Mes Quit

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by lostarrow, Feb 20, 2009.

  1. scubadoo97

    scubadoo97 Smoking Fanatic

    Time to pop the back and take a look at the connections. You will have to remove the chip tray cover which is not a big deal and remove the the outer screws on the heating element to release the metal cover on the back that covers the two connections. I left the metal cover unattached after inspecting mine but still in place to cover the connections. This way I'll not need to remove the chip tray cover again and can just pop the back and give it a good once over.
  2. Oh I have taken it all apart and cleaned the connectors but its still doing it :(

    Guess I should have mentioned that hehe.

    I am amending this with the fact that the last time I used it (last summer) I did so twice in one week and hosed it out between uses. I thought perhaps some moisture had gotten inside where the element was and making the GFI trip. In the end I plugged it in to a non GFI outlet and was able to use it.

    I am concerned though that I will end up frying a wire or something.
  3. Interesting update.

    I found after completely taking the unit apart that both ends of the burner element wire are the made exactly the same. This of course required drilling out the rivets in the small square box on the bottom that holds the electronics package in it to get at one of the ends. The other is in the temperature sensor switch that can be removed by pulling the two screws above and below it. It is on the inside of the unit on the left about 2/3rds up. Interestingly it is wired as a cutoff so I assume it senses overtemp and cuts off the burner. I always thought it was the temp sensor but apparently not, its just a bi-metal dump temp switch. The real temp sensor appears to be about 8-10 inches up from that on the outside.

    So anyway I reversed the wires so the good ends were attached to the burner after having cleaned the bad ends thoroughly and replacing one that was questionable. I also used a compound for connections that prevents corrosion. Hopefully that will keep the buildup I saw on there from happening again.

    I just fired it up for a test run and got her up to 210 deg for 2 hours. I couldn’t go 10 minutes before without blowing the GFI so this is definitely an improvement. Hopefully we are a go for my party in 2 weeks!
  4. scubadoo97

    scubadoo97 Smoking Fanatic

    What compound did you use?
  5. I used the diaelectric compound that you can buy at auto parts stores for putting on spark plug boots. Keeps them from corroding to the plug end and is for high temp applications.
  6. scubadoo97

    scubadoo97 Smoking Fanatic

    Thanks. I'll have to look for that. Sounds like this will be a preventative measure to keep the MES going longer. I'm just amazed at all the problems I've seen with this smoker seeing that it gets great reviews. Makes me think I should have saved my pennies for a Cookshack or Smoke Tex
  7. N/P. Just go to the counter at the auto parts store and tell them you need spark plug boot grease. If you call it a diaelectric compound or anything like that you will probably get a wierd look.

    I just looked at it and it bears a logo that says "ABG" and the label says "Diaelectric Spark Plug Boot Protector". It comes in a small foil style package you might get condiments in at a fast food place. Just enough to do the job without having a mountain left over after. I think it costs about a buck around here I just had some from the last overhaul.
  8. Customer support... HA

    So before I started messing with the smoker last Sat. I emailed Masterbuilt support asking for any help they might be willing to offer because I had possibly used the unit 12 times and it wast just under 2 yrs old and was tripping the GFI.

    I got a pleasant reply to call their 800 number and get to support and they should be able to help me with anything I might need.

    What was supports "anything I might need" offer you ask...

    "Sir, this sounds like there is a short inside the unit. Unfortunately there are no user serviceable parts inside. We have a kit that is just the chassis (box.. .whatever they called it) for $189 plus shipping... grand total nearly $225."

    To which I promptly let them know that I was not going to sink 2/3rds the cost of the unit back in to it only to possibly have this happen again so No Thanks!!!.

    I had read about people getting new units on here out of warranty but I guess not today.

    The next time I am inside the unit I am going to take the burner out and head to my local appliance repair place and ask if they have a burner with nearly the same ratings as this one, 110V 6.5-6.6A or 800 Watts that is about the same size that I could use to replace it.

    It would be easy to remake the plate that holds it to the back wall for a new one.
  9. scubadoo97

    scubadoo97 Smoking Fanatic

    Finally got around to getting some dialectric grease and today took the back off and lubed up the connections. The heating element connections were easy to get at since I had already removed the holding screws to the metal cover. The metal cover on the upper right side was also easy to remove by removing the two screws that are in a vertical orientation on the inside of the smoker box. There were two connectors under this cover. The cover was easy to reattach. The only connections that were not accessible were the ones at the bottom right corner that go into the unit. Just have to hope those holds.

    This precaution took all of around 20 min. Most of the time was used to remove back sheet metal and reattach it.
  10. smokeguy

    smokeguy Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I wonder if some of the problems could be from the moisture coming from the water pan. Just curious how many of those with problems keep the pan in there with water and for how long after a smoke? I haven't had any problems (yet), but so far I've dumped it either that day, or the next day if it was too late/hot. And I'll leave the vent open so that the vapor has a way to escape. Thoughts?
  11. fishawn

    fishawn Smoking Fanatic

    I think Masterbuilt uses cheap wiring in the initial build.

