AMPS - Won't Stay Lit (Multiple Attempts)

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Original poster
Jul 27, 2017
After 7 or 8 attempts, I'm not having much luck with the AMPS in my MES30. I cannot keep it lit for more than an hour or so, or when I really overdo it and light it with a torch, it smokes like my fireplace because half a row is burning.

Initially I tried pulling out the stock chip tray an inch or so, and opening the chip hopper 1/2 turn. Same result, burned out after an hour or so. That time I had the burning row closest to the chip tray. I'm putting the AMPS to the left of the chip tray on the rack.

Tried again, same setup, but put the burning row toward the outside of the MES. Same thing - an hour or so later, no smoke, never even got through a single row.

I did some research on here and thought that maybe wind was an issue. I added a 90 degree elbow to the top and made sure that it was always pointed downwind. Same result. Never got through 1 row. I tried this setup a few times, lighting it various ways, same result.

Initially I lit the pellets with an electric heat gun. I'd light it, let it ignite, burn out, blow on it to get a flame, let it burn out again, then put it in the MES.

Frustrated, I read some more and saw some people say that they microwave their pellets. So, the last time I tried that. I put the pellets in the microwave for 2 minutes on high, stirred them, then high for 2 more minutes. I put them in the AMPS, lit with a propane torch this time, let it burn out, blew on it to a flame, let it burn out, then put it in the MES. Same thing -- I look out after an hour or so and no smoke.

In my final act of desperation I just lit the AMPS and put it out in the open on my deck. It burned for hours, so there's clearly an issue with it getting air in the MES. The vent is wide open at the top, chip tray is out a little, and the chip loader is turned about 1/2 turn.

What the heck am I doing wrong?

These are the pellets I'm using:
Right, sorry.. AMNPS.

I've searched here a lot over the past couple of months and tried all kinds of things:
How I light it (electric, propane, let it burn out a couple times, etc)
How it drafts (pull the tray out, don't pull it out, open the chute, close the chute)
Venting (adding a 90 degree elbow)
Preparation (microwaving, not microwaving)

As for my elevation, I'm only 600' AMSL.
The exhaust is wide open right ?? Do you have the chip chute turned to "dump" and pulled out an inch or 2 ??? Is the smoker warmed up above ambient temp ?? Is the pellet tray not sitting on a solid surface ??
Are you trying to burn cherry pellets ?? Is your elevation neat 5,000 feet ???
You need to get the pellets burning for about 10 minutes to create a bed of red burning pellets... I use a straw and blow on them to get a cherry red bed about an inch or so in length... You need the thermal heat to keep stuff going....
Do you have the pellet depth to the top of the channel so additional ignition can happen...
I found the pellet tray needs good air flow from the bottom, after others suggested it is important...
This is what I did...
Elevation isn't an issue, 600' above sea level.

The times I pulled the chip loader out were the worst. The cold air (20 degrees or so) must have been hitting the temperature probe for the MES and it was ramping the heat up 40-50 degrees beyond the set point. It was a mess.

As for how I light it, I read a lot of posts here and tried different methods. Even watched YouTube videos. I typically light it with a propane torch for a minute, let the flame burn out, blow gently on it to make sure it re-lights, then let that burn out.

As for pellet depth, I've tried it filled to the top of the channel and most recently thought I would load it lighter to see if that was the issue. Apparently it wasn't.

