesign of the pellet hopper. Oops, I just realized that I saw somewhere (perhaps on this board or FB) that someone added a vibration motor (typically used for releasing large bubbles in freshly poured concrete) and a timer to kick it on and off. This would shake loose any bridging and allow the cook to carry on.

Before anyone accuses me of picking on the fine engineers at Weber, I fully understand that this is their first pellet smoker and grill design. I think they did a great job. Sadly, today's engineers work with CAD programs and when trying to design a new product using a CAD program that has not been optimized for the new product, these problems are bound to happen.

NASA can no longer build the Saturn V rocket as CAD programs cannot handle the calculations. Why? Because CAD programs are written by programmers, not the engineers who worked at NASA in the 1950s. Those Saturn V rockets were built one by one with engineers who were able to adjust minor details to make that particular rocket work. The next rocket would require different adjustments to work. It's not that they were better, only different.

As for the SmokeFire, I really like it. It has flaws, but I can live with them. I will add that replacing the wire racks with the porcelain coated cast iron grills from my Spirit II gas grill made it much much better for grilling. Those cast iron grates are available from Weber, though I seem to be waiting an awful long time......<sigh>

I hope this helps some of you out.

Regards

Christian
 
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rexster314

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I'm the one that installed a small concrete vibrator on my Smokefire. Works great
 

Goneincognito

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But what your findings after using it for 6 months?
Was it worth doing?
Seems that taking 5min every couple of weeks to remove the auger to clean and inspect would achieve the same result (unless there is more to it).
 

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