In this topic:
- Access Door Doesn’t Fit Tight
- Access Door Knob Is Loose
- Sections Out Of Round: Middle & Charcoal Bowl
- Sections Out of Round: Lid & Middle
- Charcoal Bowl Damaged
- Porcelain Finish Chipped Or Missing
- Vent Damper Loose
- Vent Damper Bent
- Vent Dampers In Wrong Location
- Damper Tabs Bent
- Damper Won’t Close Fully Because Tab Hits Charcoal Grate
- Leg Misshaped
- Damper Rivet Backwards
- Cooking Grate Doesn’t Fit Properly
- Water Pan Falling Down
- Lid Handle Loose
- Charcoal Chamber Out Of Round
- Vinyl Cover Logo Upside Down
- Wrong Or Missing Part
- Putting Things Into Perspective
Your new Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker will probably be perfect right out of the box. However, as long as the product is built, packaged, and shipped by humans, there will always be a small number of units with problems.
Here are some major and minor problems you should be on the look-out for when unpacking and assembling a new Weber Bullet. If you find a serious problem with your new cooker, don’t hesitate to call Weber Customer Service at 800-446-1071. They want you to be happy with your purchase and are quick to send free replacements for bad, damaged, or missing parts.
Access Door Doesn’t Fit Tight
One common affliction of new Weber Bullets is that the access door does not fit tight against the cooking section. The problem is most common on the 14.5″ and 22.5″ WSM doors.
The access door is not meant to provide an airtight fit, so don’t worry if there are small gaps or if you see a little bit of smoke creeping out from around the door on occasion. The main concern is that too large a gap allows unwanted air into the cooker, making it difficult to control temperature even with all the bottom vents closed.
To adjust the door, just bend it gently by hand, making small adjustments and checking the fit often on the cooker until you get it just right.
If the curvature of the door does not match that of the cooking section, hold the door by the edges and gently flex to add or subtract curvature.
If the curvature of the door is fine, but the vertical edges are warped or bowed, using the palm of your hand, hold the edge of the door on a sturdy surface with a straight edge and gently bend the door into shape using your other hand. Thanks to Doug D for posting this suggestion on The Virtual Weber Bulletin Board.
If you have a 2009 or newer door and there are gaps toward the bottom of the door, locate the two tabs that hold the door onto the middle cooking section when open and bend them slightly toward the front of the door. This adjustment pulls the door tight against the middle cooking section when closed. Thanks to Patrick Ford for sharing this tip.
A door that fits properly will have a slight spring action that requires you to push on the knob slightly to engage the door latch.
If you want to upgrade your stock access door, Cajun Bandit makes high-quality, 18-gauge stainless steel replacement doors for the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker.
If you’re looking for an air-tight seal because you’re using an automatic temperature control device, consider a WSM gasket kit.
Access Door Knob Is Loose
For Pre-2009 WSM (Round Door Knob)
If the access door knob turns too freely while the access door is in place, bend the latch a tiny bit toward the door so it engages the body of the cooker more tightly. Another approach is to gently shape the curvature of the door so that it has to be pushed tight in order to latch—sort of a slight spring action.
If the access door knob is coming off the threaded post, a few drops of Loctite Threadlocker adhesive should fix the problem. Otherwise, always turn the knob clockwise—that way you’re always tightening the knob, not loosening it.
For 2009 & Newer WSM (Oblong Door Handle)
If the handle becomes disconnected from the access door, call Weber Customer Service at 800-446-1071 to inquire about a replacement. They often send them for free, but they send the entire access door assembly including the handle.
When the handle breaks, it’s usually because the brass insert that receives the screw pops out of the plastic handle body. Some owners have glued the brass insert back into the handle using super glue or JB Weld with varying degrees of success.
Perhaps the best DIY solution is to drill all the way through the handle and bolt it to the door using most of the original hardware. These photos show such a repair made by Mike Zarecky and Ron W. Read this discussion forum thread on The Virtual Weber Bulletin Board for details and photos of the repair.
Sections Out Of Round: Middle & Charcoal Bowl
A less common problem is what’s known as an “out of round” condition, where the middle cooking section or the charcoal bowl or both parts are slightly oval-shaped instead of round. As a result, the sections don’t fit together properly and air infiltrates the cooker, making it hard to control temperatures or extinguish the fire by closing the bottom vents. “Out of round” is usually the result of a manufacturing error, not damage during shipping.
In a worst-case scenario, like the one shown above, the middle cooking section will not even fit into the charcoal bowl. An “out of round” condition this severe warrants an immediate call to Weber Customer Service at 800-446-1071 for a free replacement part.
