You pull the trigger to drive nails, but it won’t fire, and you notice it in the middle of your work while building frames or assembling furniture. What a catastrophe!
If your nail gun isn’t shooting nails, it could be due to a variety of factors. The most obvious explanation is that the nail becomes trapped in the head of the gun, causing it to jam. Nail guns that won’t shoot nails could be caused by an improper air pressure setting, wrongly loading nail strips in the magazine, using the wrong size nails, and more.
As a result, learning how to troubleshoot a nail gun fast and effectively is essential for carrying out your job smoothly and efficiently. If you’re a seasoned framer or woodworker, you may already be familiar with all of the components. But don’t worry if you’re a complete novice! We’re here to provide you with a quick but comprehensive rundown of what to do and what not to do in the case of your nail gun not shooting nails.
So, without further ado, read the following article to get back to work on time.
Nail Gun Not Shooting Nails – The Causes
As was previously mentioned, there may be more than one reason why a nail gun won’t fire nails.
Let’s find some of the most common reasons below:
- The nail gets jammed or stuck in the barrel
- Use of incompatible nails
- Improper setting of an air compressor
- Battery discharged, or fuel cell gets empty
- Nail guns caught dust or debris
- The magazine feeder doesn’t engage properly
- Seals or O-Ring get worn out and more.
We’ll try to describe all of the above causes, as well as their possible solutions, to help you run your nail gun efficiently.
A nail gun is an indispensable tool for woodworking and other construction projects. However, if handled incorrectly, it might become a lethal weapon.
As a result, in order to be safe and risk-free, it’s essential to –
- Wear protective goggles. It will help you protect your eyes from accidentally flying objects like parts of plastic nail strip collation.
- Wear heavy-duty hand gloves to protect your fingers during operation and clear the jammed nail.
- Wear earbuds.
Whether loud or mild, all mechanical equipment produces some level of noise. According to a study by Vignesh Jayakumar, Jay Kim, and Edward Zechmannc, pneumatically powered nail guns can emit high-level impulsive noise ranging from 70 dBA to up to 120 dBA, which isn’t always suitable for our ears. As a result, earbuds or earmuffs are required to protect our ears during nailing.
Besides wearing protective gear, it is also essential to know how to use a nail gun correctly. Especially, the handling of the nail gun trigger needs special attention. There are two trigger or actuation modes in a nail gun – sequential and bump or contact.
In the contact actuation method, the nail gun shoots nails whenever it touches the surface of the wood. Expert nailers use this mode to finish their work faster.
However, if you are a learner, bump firing mode may cause injury to you. As a result, it is advisable to start with the sequential firing mode at the beginning of your nail gun learning.
The majority of nail gun injuries (around 68%) were sustained by consumers and not professional construction workers. About 32% of nail gun injuries involved contact with the nail gun’s muzzle (nail discharge point), while 23% were due to unintended nail firing. (Source: Consumer Product Safety Commission – CPSC)
1. Nail Gets Jammed – How To Unjam A Nail Gun
A jamming nail gun is common for framers and carpenters, regardless of whatever brand of nail gun they use or how expensive it is.
Nail gun jams occur when a nail becomes lodged inside the barrel or when you pull the trigger and the nail strikes a hard object and diverts.
It is, however, relatively simple to clear the nail gun of blocked nails. Below, we’ll try to go over the steps for unjamming a nail (though it may vary slightly based on the model or brand of the nail gun). Let’s get started.
Step 1: Disconnect The Power Source
The basic rule for the repair and maintenance of any machine is to disconnect the device from the power source first. This is also a must-follow rule for clearing a nail gun’s jams.
In the case of a pneumatic framing nailer, you can cut off the power by simply removing the air hose from the nail gun. Modern pneumatic nailers are fitted with an easy-to-connect swivel plug connector for connecting to the hoses.
Note: Before disconnecting your air hose from the nail gun, make sure the air compressor pressure is reduced to zero for added safety.
And if you use a battery operated nail gun, remove the battery from the system to mitigate the possibility of accidental fire.
Step 2: Take Away The Leftover Nails Or Strips Of Fastener
Once the tool has been disconnected from the power source, the next obligatory task is to take out any unfired nails or leftover strips from the magazine. Please don’t avoid taking this measure.
It is crucial that you disengage the device and remove the nails to prevent accidental firing.
As the nail gun is waiting to obey the firing order given before the jam, it’ll try to fire as soon as the blockage clears.
As a result, without thinking of anything else, unplug the tool and remove all the leftover nails from the magazine.
Step 3: Removing Stuck Or Jammed Nail(S)
The next move is to have access to the jam stage. It is best to obey the guidance in the manual since different brands suggest different approaches. Commonly, you should follow the procedures below to remove a stuck nail(s).
