Most of the causes of malfunctioning machines are universal and affect all grades of fog machines. Cheaper fog machines are more prone to damage because of the lower quality of workmanship and material, along with a possibly lower capacity for handling big events spread over a longer period.
Not everyone who wants to invest in a fog machine has the resources to acquire high-end units; however, it should not be a restriction.
Because many fog machine operators have had to deal with these problems, you will be relieved to hear that quite a number of them are easily correctable as long as you can correctly diagnose what is wrong with them.
If you are not sure and need a more detailed guide to troubleshooting a malfunctioning fog machine, you can check out our article on what to do when your fog machine is not working.
This article takes you through how to fix a fog machine once you have established what the problem is, and we shall focus on the most common problems.
These are prone to happen in all the important sections of the fog machine and prevent it from functioning optimally. There are three main causes of blockages that cut across most fog machines:
- Dirt particles mostly enter the system through the fluid tank as you refill it, especially if the machine is being used in a club or dusty place.
- Corrosion from long periods of inactivity, which leads to the formation of sediments like rust particles
- Deposits of salt and minerals formed as byproducts of the heating process. This is especially pronounced when you frequently use lower-grade fog fluid, which tends to harbor these minerals.
They restrict the free movement of fog fluid, which is what the fog machine converts to fog. This lowers the output of your machine, and you may end up with no fog at all. It will churn out hot air instead. Blockages should be cleared as soon as they occur, regardless of whether the machine is functioning. If not, they become harder to deal with.
The fastest and easiest way is to flush the entire machine is with a machine cleaning agent pumped through the system the same way fog fluid is pumped, getting rid of debris and scaling at the same time.
- Start by emptying the fog fluid container of any residual fluid and giving it a thorough wash to ensure you are not introducing new contaminants in the system.
- Pour your cleaning agent into the fog fluid tank, turn on the machine and wait for it to heat up.
- Once heated, press the pump button so that the cleaning agent is pumped through the machine.
There are specially formulated fog machine cleaners for this job recommended by most manufacturers, and they do a great job getting rid of the scale and debris in the fog machine. They are made to protect your fog machine and will most likely not violate the terms of your warranty.
The Fog Worx Fog Machine Cleaner comes highly rated for getting rid of deposits left in the fog machines heater core.
However, the older generation of fog machine operators was used to the more pocket-friendly distilled white vinegar as a cleaning agent. The compound is acidic and will therefore make a great descaler.
The only challenge with it is you have to ensure it does not stay in the system for long because it is corrosive. This is what makes it effective, but it could also damage your fog machine parts.
When you feel like the blockages in the system have been removed, empty the fog fluid tank of any residual cleaning agent, clean it thoroughly, and place it back on the machine. Refill it with fog fluid and let it run until it is producing fog at its usual density. This is done to ensure none of the cleaning agents remains in the system. It is how you rinse out the machine after a wash.
Sometimes the extent of clogging is such that a single pumping cycle is not sufficient to dislodge whatever is clogging the entire system. The cleaning agent does not make it to the nozzle and out of the machine.
When this happens, keep pushing the pump button until the pump stops on its own. It is programmed to do this when the temperature of the heating element falls below its set threshold. If nothing is coming out, repeat the process until it gives, or up to five minutes, whichever comes first.
The number of attempts it takes to clear the system is dependent on the severity of the clog. It is good to be proactive and take care of the problem as soon as it begins rather than waiting until the machine stalls. There is a chance the clogging will be too resistant to be cleared in this way, and you may have to open up the fog machine.
Opening the Fog Machine
We highly recommend you seek expert guidance for this if you are not conversant with the circuitry of a fog machine.
Also, keep in mind the validity of your warranty if you have any to speak of. Opening up the fog machine may violate the terms of the warranty.
These concerns don’t take away the need to open up the machine to take a closer look if your cleaning agent is unsuccessful.
Fixing the Individual Components of a Fog Machine
If the heater block is clogged, the fog machine will pump, but the output will be low. It is usually clogged with mineral deposits which are byproducts of contaminants in fog fluid. If you can observe these sediments, flush out the heater block with fog machine cleaner liquid or distilled white vinegar.
Keep in mind that you will have to pump fog fluid through the system to rinse it afterward.
In some instances, the fog fluid does not get to the heater due to clogs in the pump or the heater's line. If it is heating up, but it’s dry, the problem is further along in the machine.
This is one of the circumstances where your heater will be producing hot air instead of fog. It is unhealthy for your machine as overheating may cause the heating element to crack.
Once the heating element is damaged, the only remedy is to get a new heater. The cost of installing one often surpasses the price of the entire fog machine; it becomes more economical to get a new fog machine.
The heating system sometimes fails due to external factors. It may not be getting power from the power source. Without heat, the fog machine is useless because fog production is impossible. It is this heat that even triggers the pump that pushes forth the fog fluid.
Test its leads to ascertain whether it is receiving any power in the first place. Find out where the circuit is breaking if no power is coming to it.
Occasionally the fog machine will churn out hot fog fluid instead of fog. This means the fluid is being introduced into the heater before the temperature is high enough to vaporize the fog solution before it is released from the fog machine.
This is not a problem with the heater but a thermocouple further down the line tasked with checking the temperature.