I'm not really thrilled about having to do a mailbox mod. I may just switch to conventional chips and load them constantly. As it stands now I leave it, come back in 6 hours and find out that only 1/3 of a row has burned. At least chips would be more consistent because I'd be reloading often.
There is definitely a sweet spot on the placement of the chiploader and the placement of the tray as well. Pull the chip loader out too far and airflow is blocked, not far enough, samething. You will have to look at yours and determine where that is. For this reason and being a novice at lighting the tray, I when for the Mailbox mod and never looked back.
Believe me when I say I feel your pain. I've been in the exact same situation with the AMNPS and my MES 30. I tried everything that was suggested with no luck.
So......I decided to do the Mailbox Mod. It's simple, cheap, and practically fail safe. Just do a search on Mailbox Mod here on SMF and you'll get tons of good info. Since I added this mod, I've had nothing but great success using my AMNPS. It just keeps going, putting out great TBS.
In addition to the Mailbox, I would recommend adding legs to the AMNPS as Dave did in the picture he posted here.
Here's what |I do. Nuke the pellets twice for 2 minutes. Load them in the AMNPS and light one end with a torch. Blow on the coals until you get a real good cherry and the pellets catch fire. Let it burn for 10 mins. Blow out the flames and make sure the cherry is still nice and big. Put the AMNPS in the Mailbox. That's it. Works every time.
Mailboxes are getting hard to find and kinda pricey. I just built a box out of 3/4 inch plywood, with a hinged top. Been using it for years.
Hope this helps.
I actually used a cardboard box for a year or more before I finally acquired a mailbox. The cardboard box was about 8" x 12" x 8" high. I taped all the corners with that aluminum tape from home depot (they use it for ductwork and exhaust hoods) I cut a hole in the top rear, added a tin can that was tiny bit smaller in diameter than the flex tubing and taped the can to the box, ( cut the can in half and bent tabs out to tape down) And I left a flap on the front (8") side about 2" high that I could slide the AMNPS through then fold it back down part way to control air flow. It actually worked good, like I said, for a year or two BEFORE BURNING UP :mad: so use it in the open if you do it. It proved to me that the mailbox mod was worth it.
I don't have issues with the chip loader completely out. It also helped that I started lighting from the bottom instead of the side/end. Lastly, I load the tray then put it in the smoker while the smoker gets up to temp then light it a few minute before I load the food.
+1; I have been really fortunate using mine. No chip tray at all and loader pulled out about 1-2" inches. I think the key to the airflow is the loader gap. It's like a carb.
+1 I have had a very similar experience as biaviian. I place the loaded tray in the smoker while it preheats to help dry. I then light with a propane blow torch, aiming the flame in from the bottom, end and top until a nice flame gets going. Then I let it burn for 5 minutes or so, blowing on it a few times to ensure I have a nice cherry of red coals. I then insert it on the bottom left side of the smoker with the cherry of the AMNPS in the front left corner.

The only times I have had issues keeping it going was if I did not completely remove the chip tray and loader tube. If you are having issues with temperature with both fully removed, it could be wind blowing right in the chip loader hole. I seem to be able to hold temps regardless if it is in or not, but I also have a semi sheltered area where I use the smoker. You could try putting a 3" elbow in the hole or rotating the smoker to help avoid wind blowing directly into the smoker.
X2 with the dust...never a problem lighting it ...even though i've had good luck with the pellets on long cold smokes. But I prefer the flavor of the dust to pellets also.
Sorry I didn’t read through the whole thread but have you tried removing the moisture from your pellets before lighting them? I tossed mine in the microwave for about 5 minutes and stirred halfway through before putting them in my AMPS in my MES 30”. I completely removed my dump tray and had no issues smoking, it was about 40* in Chicago earlier. I lit it with a torch and let it go for about 8-9 minutes before blowing it out to get some good embers going. Hope that helps, give it a try.
Mailbox mod took care of many of my issues (meat smoking that is). Never looked back. I use a propane/butane torch to light the pellets after I chase the rows full of pellets briefly with the hot flame to help dry them little critters. Once I light one end of the tray or tube, I let it stay outside for 10+ minutes before I place it in the mailbox.
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I had a setback yesterday. I've been using cob for all my smokes with the AMNPS thus far but decided to use Pitmasters Choice (awesome btw) for the first time on some ribs yesterday and had a few issues. Took longer to get going and then went out a few times no matter how far the loader was out. Finally, I pulled the thing out altogether and BINGO: TBS.

Got me thinking. Cob is EASY to start. I think it might be a good starter. Put a little bit in and then load the wood. Something to fool with...
I use a modified bradley cold smoke box on my bigger Mes. I closed off the one side the unit would fit into. Drilled holes and way back then had the same thing going on. Ended up changing the 5 holes size to 1/2 inch. That worked out good. The difference still is the smoke pulls straight upward. The holes are low enough that the air flow comes in from under the tray. Some of the others have the tube on the top of the mailbox. Others have it at the back/top. And it works great for them. You did the other things with your tray. Pay attention to the air flow. I think that is your biggest issue. Still going out. Bigger holes. Center not seeing enough fresh air coming in. Unless you are buying super crappy pellets. What you have should work. Its working for you at the start. It burns good for a while. Your pellets are ok. is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.

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