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.
Here’s How to Fix a Fog Machine
Modern fog machines are easy to operate but they do have a complex design. They come with all sorts of advanced features like LED lights, a wired remote control, control panel, electrical outlet, fog output controller, heat fuse, and a timer. Any of these components can malfunction and can make it hard for you to create the special effects you need.
With extreme malfunctions, it might be best to call a professional to get your machine repaired, but there are quite a few malfunctions that you can easily clear up all on your own. Here’s a quick look at common fog machine problems that you can handle on your own.
Tips For Clearing up Blockages
These are prone to happen in all the important sections of the fog machine and prevent it from functioning optimally and result in a decrease in fog output. There are three main causes of a clogged fog machine that cut across most devices:
- Dirt particles mostly enter the system through the fogger 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 to cause a fogger clog.
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 of 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.
Tips For Clearing Stubborn Blockages
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
How to FIx The Fog Machine Heater
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.
How to Fix The Fog Machine Thermocouple
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.
How to Fix The Fog Machine Pump
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.
How to Fix 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.
How to Fix 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 fog machine 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.
Tips For Preventing Future Damages
It’s usually a lot easier to take good care of your fog smoke machine than it is to do an extensive repair on your machine. Proper maintenance will keep it in great condition and will ensure good functionality for longer. Here are a few great tips that will keep your machine from troubleshooting.
Invest in a High-Quality Smoke Machine
At the end of the day, you get what you paid for. A high capacity fog machine with a high wattage rating – like a 500w smoke machine, 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
Carefully Handle and Store Your Device
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.
Be careful when adding liquids or fog machine fluid to your device. Spills can make your machine dirty and will create buildup on the device. Too much fog machine fluid buildup can result in a clog. Any accidents that do happen should be cleared up immediately.
Bad fog juice can decrease your pump output and can eventually damage the machine. It’s always best to fill your fog juice tank with quality juice.
Fog machines with a small motor like a 400-Watt smoke machine, can’t run nonstop for as long as a device that has a large motor or industrial built-in unit. Small machines require regular time-outs to keep them from overheating.
Lots of modern devices come with an auto-off feature to help protect the machine but you should still keep an eye on your usage. Consider a wired remote control unit so you can remotely control the machine and turn it off regularly.
How to Clean a Fog Machine
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 or get good value for your money.
While regular cleaning is important for keeping a fog generator in good condition, you should avoid cleaning it too much or you could wear it down prematurely. A thorough clean before storing your device should be sufficient. Here’s a quick look at the best steps for cleaning fog machines for optimal care.
Step 1 – Flush The Tank
First, you need to unplug your smoke device. Once this has been done, you can create a vinegar and water mixture. You can create a natural cleaning solution by mixing one part white vinegar with one part distilled water. Distilled water is preferable since tap water often contains hard minerals that can build up inside the device over time.
Remember to take the unit outside because the vinegar mixture can sometimes feel overwhelming if you’re operating in a small room. Empty the reservoir by unscrewing the cap and dumping the remaining fog liquid into the sink. You don’t have to rinse the tank after emptying it since the vinegar mixture will do this for you.
Place the tank back inside your machine and add the vinegar mixture the same way you would fog liquid. The tank should be mostly filled with vinegar solvent. Most fog machines require about half a liter of liquid to reach this level.
Turn the machine on and let it run with the vinegar and water mixture inside it. Keep running the machine until the tank is almost empty. You can now turn the machine off and empty the tank again. Place the tank back into the device and add some clean distilled water to the tank. The distilled water will flush out the remaining vinegar inside your machine to clear it out a bit more.
Allow the machine and tank to properly dry off.
Step 2 – Clean Other Parts
Unplug the fogging device and allow it to cool down. You can now get to work on the following steps to clean the other components:
- Scrape out the output nozzle and clear any deposits or debris you see inside or around the nozzle. You can use any firm object to scrape all the dirt from the nozzle.
- Use a damp cloth and wipe down the exterior of the fog machine. Be careful to wipe all the nooks and crannies where residue might have collected.
- Test the machine after cleaning it. Add some fogger fluid and let the machine run and produce fog for a couple of minutes so you can ensure that it’s in good working condition. It’s important to never store a freshly cleaned machine without running a batch of fogging liquid through the components.
Service The Fog Generator
It’s important to get the needed repairs done to your device as soon as you identify issues. Frequent cleaning and regular repairs or servicing can enhance the life expectancy of these devices.
Take your fog generator to an experienced technician or seek professional help online for a thorough service or if you need to do extensive repairs.
Store Away After Use
Proper storage will keep dust and dirt away from the machine and all of its delicate components. It’s best to store your fogging device inside a box or to cover it with a cloth before placing it in storage. When it’s safely tucked away, dust and moisture won’t be able to damage the control panel and the risk of a bad fall will be eliminated.
You don’t have to fix the fog machine on your own every time. Some complications are even beyond our scope. If you don’t know how to fix a fog machine or don’t know much about a specific issue then 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.
We hope that you found this guide helpful and that your fog maker will be back up to steam in no time at all. But if your machine is beyond repair then we welcome you to have a look at some of the buying guides we have on GetFogMachine. Our reviews will help you find a great replacement machine so you can continue creating special effects that awe audiences.