A. Open The Barrel By Using Release Lever
If your device has a release lever, let’s find it first and use it to open the barrel. Clearing jammed nails by using the release lever is flawless and secure. Most modern nailers have this system, such as Dewalt has a stall release lever.
However, you do not need to worry if you found it missing in your nail gun. Keep an eye on the next step.
B. Dislodge Jammed Nail(S)
If the nose of your nail gun is flip-style which allows the magazine to slide open without tools, then use the claw part of a hammer or pair of pliers to remove the nails and slide the magazine free.
If there is no latch on the nose of the gun, then do not attempt to open it by pressure. Instead, you can reach the jammed nail through a latch on top of the gun by opening a few screws.
Now, you can use the tip of the nail or plier to remove the stuck nail from the barrel manually. This manual process is a bit time-consuming, but don’t be distressed; hold your patient until entirely expel the jammed nail.
Don’t forget to remove all the remaining nails from the magazine once prying out the jammed nail.
Also, inspect the barrel and nose of the gun for any damage. If found so, it is better to take professional advice and replace the damaged part.
Step 4: Organize And Reload The Magazine
Once completed the unjamming process, insert a fresh strip of nails in the correct direction. Then slide the pusher back over the nails. It will be picking them up and keeping them in place – if you’re playing well.
Always use the correct size and angle of the nail strip as recommended by the manufacturer.
Step 5: Restore the Power Source And Perform the Test Run
After reloading the magazine, connect the device to a power source (with an air hose if it’s pneumatic-powered, plug in the power cord if it’s electric-powered, or reinsert the battery if it’s a cordless type nailer).
Before final firing, test the gun on scrap wood to ensure it is correctly functioning.
Okay, now you know how to unjam a nail gun, but it’s not the only factor why a nail gun won’t shoot nails. So, before we finish our talk, we love to explore some other reasons why my nail gun not shooting nails.
2. Improper Adjustment Of Air Pressure:
Usually, the pneumatic nailers work at a pressure range of 70 to 120 psi. Pressure below or high in the required range may cause under-flush or over-flushing nails. If the necessary air pressure is not set correctly, the nail will not shoot either.
However, it is very simple to solve this problem just by setting the necessary pressure on the air compressor. You may check the required pressure by going through the manual or running a trial-and-error method on a scrap piece of wood.
It would also help to look into the air compressor’s CFM rating. A framing nailer usually requires 2.5 CFM or more. As a result, it’s crucial to double-check that you’ve chosen the right air compressor size. It’s also crucial to make sure your air compressor is running properly and that your air hose isn’t leaking.
If you need to replace the existing air compressor or buy a new one, you may check out our list of the best air compressors for nail guns.
3. Battery Charge Is Drained, or Fuel Cell Is Empty
It’s obvious that if your battery is old, it won’t hold the charge, or if it’s new, you might not charge it properly. In both cases, there is a chance that your nail gun won’t shoot nails.
It is preferable to replace a defective battery with a new one if it cannot hold power even after a full charge or cannot operate for an extended period of time. If you’re just buying a gun and a charger, consider contacting the manufacturer to get a replacement.
Some nail guns use both the battery and the fuel cell to shoot nails like Paslode cordless nail gun. In that case, it is important to check whether or not the fuel canister is full or empty.
4. Using Wrong Nails
There are various types of nail guns available on the market, such as framing nailers, finish or brad nailers, roofing or flooring nailers, and more. Different nail guns support different sizes, shapes, and collations of nails.
For example, you can use 15 to 16 gauge 1 to 2-1/2 inch nails in a finish nailer, while the framing nailer allows you to drive up to 16d or 3-1/2 inch nails.
Again, there are different nail angles ranging from 15 to 34 degrees, and different nail guns are designed to fire different degrees of nails.
So, before you’re loading your magazine with nail strips, it’s safer to check the size and degrees that best fit your magazine. You can find this information either in the manual book or engraved right on the tool’s body.
Some nail guns are designed to work with only a particular brand of nail. For example, a Bostitch framing nailer prefers Bostitch nails, and Paslode nail guns prefer Paslode nails. If you try to insert other brands of nails than the recommended, the nail gun may get jammed and stop firing nails.
5. Nail Is Stuck In the Magazine:
In the majority of cases, we overlooked this issue. If you operate on a construction site with a lot of dust and debris, there’s a good probability the magazine has deposited dirt, narrowing the passage of the nail strips. If you don’t clean the magazine on a regular period, the dust will build up and slow down the movement of the nail strips or create difficulties.
6. Magazine Slider Is Not Working
If the nail gun keeps jamming after taking all the measures, it is probable that the magazine slider is not working properly. So, we should also check whether the magazine slider or feeder works properly or not. If the slider is a bit stiff or loose, it may not engage and hold the nail strip correctly, which may cause dry fire or not shooting nails.
