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When Old Cookers Have Issues: Sealing A Lid Leak On My Kamado #9

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    When Old Cookers Have Issues: Sealing A Lid Leak On My Kamado #9

    To me, the most frightening aspect of owning a very large ceramic cooker is the idea of having to adjust the metal bands that hold the lid to the base of the cooker. I've had my giant beast over 15 years, and have never set wrench to the bolts on my bands.

    But my old cooker has been having some issues. Early in low and slow cooks, I have been seeing A LOT of smoke escaping where the lid meets the base. Later in low and slow, I've been having minor temperature excursions upwards and on a cook or two, I've closed the upper vent more or less all the way. With the temp too high, the blower isn't running so this should choke off the fire, but it often chugs along in the 275 range for hours like that.

    On inspecting the bands closely, it appeared that the lid was shifted upward at the very back. Being dumb, I reasoned that simply loosening the bolts on the upper band would allow the lid to nestle back down to the level it should sit. With trepidation, I checked the very short set of "instructions" that came with the cooker, praying there would be a torque setting recommended for re-tightening the bolts so as not to crack the ceramic. No such luck. There is just a statement not to over-tighten to the point of cracking.

    Soooo, I went ahead and loosened the bolts. With the bands quite loose, the back of the lid went nowhere. Did I mention previously that I'm dumb? Well, if I weren't, I would have looked closely enough before starting to see that the hinge at the back sets the spacing between the upper and lower bands. Further, and this is the really dumb part, I would have remembered that all that smoke I see when my wood chunks start burning is coming more from the very front of the lid rather than the back. So all that wrestling I did with the lid trying to tilt the back lower into the band was in fact the absolute opposite of what I should have been doing. The settling that needed to happen with the bands loose was at the front. In fact, my wife, who is MUCH smarter than me, noted that she could see a gap around the front of the lid when she put her head down to where the lid and base come together.

    And sure enough, with the bands loose, that gap in the front magically closed. So I tightened the bolts, scared to death I'd hear a devastating "CRACK". But they tightened just fine. Once I got them to what felt like about how tight they were before I started, I eagerly looked at the gap. Sadly, it was back. It appears that somehow the bands just want to allow the back of the lid to go too low (even though the band sits in a position relative to the lid that would make you think it's holding the back of the lid too high--this is crazy-making) when the bands are properly tightened.

    So, back to more staring at the cooker, this time with the lid up. Looking at the gasket, I could see that the gasket on the base was worn almost all the way through and threadbare at the very back, but only for a stretch of about six inches. Remarkably, I remembered a bit of extra gasket material had come with the cooker all those years ago. Even more remarkably, I found it! This gasket material is so old it predates the self-adhesive type.

    Placing one end of the extra gasket material over one end of the worn spot and letting the other end drape out the back of the cooker past the other end of the wear seems to allow it to stay in place for now. The good news is that with the extra gasket material in place, I can now re-tighten the bolts almost all the way while the gap in the lid at the front stays sealed.

    This really looks to me like it's going to work. I am cooking a pork loin Thursday, so I can't wait to see if I restrict the smoke to only coming out the top vent. It's a short cook, so I won't see if the low temp control is improved, too, but I'd be shocked if those two things aren't linked.

    I've also ordered some self-adhesive gasket material so that I can put a proper size piece in permanently if this fixes the problem.

    Here's how it looks now.

    This is a view from one side where you can see both bands, the bolts on that side (there's an identical set directly on the other side) and the hinge. You can see the supplemental gasket material hanging out.

    Click image for larger version

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    Here is the view with the lid open, showing how short the worn section of gasket is (the wear pattern seems to line up precisely with the hinge):

    Click image for larger version

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    And here's the view from behind showing a better view of the hinge and how it fixes the distance between bands as well as being bolted directly too the base. There is this bolt in the center of the back and two more part way around the sides.

    Click image for larger version

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    This view shows really well the deceptive way the lid looks tilted up in the band even though the smoke leak tells us it's actually tilted down.

    I'm just going to live for now with leaving the bolts a bit looser than they were when I started. There's little to no movement of the lid inside the band that I can detect as I open it, so I don't think I'm doing bad things by letting the lid and base move too much relative to one another. I only need to get about another year out of this cooker because at least for now, I don't see how I can integrate it into my dream outdoor kitchen when we build it.

    I'll update this after Thursday's cook to see how all these changes behave when the cooker goes to temperature.

    My old BKK is the same way, I call it Sieve, more smoke out the seams than the top damper.
    I check the hinge bolts for tightness every time I use it, if it falls apart I'll lose the parts in the snow.


      @JimWhite here is an old link from an old hand on RJ's Kamado Forum when it was still around. I had an RJ Nr7 never an issue with it but had to let it go on a PCS move. Would have been grossly over weight.
      I think I have Alan Z's page open to "band" stuff.


      • Jim White
        Jim White commented
        Editing a comment
        Thanks. Very interesting. I had to use the Wayback Machine to get a working copy of the linked band rework page. They claim my cooker shouldn't need this procedure since it was made after 2000, but I'll think about this and whether it might apply. I'm really hoping my gasket patch does the trick. That procedure requires removing the lid. It's really heavy...

      • Jim White
        Jim White commented
        Editing a comment
        And now I've found a page of his that is just band adjustment. It definitely has some things I can try.


      • tiewunon
        tiewunon commented
        Editing a comment
        He was one of the most active guys on the KJ forum back in the day. I remember when the Nr 9's were first offered. My Nr7 was a 98 model. It resides in Warner Springs Ca at my uncles house and still going strong.
        Good luck with the fix and most importantly the porkloin.

      "When Old Cookers Have Issues"

      I was wondering where this one was going. So here is my list.

      1. This time of year the skin on my hands crack and split.

      2. Middle finger on my right hand (trigger finger) I may have used this way too much lately.

      3. Did I mention my selective hearing?

      4. Why the heck do they keep shrinking the darn letters on stuff?

      5. What was the topic again?

      6. Oh. Never mind. ​​​​​​​


      • Jim White
        Jim White commented
        Editing a comment
        I kind of knew I was setting someone up with a juicy slow pitch down the middle, but stayed with that title anyway. Well played.

      I made a further discovery yesterday that was contributing to the leaking where the lid meets the base. Here is the bottom of the spring assembly on the right side of the lid:

      Click image for larger version

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      Although it's filthy, it looks fine. The spring assembly on the left side, however, had lost the nut and the bolt was still wedged more or less into place, but was protruding form the bottom of the assembly tube rather than from the hole where it should be:

      Click image for larger version

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      Remarkably, just getting the bolt back through the hole where it belongs and with a nut on it, the lid was suddenly more sealed (according to the paper test, where you just see if the lid traps a folded over piece of printer paper when closed) on the right side where it was still leaking somewhat.

      So today I was anxious to see if the leak was gone.

      Here we are as the cooker was still coming up to temperature:

      Click image for larger version

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      Hooray! What a beautiful sight. Blue smoke only from the top with nothing from the sides. Even when there were giant bursts of smoke when the Pit Viper fan kicked in, the bulk of the smoke came out the top with only a little out the right side:

      Click image for larger version

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      So yes, just that tiny bit of torque on the bands with the spring being able to descend a bit lower than it should resulted in the lid opening a hair directly opposite that point. Live and learn.



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