It should be noted that the Weber Bullet is not intended to be an airtight unit, and as long the parts don’t exhibit large, obvious gaps, you should not be overly concerned. Most people get along just fine with a minor “out of round” condition. They just close the bottom vents a little bit more than normal while cooking. Others rotate the middle cooking section within the charcoal bowl until it binds, resulting in sufficient pressure to close the gap between the sections. For moderate gaps, you can place sheets of aluminum foil between the two sections to form a sort of airtight gasket, as shown below.
Minor cases of “out of round” can be diagnosed by checking for the following symptoms:
- The two sections fit together, but you see a gap of more than 1/8″ between the sections as you look around the circumference of the cooker and the middle cooking section rocks back and forth in the charcoal bowl when you press down on it.
- The middle cooking section turns freely within the charcoal bowl, then binds at a certain point during the rotation.
Again, just because your cooker exhibits one of these symptoms does not necessarily mean you need a replacement part. The cooker may operate just fine for you. If you have a gap of 1/8″ or less, you should try to live with the situation. This is a normal variance in fit between parts.
If you feel your cooker has a serious “out of round” condition, you can try to fix it yourself, or you can contact Weber Customer Service at 800-446-1071 for a free replacement part. Either way, you need to do some investigation to figure out which part is at fault—the bowl or the middle section.
Here’s how to proceed:
Use a measuring tape or yard stick to measure the diameter of the lid and the middle cooking section in four positions—first with your right hand at the 12 o’clock position, then at 3 o’clock, then halfway between 12 and 3 o’clock, then halfway between 3 and 6 o’clock. This results in four measurements separated by about 45°.
You should now have an idea of which part is at fault, how big a variance you have, and the direction along which it occurs.
If the variance is 1/8″ or less, you should try to live with the situation. This is a normal variance in fit between parts.
If you have a large “out of round” condition and want to try to fix it yourself, you’ll need to gently bend the part back into shape, but you will risk cracking the porcelain enamel finish in the process. Do not undertake this effort unless you’re completely confident that you can do it and are willing to accept the consequences of some cracked finish.
- Gently bend the part inward along the longest diameter you measured. Position the part on its side on a protective surface like a blanket or towel, then slowly and gently apply pressure to make a small adjustment. Now check the fit of the parts.
- Repeat the process of measuring, small adjustment, and checking fit until there’s not more than about a 1/8″ variance along any dimension. This takes patience, so take your time and go slowly.
- When you’ve finished, your WSM should exhibit little, if any, of the symptoms described above.
- Any minor damage to the porcelain enamel finish can be touched-up using black high-temp barbecue paint to prevent rust.
Sections Out Of Round: Lid & Middle
If you have to force the lid into the top of the middle cooking section and it “sticks” or binds when trying to remove it, it’s likely that the lid is “out of round” or is slightly too large overall. It’s possible for the lid to work fine when the cooker is cold but it sticks when the cooker is hot, presumably due to expansion of the parts when heated.
Note that this is not a common problem and only a few instances of it have been reported over the years.
The process described above to diagnose “out of round” between the middle cooking section and charcoal bowl can also be used to diagnose this lid problem, too. Measure the lid in four positions to determine if it’s out of round and in what direction, then attempt to gently bend the lid back into shape.
If you’re unable to successfully adjust the lid or you find that the lid is not “out of round” but is just slighly too large overall, don’t hesitate to call Weber Customer Service at 800-446-1071 for a replacement part.
Charcoal Bowl Damaged
This problem usually results from an impact to the box or crushing of the box during shipping. Examine the rim of the bowl carefully. It should be perfectly round, smooth, and have no flat spots. There should be no flaking porcelain finish or exposed bare metal spots.
Porcelain Finish Chipped Or Missing
In rare cases, you may find small areas where the porcelain finish is missing around the edges of the charcoal bowl, the middle cooking section or the lid. It may be that a spot was missed during the finishing process or that the part was dinged while moving through the factory or during the packing process.
Areas with missing finish can foster rust. You can touch-up these areas with high-temp black barbecue paint, or you can contact Weber Customer Service at 800-446-1071 for assistance.
Vent Damper Loose
Sometimes a WSM is shipped with a loose vent damper…it moves with the slightest touch.
A loose damper is the result of the rivet not being compressed enough during manufacturing. To tighten the damper, position the rivet head (the rounded part that’s on the outside of the lid or charcoal bowl) on top of a hard surface like a vise. Using a hammer and cold chisel or a straight-blade screwdriver, tap on the inside edges of the rivet to flatten it slightly. Take care not to hit the porcelain surface.
Vent Damper Bent
On rare occasions, a vent damper on the lid or charcoal bowl will get hung up on something and get bent out of shape during packing or unpacking, or while you are transporting the cooker. Since the damper is curved to conform to the shape of cooker, it’s just about impossible to bend it back into shape and get a good fit that controls air flow.
In this case, the damper must be replaced. Order a WSM vent damper replacement kit consisting of three dampers and fastening hardware. The replacement kit is also available from Weber Customer Service at 800-446-1071.