7. Wear And Tear Of Nail Gun Parts
It is natural that over time nail gun parts will be worn. If you found your nail gun not shooting nails, but it is not due to the stuck of a nail, the reason might be nail gun wearing.
In this scenario, check to see if you hear any hissing noises emanating from the exhaust port or if the drive piston inside the nail gun is moving due to shaking it with your hand. If this is the case, the oil ring may be worn out. It could happen if you don’t pour oil on a regular basis or if you add too much oil to an oil-less engine.
You should analyze the problem and replace the seals or rubber O-rings, whatever the reason is. If you can do it yourself, that’s great; otherwise, you should engage a professional.
Repair Maintenance Issues
Damage to any part of the nail gun due to undue pressure or excessive use is evident. If any part of your nail gun gets damaged, it is likely that the nail gun won’t shoot nails. Some common types of nail gun defects are –
- The loader spring is weakened and either twisted, torn, or frizzed,
- the magazine is twisted,
- the guide channel narrowing has occurred,
- nail gun firing pin won’t retract,
- nail gun leaks air around the trigger,
- the guide is broken or buildup dirt or grease around it,
- nail gun leaks air around the trigger,
- Hose fitting or nosepiece problem, etc.
Anything may happen and makes it hard to shoot the nails properly. You may get a cure by diagnosing and fixing or removing the damaged parts.
Also, taking care of some routine maintenance issues such as adding oil at least once a day (if it is not an oil-less tool) and cleaning the entire machine once a week or at least quarterly, store the tool in a toolbox or in a plastic bag to avoid dirt buildup will help keep your nail gun full of work and provide long-lasting performance.
You can read our blog on how to maintain your nail gun in the winter to know more about it.
FAQs On Nail Gun Not Shooting Nails
Why is my nail gun just blowing air?
You pressed the trigger, and the nail gun just blows the air. This can happen due to air leakage through the pumping valve of a pneumatic tool. When we pressed the button to shoot the nails, the air is pushed into the fire valve, which forces the valve upwards, opening the main cylinder sleeve and allowing the air to move the nail.
If the O-ring dries out and fails to seal the valve properly, it escapes air immediately after pressing the trigger, causing a leak and making a hissing sound.
You can use air tool oil to mitigate this problem merely. However, in the worst scenario, you might need to open the nail gun and extend the O-Ring on the valve and add grease. If the O-Ring loses its temper, all of you need to replace it.
It is advisable to contact an expert if you do not have enough knowledge of it. And as a preventive measure, you should apply oil to the NPT connection point regularly.
Why does my nail gun shoot two nails?
If you are a professional framer, you may often notice such a problem. Firing double nails against pulling the trigger for a single time is also known as a Double Kiss. It’s a serious hazard as because of double firing, the successive nail hit on the head of the first one, which may cause jamming, damage to the driver and piston, and even hit the user too.
If you have a double fire instead of one, it can happen for a number of reasons instead of one. Like –
- Incorrect handling of the contact shooting mode. Not applying enough pressure to the nailer when pushing the head down on the surface.
- Supply low air pressure to the valve and the piston to help the nailer bounce back.
- Leaking air through the trigger valve weakens the driving force when it is released.
- The contact actuation mechanism is no longer in service
If you have discovered that a double kiss happens due to unsafe handling, first remove the nailer from the work surface, then hit the trigger and hold the head tightly to the surface until the nail is fully charged. During the operation of the nail gun, always verify that the air pressure is in the optimal range to prevent bounce back.
If you have noticed leakage in the trigger valve or a defective contact actuation system, troubleshoot it with the aid of an expert.
How do you get nails out of a nail gun?
If you are reading our article above then you have already got this answer. However, you can get the stuck nails out from your nail gun by opening the latch of the driver shaft.
How do I fix my air nailer?
If you face any issues when firing nails through your nail gun, it’s probably going to happen for some reason. First, try to diagnose the cause of the problem and then take the appropriate action accordingly. We’ve discussed some of the common nail gun issues above, which might help you as well.
Can I use WD40 on my nail gun?
Never! Do not try to use any engine oil or transmission fluid, or aerosol lubricant in your nail gun, as the rubber parts can be damaged over time. Pneumatic nailers have a rubber O-Ring, which is necessary for proper air circulation, which may be compromised by improper use of the lubricant.
Why is there air coming out of the trigger on my nail gun?
If air is coming out of the trigger on your nail gun, it could indicate a problem with the gun’s air seal. Probable solutions include checking for damaged or worn-out O-rings and replacing them, ensuring all connections are tight and free from leaks, and lubricating the gun’s moving parts with a suitable pneumatic tool oil to maintain proper sealing and functionality.
If the issue persists, it’s best to consult the nail gun’s user manual or seek professional repair.
