This is a question that I get once in a while and I think it’s a very important one to have answered.
Auto-seal is a feature on many modern hookahs that allows air to be drawn from the hose but does not let air back in. It is only useful on multiple hose hookahs and it can present some problems that I will go over later but it’s a great option.
First I will explain how it works. It’s pretty simple actually. Inside the hose port there will be a small ball bearing most often made out of metal. This bearing sits snugly in the small hole that separates the heart of the hookah from the hose port and is free to move upward. When you draw from the hose the suction pulls the bearing out of the hole and allows the smoke to flow into the hose. There is always a screw or a plate with two holes in it above the bearing to prevent it from being sucked into the hose but still allowing airflow. It’s pretty much the same idea as the purge valve. The ball bearing prevents inward flow but allows outward.
This feature is really only found consistently on modern style hookahs. Traditional hookahs like Magdy Zidan and Khalil Mamoon do not have auto-seal hose ports. As I said earlier it is also only useful on multiple hose hookahs. Having auto-seal means that you don’t need to plug the hose with your finger when someone else wants to draw.
The problems that auto-seal hookahs can have:
- The bearings can get stuck or rust. Over time the moisture can promote rust in cheaper bearings and this can fuse it in place meaning that it will be impossible to smoke from. The normal build up of smoke residue can do this as well but it’s much easier to deal with. To prevent this I suggest regularly cleaning the hose ports and the bearings being careful not to drop it. This is only possible with hose ports that come apart but a quality hookah with auto-seal should easily come apart. For even greater prevention I suggest oiling the bearing slightly with olive oil or canola oil to prevent rust. The ultimate solution to rust is to replace that bearing with a plastic one of the same size.
- The hose ports are always more restrictive because the bearing needs to be small and light so it can work properly. This also means that the hole you are drawing smoke through needs to be fairly small as well. A traditional hookah can have a much wider hose port because there is no bearing to worry about.
- If each hose port has a bearing in it then you can’t purge. Because the bearings are there to prevent air from getting into the hookah that means that you can’t blow into the hose either. This can be remedied by removing one of the bearings and having that hose port be the only one that can purge and needs to be plugged when not being used.
- The bearings are easy to lose. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard about people losing bearings in their drains while washing them. It won’t stop the hookah from functioning but the auto-seal won’t work until you replace it. Until then it’s just a normal hookah.
- Sometimes the screw or plate that prevents the bearing from being sucked into the hose can cause problems with hoses that have longer hose port ends. I have a Mya Colossus and I can’t easily use my nammor hoses with it because the screw on the port is in the way of the hose sitting properly.
All in all I think that auto-seal hookahs are a great option for people that like multiple hoses and smoke with people that don’t remember to plug said hoses when they are not smoking. Even if you are doing something like playing video games that might prevent you from have a free hand this can be great. Personally, I prefer single hose hookahs with traditional construction. My first hookah was auto-seal and I eventually pulled out all of the bearings and drilled out the hose ports to open up the draw. It’s really a matter of preference and what is most convenient for you. Either way it’s good to know what auto-seal hookahs are before you buy a hookah and get something you might not want or need.