Let’s set the scene, its a Saturday you’ve got a prime brisket ready to go on your Pit Boss. You turn on your pellet grill/smoker, and you hear a strange whining noise. You keep listening for pellets dropping into the burn pot, but you don’t hear a thing other than the fan running. Eventually, you get an error code on your Pit Boss and you’re left with a cold BBQ. What gives! Well my friend, you have a blocked/jammed auger which will need your attention. So let’s look at how to repair the issue and the likely cause to avoid it again.
Disclaimer: Hey! By the way… any links on this page that lead to products on Amazon or other sites are affiliate links, and I earn a commission if you make a purchase.
Important: If your Pit Boss won’t turn on check out my linked article to track down the cause of the problem.
Introduction To Pit Boss Auger Blockages & Repair
If the pellet feed auger on your Pit Boss pellet grill/smoker won’t turn, there are a couple of potential causes. Maybe a foreign object (stone/nail) entered the hopper and got stuck in the auger, or maybe the auger motor just gave up the ghost.
Both are potential causes, however, they are not the most likely causes of an auger blockage and in many cases, once the auger is cleaned out, you’ll find the auger motor still works. The number one cause of auger blockages in pellet grills/smokers is wet pellets.
Typically, rain has somehow got into the hopper and expanded the pellets within the auger tube, literally locking it into position. A pellet has a compression ratio of 6:1 over sawdust. Hence, when a pellet gets wet and expands back into sawdust its going to cause a problem for the auger.
The video above from Pit Boss does give good advice on how to avoid a future auger blockage. Keep the BBQ covered in case of rain, and don’t leave pellets in the hopper, especially in a humid environment.
However, the process they show of removing the auger after a blockage is not ‘true to life’. Why? Well, in the video they show the process of removing the auger with dry pellets in the tube. Your auger won’t be blocked with dry pellets, it will be jam-packed with expanded sawdust, formally known as pellets.
Removing A Jammed Auger In The Real World
Ok, first, you’re going to need to detach the power cord and disable the hopper and internal components to actually get to the auger assembly. Don’t worry, I’ve found some model-specific videos from Pit Boss on this process below.
Anyway, once you get to the auger assembly and you’re trying to remove the auger from the tube, best case scenario, it will pull straight back and out. However, if the blockage was due to wet expanded pellets, that’s not going to work unless you are exceptionally strong.
Fix a wrench or similar onto the end of the auger shaft and turn counterclockwise. This way, you are unscrewing the auger from the expanded sawdust within the auger tube. If its really really stuck, you can attach a drill on the end of the shaft, but do so very carefully.
Once you have removed the auger, that’s only half of the job, you now need to clean out the auger tube of the expanded sawdust. The best tool for the job is the auger itself. Carefully screw the auger back into the tube (clockwise) just a couple of inches, and then pull it back to clean out the sawdust.
Repeat this process going back in slightly further each time. Eventually, you will reach the burn pot, and the auger tube will be fully cleaned out. Give the auger itself a final clean-up, and you can then go through the assembly process shown at the end of each of the videos below.
Pit Boss Model Specific Auger Removal Videos
While the final stage of the auger removal process is pretty much the same across most Pit Boss models, there are differences when it comes to hopper removal etc to actually get to the auger.
Pit Boss has now produced a series of model-specific videos on how to get access to the auger assembly. So look out for your Pit Boss model below and check out the video on how to proceed.
Pit Boss Copper Series Auger Removal/Replacement
For many years the most popular Pit Boss range was the Copper Series. This includes the Tailgater, Classic, Lexington Charleston and the ever popular Austin XL seen on the left. The auger removal process starts with taking off the lower access panel under the hopper, after disconnecting the power cord of courses (safety first). Follow the instructions in the video below to carefully remove the hopper to gain access to remove the auger. When you have removed the blockage simply follow the reassembly steps.
Pit Boss Navigator Series Auger Removal/Replacement
There are currently four models within the Navigator Series, the 550, 850, 1150 and 1250. As shown in the video below, the auger removal process is very similar to that of the Copper Series above. The entire hopper assembly needs to be removed to access the auger. Take care when cutting the cable ties around the wires from the auger, fan, RTD probe and hot rod leading to the control panel and carefully lower the hopper to access the auger.
Pit Boss Sportsman Series Auger Removal/Replacement
The Sportsman Series includes the 500, 820, 1000, 1100 and 1230 and essentially is very similar to the Navigator Series above. The differences are really just cosmetic. As such the process to get to the auger is essentially the same. You’re going to have to carefully remove the hopper to gain access to the auger. As I discussed above, in the ‘real world‘ removing the auger due to wet pellets is not going to be as easy as shown in the video below.