This very crucial component is the sensor that decides when the heater is hot enough to vaporize the fog fluid into the fog and then powers the pump to push the fluid to the heater. It acts as a circuit breaker for both components, and when it fails, the entire fog machine fails.
If it breaks the connection with the heater, the fog machine can’t warm up, and if it can’t power up the pump, there is no fog juice to be vaporized. If the fog machine is spewing liquid fog juice, you will need to adjust or recalibrate this thermostat, so it engages the pump at a higher temperature.
If it is busted, you will notice there is power coming to it, but none leaving either to the heater or the pump. You can always replace it with another of a similar rating, which you will then calibrate to the same temperature.
This is another critical component responsible for pushing the fog juice from its tank to the heater and out of the fog machine when the temperature is right.
It is exposed to external dirt from the fluid tank as it is the immediate next stage the fog fluid passes through in the fog machine.
Due to this, it also clogs from time to time. Most of the clogging is removable by flushing the fog machine with a cleaning agent. Others are so stubborn that they block even the cleaning agent from passing through and require the dismantling of the pump.
Dismantling a pump is an intricate process, and once again, we recommend you seek the services of an expert if unsure or replace the entire pump. If you dismantle it, take the opportunity to give it a thorough wash, scraping off all visible deposits.
Disconnect it from the line transmitting fog fluid to the heater and the fluid reservoir and connect it directly to a power source to observe its behavior.
Mechanical Pump Issues
Pump failure is not always about clogging. They also wear out like any other component. When you turn the pump button on, there should be a buzzing sound, whether it is pumping anything out or not.
If there is no buzzing sound, you can test to see whether there is any incoming power from your power source. If there is, your motor is bust, and the pump needs replacement.
If there is buzzing, but the piston is not coming in and out of the pump chamber, there is a likelihood it is being held back by an extremely tight valve or the spring that pushes it back has failed and needs replacement.
You can always pull out replacement components from older pumps, so if you are a DIY enthusiast, don’t throw away entire units once you replace them.
Confirm if the seals are airtight because they can allow air into the pump and reduce the efficiency of your fog machine.
Remember to run a cleaning agent through it after fixing the fog machine to eliminate any contamination that may have occurred while the unit was exposed. Run fog fluid immediately after to rinse it out until it produces its regular fog density.
The Electric Panel
Conduct a visual survey and use a voltmeter to test whether all fuses and relays are working. Modern fog machines have been designed to self-preserve, and you will blow a fair share of fuses if you over-exert them.
Muffling Excess Noise
Some fog machines with a high wattage rating are designed to produce stronger and faster fog jets that can cover large output distances. To successfully achieve this, the vapor comes out of the fog machine with tremendous force. This creates a prominent hissing sound that can be a huge distraction from the event itself.
It is important to figure out how to silence the machine if you own one of these because they are just meant to complement the setup, not be the centerpiece.
- One option is to move the fog machine further away from the heart of the action, so the noise is more removed from the scene. Doing this, however, interferes with its output distance, and a lot of the fog will go to waste. There is a limit to far you can go with this plan.
- Alternatively, you can raise the levels of other sound effects to the extent that the hiss of the fog machine is drowned.
- You can also form a sound barrier by placing other decorative material in front of the fog machine, covering it with a box, leaving only the nozzle area open, or building a housing structure in which you will place it during events. Take care that nothing touches the nozzle as it gets very hot when the fog machine is working. It is a potential fire hazard.
Other fog machines have very loud pumps. You can open them up and wrap the noisy pump with some form of insulation like fiberglass. However, this is a sensitive procedure, and you might want to check the terms of your warranty before choosing this path.
Consult the manufacturer if in doubt and ask for their recommended solution and whether it is normal behavior.
At the end of the day, you get what you paid for. A high capacity fog machine with a high wattage rating, a large fluid tank is necessary to achieve a greater output distance with more fog intensity. Its cost of acquisition will be relatively higher.
A smaller fog machine will have its limitations, and you should learn to operate within these limitations to avoid fixing your fog machine after every gig. The extra wear and tear will affect the service life of your machine, drastically reducing the value for money.
Some fog machines have small wattages but are packed with additional bells and whistles that can significantly raise their purchase cost, but their value addition is priceless. They come equipped with energy-saving technology, which allows them to provide longer service. Take a look at the example below.
AGPtEK 500W LED Fog Machine
- They have perfected energy saving through an advanced constant temperature system combined with specialized pipeline technology. It allows the machine to produce up to 2000 cubic feet per minute of fog with only 500W
- It gives you two options for spraying the fog, a wired receiver and wireless remote control
- You have been granted the ability to generate colored fog with 13 colors of LED lights to choose from. You can remotely create different light effects at different speeds from your vantage point
- This fog covers up to 3 meters for a whole 25 seconds
Storage and handling of the fog machine also play a big role in determining how often it will need repairs. This influences how much dirt it will encounter, the possibility of getting knocked around, and accumulating minor damages.
Provided you take a proactive approach to cleaning and servicing the fog machine, you will greatly reduce instances where repair is necessary, and you should have a generally nice experience.
You don’t have to fix the fog machine on your own every time. Some complications are even beyond our scope. Try and take advantage of the warranty whenever it is applicable and consult with experts often. Most fog machine manufacturers are also willing to assist.