To remove the old damper, use an electric drill with a 5/16″ metal bit to drill out the inside of the rivet to weaken it, then use a pair of pliers to crush the rivet and pop it out.
Vent Dampers In Wrong Location
These are photos of a 1983 WSM owned by Carlos Lucero. In 2020, Carlos bought this used cooker online for $20 and was confused when ashes kept clogging the vents in the charcoal bowl. He reached out to Harry Soo of Slap Yo’ Daddy BBQ, and Harry reached out to me to help with the troubleshooting. It wasn’t until Carlos sent these photos (the annotations are his) that we fully understood the problem.
You can clearly see that the vents are stamped beneath the charcoal grate, instead of above the charcoal grate. Someone at the factory was asleep at the wheel and stamped three lid vents into this charcoal bowl and no one caught the mistake!
The only fix for this problem is a replacement charcoal bowl. Given that this bad bowl was not discovered until 2020, it’s not covered under warranty. Still, I encouraged Carlos to share these photos with Weber to see if they would step up and provide a replacement bowl. No word yet about the outcome.
Damper Tabs Bent
Sometime the tabs on the vent dampers are bent or flattened. The damper “stops” that control the open/close position of the damper can also become bent. This problem was common until packaging changes were made in 2009 to minimize the occurrence during shipping. Still, it can happen today when cookers fall over during transport or in a wind storm.
In the lower left corner of the photo above, you’ll notice that the tab on the right side of the damper is almost completely flattened. You can bend these tabs back into shape by hand or with a pair of pliers. Take care to not change the overall shape of the damper, which is curved to conform to the shape of cooker.
Damper Won’t Close Fully Because Tab Hits Charcoal Grate (22.5″ WSM only)
Note: Beginning in early 2010, owners have reported that this design issue has been fixed in new 22.5″ WSMs.
The 22.5″ WSM is designed such that a damper tab may hit the charcoal grate when the damper is in the closed position. This prevents the damper from closing fully.
Here’s a picture that compares two pre-2009 WSM legs. The bottom leg is normal, but the top leg was misshaped during the manufacturing process and could not be attached to the charcoal bowl. Notice that the position of the bottom bolt holes don’t match.
Damper Rivet Backwards
The tubular aluminum rivets that fasten the dampers to the lid and charcoal bowl are supposed to be “outies”—the round head on the outside of the cooker. But sometimes you’ll see an “innie”, where the rivet is installed backwards.
Cooking Grate Doesn’t Fit Properly
Occasionally, there are reports of new WSMs being shipped with top cooking grates that are too large in diameter. The grate should fit easily inside the middle cooking section and sit securely on top of the four grill straps. If you have a cooking grate that’s too big, contact Weber Customer Service at 800-446-1071 for a replacement.
There have also been reports over the years of top cooking grates that fall down into the middle cooking section unless placed just so on the grill straps. This may be the result of a grate that’s too small in diameter or due to an out of round condition at the top of the middle cooking section.
A stainless steel washer or two placed on the screw at the top of each grill strap—between the straps and the middle cooking section—will move the grill strap inward and fix the problem. This is similar to the fix shown in this video for a poor fitting water pan, only you’re adding washers to the top screw, not the bottom screw.
Water Pan Falling Down
Variations in the diameter of the middle cooking section and/or water pan may cause it to fall off the grill straps and down into the charcoal bowl—a very messy and potentially dangerous problem.
If you feel the water pan does not fit securely on the grill straps, remove the bottom screw from one grill strap, slip a stainless steel washer between the grill strap and the middle cooking section, and replace the screw. Check the fit of the pan. If it’s OK, you’re done. Otherwise, continue to add washers behind the other grill straps until you’ve got a stable water pan.
Lid Handle Loose
Charcoal Chamber Out Of Round
Sometimes Weber gets a little sloppy with the fabrication of the charcoal chamber, resulting in a ring that’s not quite round.
Vinyl Cover Logo Upside Down
I have a friend who unpacked a new WSM and found that the Weber logo was applied to the vinyl cover upside down! Someone was clearly asleep at the wheel on this one!
Wrong Or Missing Part
It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally Weber ships a cooker with a part missing or a wrong part in the box. I know of one person who received two charcoal bowls but no lid!
Putting Things Into Perspective
I hope you don’t read this topic and think, “Gee, look at all those problems. I’m not going to buy a Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker.” These problems can and do occur, but as I said before, most units arrive in good shape. I just want you to be aware of the problems you should be looking out for. And if you find one, call Weber Customer Service at 800-446-1071 and give them an opportunity to make things right. That’s what they do best.
Photo of access door handle repair: 2013 by Mike Zarecky.
Photo of countersunk handle screw: 2013 by Ron W.
Photo of wrong location dampers: 2020 by Carlos Lucero.