Pit Boss Pro Series Auger Removal/Replacement
If you purchased your Pit Boss from Lowes you potentially own a Pro Series model. As the video below shows, to get to the auger will require removal of the lower access panel on the hopper, cutting zip ties to loosen the cables and ultimately the removal of the pellet hopper (once empty). You’ll want a table or stool to rest the hopper on while you work on the auger. Once the auger and tube have been cleaned out following my ‘real world‘ process above you are ready to reassemble and test the auger with the Prime button.
Pit Boss Pro Series Vertical Smoker Auger Removal/Replacement
The Pit Boss Pro Series line of vertical pellet smokers is also a Lowes exclusive. The process of removing the auger is different to that of the horizontal Pro Series pellet grills/smokers above. First off, its a much shorter auger (easier to clean out). Second, you have to place the unit on its side to actually get to the wiring and auger motor. Once you have cleaned out the auger and reassembled the unit be very careful when picking the smoker up again not to drop it, watch out for the caster wheels.
Pit Boss Platinum Laredo Auger Removal/Replacement
The Laredo is part of the Pit Boss Platinum Series, an exclusive line of products only sold through Walmart. Now, the Laredo differs from all the other Pit Boss BBQs in this article. Why? Well, as you can see from the video below, unlike all the other models, you don’t have to remove the hopper to remove the auger. There is also a different auger assembly with grab handles which should make removing the auger from a blockage much easier.
Pit Boss Platinum Brunswick Auger Removal/Replacement
The vertical pellet smoker as part of the Platinum range is called the Brunswick. As with the Laredo above, its another Walmart exclusive. So is the auger removal process as easy as it is on the Brunswick, unfortunately not. As with the Pro Series Vertical Smoker, you will need to rest the smoker on its side, after emptying the hopper of course. Its then a process of disconnecting the associated wiring before you can remove the auger.
Auger Testing Prior To Replacement
Ok, let’s say you have followed the steps as shown in the applicable video to your particular Pit Boss model. You have removed the jammed auger, cleaned everything up and put it all back together.
Before you load up the hopper again with pellets, turn on the BBQ, hold the Prime button and look in the hopper. If you can see the auger rotating, you’re good to go, put pellets back into the hopper.
However, if the auger doesn’t rotate when you’re holding the Prime button (with the unit turned on) then there is a problem with the auger motor and you will need to source a new one.
The link below goes to the Pit Boss website, where you can source a new auger motor.
My Final Thoughts On Pit Boss Auger Blockages
This is obviously not specifically a Pit Boss issue, I’ve written previously about Traeger auger jams, its just a general issue that needs to be avoided with any make/model of pellet grill/smoker.
First and foremost, you have got to stop water from getting into the hopper. That means not leaving the hopper lid open and if you are going to store your Pit Boss outside, put a cover over it.
Now, I should note this issue of wet pellets expanding and blocking the auger only applies to hardwood pellets. If you are using 100% charcoal pellets they won’t expand when exposed to water/moisture.
That’s it! I hope you found the above information on how to resolve a Pit Boss auger blockage useful. If you would like to learn more about other units on the market today, please check out my Wood Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide. 🙂
Back in 2007 when I first become aware of pellet grills and smokers the only brand I was really aware of was Traeger. Traeger is really where this whole concept of cooking with pellets started in the 1980s. It was a ‘slow burner’ (pardon the pun) but since the 2010s is really when pellet grills and smokers started to get mainstream awareness, discussed alongside gas and charcoal grills. There are now over 30 pellet grill/smoker brands that I’m aware of, and the link above goes to my A to Z list of brands article.
Now, you may already be aware of a few of the other brands such as Pit Boss, Camp Chef, Z Grills and I’m sure you are aware of Weber, though you may not have known they have entered the pellet grill game. However, they are now many, many more brands to look into. Some may be what are commonly referred to as ‘Traeger clones’, but many others are offering their own unique designs and features.
A pellet grill/smoker is only as good as the BBQ pellets you put into it. The type/quality of the BBQ wood pellets you use will impact temperature performance and smoke flavour. There are many pellet flavours including Apple, Hickory, Mapel, Oak and Walnut to name but a few. However, some brands are hardwood blended pellets whereas others are 100% single wood species.
In this article, I provide details on over 20 brands of BBQ wood pellets, their range of flavours, whether they are 100% single wood species or hardwood blended pellets, their typical price and where they are available. I also provide tips on how to get the best deal when buying BBQ wood pellets and how to test pellet quality. Finally, I discuss the new kid on the block, charcoal pellets and their special attributes compared to all other hardwood BBQ pellets.