Fixing up a jammed nail gun is not a strenuous task at any rate. Even you will not require any special tools or clutch to do this — all you need to be alert and know the process well. If you are putting oil in your nail gun regularly, the chances of getting jams are reduced drastically.
However, if you still notice that your nail gun not shooting nails, it could be for another technical problem or stall. Whatever the cause, try to diagnose it properly and take the appropriate action accordingly. In our reviews, we addressed some of them with their solution, hoping it will work for your gun. Consequently, maintaining the tools in the correct way is advisable.
We in conclusion wish you to use your nail gun happily and safely.
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Conversations Between Readers And Tools Mirror Team
Below are some conversations between readers and the tools mirror team, where you can learn more about why your nail gun isn’t shooting nails.
TIMOTHY JOHNSON says
MARCH 25, 2020 AT 5:41 PM
I have a Dewalt DC616 that will not fire nails. It is not jammed, as intermittently, it will fire. The battery is fully charged (20 volts with adapter), the lights turn on, sometimes the motor will initiate, and then it locks out with flashing lights. When the nailer fires, the nails set perfectly.
Can you tell me what the problem is?
Tools Mirror Replied
Hi Tim J.
Thanks for your input. As you said, this wasn’t intermittently jammed. I think it might be the battery power issue. Please check whether you charge it correctly or not. If that’s fine, then test for troubleshooting with your supplier, or you can swap the battery with a 20v Lithium-Ion. I hope you’ll get over this situation soon and get back to nailing.
JULY 21, 2020 AT 6:36 PM
It’s not the battery, I’m having the same issue. Wasting money standing still. I’m so pissed. The money they charge us for these pos battery nailers. Manufacturers should be sued for all our downtime. They charge enough for these and only to have them fire 60 nails and then start this crap. Om so pissed. Not a battery issue. Not as simple as that. We obviously tried all the common sense things before asking. We are skilled and can figure out this stuff but not this. Wish it was as simple as a battery
SEPTEMBER 19, 2020 AT 12:01 PM
Having exactly the same problem, no nails jammed but a flashing red light telling me nails jammed
Tools Mirror Replied
The reason behind the fastener not firing
As per my experience and analysis, I observed the following troubleshooting match with your queries against the Dewalt DC616 nailer.
Problem: Tools are in operational condition but no fastener is driven
Causes: It may happen due to the use of the wrong size or angle of the fastener, deposition of debris in the nosepiece or the magazine, worn or damaged of the magazine or the driver blade, wearing the pusher spring, etc.
Necessary Troubleshooting: Using the manufacturer-recommended nails or fasteners, clearing the nosepiece or magazine in case of deposition of debris, replace or repairing the magazine, driver blade, or pusher spring (which one is appropriate) in case of damage occurred may solve the problem.
Problem: Headlight flashes continuously
Causes: Either for a jammed fastener or jammed mechanism; low battery charge or damaged battery; damage of internal electronics
Necessary Troubleshooting: In case of a jammed fastener – remove the battery, clear the jam faster, push the driver blade back up manually if necessary, and reinsert the battery to check again. For other cases, either replace the battery pack or contact the authorized service center.
If the above process is not working, you can take replacement of your tools (if it is new) or contact for service at – https://www.dewalt.com/support
Thank you for reading our article on endurance.
NOVEMBER 7, 2020 AT 11:40 PM
I bought a Metabo cordless 16 gauge finish nailer. When I fire it the nails only drive in about 1/4 inch no matter what length of nail I use. Any suggestions?
Tools Mirror Replied
Hello Wil, thank you for your nice question. You said that your Metabo cordless finish nailer won’t drive nails at full length. It may happen for several reasons. Here I try to discuss some common phenomena, though.
- Poor or low battery power. Always drive nails when your battery shows a green light. If it does not show green, might be you have a problem with your battery. Either it is not properly charged, or it becomes unusable. Check your operator manual for the proper charging method, or contact Metabo for replacement.
- Adjust the Depth Gauge. Metabo finish nailer comes with a depth adjustment dial. If you find the nail is not sunk properly, turn the adjuster to the deep side to get the desired depth. Again, to do so, follow the operator manual.
- Check the push lever and trigger move smoothly or not. If it is not working properly, either the magazine got jammed, or the number of nails left on the magazine is low. Unjam the magazine if jammed and reload it. Also, clean the magazine to ensure it is free from any dust or wooden chips.
- Check the drive blade. If you found it worn, contact Metabo for replacement. Also, check the internal electronics and compressed air pressure. If found any damage to internal electronics, may cause a weak drive or slow cycle, and you need immediate replacement by contacting Metabo.
I hope the above points will help you overcome your current problem and operate your nail gun smoothly. Thanks again.
If you want to participate in a conversation regarding nail gun troubleshooting or maintenance problems of such kind, please feel free to contact us.
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