    1) It gets call backs for service where they can sell new "bodies" to people not able to, or not willing to attempt repair for units out of warranty.

    2) Cheap wire costs less! [​IMG]

    They have a pretty big following on here, I use one & love the convenience of it. That said, I have replaced connections on my 30" that is about 15-16+- months old. I use it about 3 times a week. They really should look into using higher gauge or grade wire when building them. Maybe they have on the new Re-designed ones with the window???

    There is (was?) a great thread on here with the step by step replacement of the original wiring with upgraded wiring. It is not all that hard.
  12. scubadoo97

    scubadoo97 Smoking Fanatic

    I think they use 16 gauge wires for these connections. I had thought about replacing my wires with a thicker gauge and had inquired about high temp wiring. I don't think it's the temperature but low grade components. So far I've kept my original wiring but have protected the connections with this dialectric grease and crimped the connections as best I can. I'm hoping these preventative measures will keep this smoker going without problems for some time to come.
  13. I don't know if it is the wiring or the connector that is cheap. Probably both. I have truly only used mine about 8 times. A few of those very short smokes.

    I am going to use it again this weekend for 40lbs worth of brisket and 4 chickens.

    I got contacted back by Masterbuild C.S. and was offered an entire smokes rather than just the body for 150 + 30 shipping but I turned them down. I told the lady that if I was getting the same exact unit with the exact same flaws then I wasn't going to re-invest in their product. However if they wanted to make that offer with the newest model unit I would consider investing in something that might not have the same flaws. I never heard back on that (email).
  14. Ha, now here is a something to laugh at. If you look at the manual that comes with the MES it shows a "Parts" list with order info (call Masterbuilt)

    So the body is listed as well as the heating element (seperately).

    I call and ask for a price on the body kit. Then I ask for the Element price. They are one in the same $189.99 + shipping. I say... so... when I order the element I am really getting the body? The answer... Yes.

    At any rate I have found some online options for replacing the element. When I come up with something solid I will post repair details with pics.
  15. Having spent several years as a temperature control engineer, I figured out why these things fail fairly quickly.

    1. The connectors have plastic insulation that will melt at extended temperatures for an extended time. That is what happens when you first start your cook - everything is cold, and the burner will be on fully for as long as it takes to get to the 'set temperature'. That extended period of time causes the insulation to melt, and filter down into the connector itself. Then, after that cook, it cools and rehardens. That causes less surface contact the next time you start it, and it makes the connector itself hotter, because of less surface contact. At some point, enough melted insulation is in the connector to cause arcing, and subsequent failure of the connection. That is what happened to mine. In other cases, the melted insulation could prevent contact at all, which would look like a failed element. I doubt that any of these elements have ever failed - only the connections.

    2. The act of installing the wood tray and removing it 'jiggles' the heating element. That causes the wiring to flex each time. We all know what happens when a wire is bent enough times. Individual strands begin to break, forcing the current into the remaining ones, which then causes a hot connection, which, uh, melts the insulation, and the cycle continues.

    I heard mention of using a stainless connector on these...DON'T, even if you find them. It is not safe to have non-matching metals touching while passing current through them. That is, by definition, electro plating. The connectors will fail.

    So, the whole design of the treatment of the element is at fault. The wire size is probably ok, and would have to be approved by UL in the first place. The heating element should be surrounded with ceramic near the connectors, to divert heat away from the connections themselves. Properly done, the element would simply pull out like it does on your electril range.

    Proper materials should be used in the vicinity of high temperatures, or catastropic failure will result. In my job, we built thermostats for baseboard heaters, and believe me, you do NOT want to be on the receiving end of a lawsuit for failure of your materials in the intended usage.

    Note that when one wire breaks off, as mine did, it may be a 'hot' wire, and may endanger you if you touch the unit. So - if you experience *ANY* heating issues, unplug it immediately, take care of your meat another way (I put my pork butt on my 4 burner grill, top down, two burners on low, for my final 4 hours). Then you can ****er with Masterbuilt about how to fix it.

    I took my element out and can see the unconnected wire floating inside the chassis. Only luck prevented it from being the hot one.

    So, it is not the wire, and it is not the element, it is the design. The connectors should be true high temp connectors whose insulation cannot melt. (My insulation is a black blob in the bottom of the little aluminum box. Photos forthcoming.)

    The wiring should not be flexed by adjusting the wood box. The element should be a plug-in type, and the receptacle for it should be ceramic with range type connections. If that was done, they wouldn't be replacing elements in the first place, because the elements are usually fine - it is the connectors that are at fault.

