In this series I address the most common questions I get asked by my fellow hookah smokers. Hopefully I can help a lot of people turn their bad sessions good and a few people turn their good sessions into something great. Few different factors can cause your hookah not to smoke well.
1. Is Your Hookah well Sealed?
First and foremost, Is your hookah well sealed? Check your hookah over for leaks. If air is getting into your hookah someplace that isn’t your bowl then you are going to get thin smoke. Fresh air is getting mixed into the system and diluting the smoke. Here are some good articles on that:
- What is Auto-Seal in Hookahs?
- How Silicone Makes Every Hookah Better
- Making Hookah Grommet with Paper Towels
Secondly, airflow over the coals won’t be enough to heat them up. That means less heat for the tobacco and less smoke overall.
The best way to check if the rig is well sealed is to set everything up minus packing the bowl and lighting coals. Place your hand over the top of the bowl and draw through the hose. You should feel suction on your hand and be unable to draw any air. If you hear airflow and can draw air it’s time to go leak hunting, which sounds dirtier than it really is.
I usually go right for the grommets. Hose, base and bowl; this is where you find the most common leaks. Make sure they are all seated well and making good contact with the parts of your hookah. If you can’t get a tight fit you can take up the gap by wrapping the grommet in a little electrical tape. You can even use electrical tape to make a grommet in a pinch. Do not use this for a bowl grommet. The heat might melt the glue or rubber and degrade the seal, add off flavors or even taint the smoke with nasty chemicals. Wet paper towels can be used in much the same way and make a great seal. Just make sure you don’t pick up your hookah by the stem. The seal is good but it’s not strong and that’s a recipe for a shattered base.
2. Check the Purge
Still not working? Now it’s time to check the purge. If the purge valve is stuck open you usually just have to tap the purge valve cap on a hard surface and the ball bearing should drop out. Then you should soak the cap and ball bearing in cleaner to make sure that it won’t happen again. Adding a drop of olive oil to the purge valve can help prevent this in the future. Don’t use canola oil as it will gum up and eventually cause the purge to stick more often.
3. Look for Cracks or Holes
Now comes that scenario we all dread. There may be a crack or hole in your hookah. Check the hose by plugging one end and drawing through. If it does not hold suction then there is a hole in the hose and you found your problem. Get a new hose or find the leak and try to fix it with hot glue. Check the stem in the same way. A crack in the stem might be fixable with some JB Weld but you need to be sure to let the fix set for many days and clean it out to make sure that you are not inhaling any nasty chemicals.
A lot of people are under the false assumption that hookah coals are designed so you just need to light one, put it on the bowl and it will be perfect. Read our Hookah Heat Management article to make sure you’re using the right amount of heat for your bowl and tobacco combination.
5. Is Your Tobacco Old or Dry?
If you are smoking that pack of tobacco you bought from the gas station, the one the attendant forget about and had to dig out from under a foot of human filth soot, then you probably shouldn’t expect storm clouds. Ditch the old crud and buy some fresh tobacco. Find a real tobacconist, hookah shop or online retailer that sells fresh products.
Well duh right back at you! We were all new at some point and this kind of stuff isn’t obvious to everyone. There is always something new to learn and I promise you I forgot something that I’ll make an update post about later. Until then, good luck and I wish you happy smoking.