Shop Talk

July 2012's Quick Tip of the Month

  • How to Clear a Jammed Nail Gun

    Disclaimer: This “Quick Tip” is significantly less quick than its predecessors; it is, however, equally important. Use these guidelines to keep safe and productive while working with air tools.

    Though the intricate systems of valves, cylinders, pistons and springs that make up our air tools may appear, by all counts, prepared to fire nails into eternity, there are a number of factors that can contribute to a jammed nail in your air tool. Of course, the most common cause for encountering a jammed nail is human error, but, essentially, a jam occurs when a fastener gets caught in a nail gun or when a fastener fires into something (like another fastener or a tough knot) that deflects the nail backward into the gun. In either case, a jam must be unjammed. Fortunately, for us users, unjamming an air tool requires only a few simple steps and the due amount of caution.

    To clear a jammed nail from an air tool, one must first disengage the tool by turning it off and/or disconnecting its air hose or battery. Next, open the gun’s magazine and remove all racks of unfired fasteners. Do not bypass this step; it is imperative that you disengage the tool and remove any fasteners from potentially firing. Because the nailer will be waiting to obey the firing command it was given before the jam prevented discharge, as soon as that jam clears, it will attempt to fire. Accordingly, the tool must be in all capacities prevented from unintentionally discharging a nail. So, no matter what, disengage the tool and remove all the fasteners from its magazine.

    Next, you must access the jam. The gun’s manual will show you how to best do this. Most nail guns, however, have a flip-style locking mechanism on their nose piece. This should open without tools, but, if not, you may gently release the latch with pliers or the claw of a hammer (the “claw” being the curved prongs on a hammer’s back-side).

    If there is no latch on the nose piece of your gun, please do not attempt to open it; instead you will likely access the jam through a latch on the top of the gun. This will have a flip-style latch mechanism or a few screws that will need to be removed in order to reach the interior of the gun. Bearing in mind that you may need to remove one or more components to reach the jammed nail, open this access to inspect the jam. In the event components must be removed, be careful not to damage them and be equally careful reinstalling them; ensure each part is restored to exactly the manner in which it was removed.

    Next, you need only remove the jam. You may be able to clear it with your fingers, but, if the nail is bent or otherwise caught or obstructed, you may need to use a pair of long-nosed pliers to release it. After removing the jammed fastener, inspect the nose piece and the nail path for damage or anything that appears out of the ordinary.

    Next, simply close-up shop (or, close the mechanism you opened to remove the jam), reload your magazine and reengage the air tool. Fire a test-shot to ensure all is well and, assuming it is, be successfully on your way. If, on the other hand, the gun is still jammed or jams again, reopen the tool to look for additional jammed fasteners or for visible damage to the gun. If upon this inspection, no jams or damage are found, take your nail gun to an authorized service center for diagnosis/repair.