    I know this is a long posting, but I've seen some dangerous suggestions already, and no mention of the real cause - the plastic insulation. I don't want anyone to get hurt, and I want Masterbuilt to 'get it' as to what is wrong, and FIX this problem properly.

    John Shotsky
    Thermal engineer.
  16. scubadoo97

    scubadoo97 Smoking Fanatic


    Thank you for such an infomative post. I was the one to suggest stainless steel connectors. I know didley about electrical stuff and your reasoning was most likley why I never found stainless connectors.

    So it sounds like one of the best fix a MES owner could do is to replace the connectors with true high temp connectors and make sure they are tight and that there is enough play that the wood box does not pull on the connectors. The other suggestions are not something most of us could attempt.
  17. Now that I have mine apart, and have taken pictures, I'm going to see if I can get in touch with a Masterbuilt engineer to get this problem fixed for good. I'm also going to get the good connectors, cut the wire back to where it's not discolored from heat, clean the contacts good, and reassemble. Funny, if they had mounted it with the plastic connectors on the bottom instead of the top, the plastic would have probably dripped away from the connector, but some may have still gotten into it.

    I think they counted on not having a great deal of temperature at the connections, but they forgot that bringing a smoker from 20F to 250F with 10 pounds of cold meat and a pan of water would keep that element on for hours at a time, until equilibrium was reached. By that time, it would be HOT, HOT, HOT!

    I'm not sure how they got these through the UL tests, but as long as the overheating condition didn't occur during their tests, they would probably pass it. They do things like throwing blankets over them, etc, trying to make them fail. And when they do fail, they make sure it fails to a condition that won't hurt anyone - thus overtemp cutouts, etc. UL would not have discoverred this problem under normal circumstances. I always had to give the ratings of the components I used, but as I say, if they claimed the temperature at the connections wouldn't exceed, say, 300F, the connector insulation was probably ok. I suspect it gets a lot warmer, under certain conditions.

    For anyone wanting to prevent this problem, and willing to drill out the pop rivets on the back, I'd suggest cutting that insulation off the connectors and using some high temperature tape instead. Check with electrical supply people, or home depot, Lowes, etc. The tape will also help form a strain relief for the wires. If there's enough room, the element might be flipped so the connectors are down. Not sure that'll work offhand, unless it's symmetrical.

    Tomorrow, I talk to Masterbuilt about it and see what they're willing to do. I purchased in Feb, 2008 and didn't use it much over the winter, maybe 20 smokes by now is all.

    I'm attaching a picture of the little box where my wire broke off. a picture of the element upside down, showing the melted insulation on it, and a picture of the butt I was smoking at the time...

  18. ronp

    ronp Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Thanks for the informative post. I already sent a link of yours to Kim in CS.

    Here is her direct #, I would call her and see what she says,1-706-256-3942.

    Tell her I sent you. Ron in New Mexico, I talked to her last week and she is good. Her email is
    [email protected]

    But I find the phone works better.

    Keep us posted.
  19. Excellent post and information John. Although I am not an engineer I have worked as a service tech that includes beverage machines, electrical and refrigeration. I am also schooled in repair of the company I worked for Popcorn machines, simple to more complex. I have seen issues with the heating elements connectors and agree wholeheartedly with what you have said, and do believe Masterbuilt needs to redesign their smokers.

    I have owned my MES for several years, no problems, as of yet, but I am thinking this issue will be ignored by the company as far as units that have been sold. I am capable of fixing my own, but what about the person that isn't?

    As far as UL goes, maybe these findings need to be sent to them for consideration. Hopefully these issues don't cause a fatality and lawsuits to get it fixed.

    Thanks for the information,
    aka Rocky
  20. I got in touch with Masterbuilt today, speaking with Tanya Moore, the CS Manager. I will be receiving a new unit, and they want mine back as proof of the quality problems they have experience with their (Chinese) manufacturer.

    They have switched manufacturers, which is why there was a shortage for about 8 months. It took a while to get the new manufacturer up to speed, and, I'm told, the wiring has been completely redesigned.

    You can detect whether you have an old unit or a new one by looking at the front feet. If the lines run around the front feet, as in a tire, that is the old supplier. If the lines run up and down, like a sand buggy, that is the new version.

    If ANYONE has any problems with heating, stop using it immediately, and call Masterbuilt.
    706-256-3905 is Tanya's direct number.

    For the person that had problems running it on a GFI - STOP using it now. That GFI may be all that stands between you and your safety. The reason a GFI trips is that there's current running in the ground wire. That also means one of your connections has already failed, and the body is now the return path. If that green wire fails, at this point, the whole body will be at 120V...

    For anyone using the old model at this time: May I suggest a rubber mat in front of it for you to stand on when touching it. These connections are a time bomb, and no one knows if or when it will fail...


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