My Hookah Isn’t Smoking: Troubleshoot Your Hookah With A Few Simple Steps

Written by Jacob - Hookah Enthusiast

Last updated May 11, 2023

If you are a beginner hookah smoker, you have probably faced some hard moments during your smoking sessions. Your hookah isn’t producing the desired amount of smoke, or maybe it is too strong? Those topics are the most common for beginner smokers and I personally found the solutions “the hard way”.

In this article, we will discuss how to troubleshoot your hookah, ensuring the best session each time. We will break down the most common problems and eventually I’ll provide you with the solutions. So make sure to stay until the end!

Let’s begin!

Why isn’t my hookah working?

1. Hookah is dirty and clogged with tobacco or charcoal ash

This is one of the main reasons the hookah isn’t working as it should. I often repeat how important it is to clean your hookah after each session. The reasons are obvious – bad taste, clogged hookah, and eventually a ruined session. Cleaning the hookah will help you build a routine in your hookah preparation and ensure the best smoking session each time.

Start from top to bottom. Get your hookah brush and scrub the bowl, stem, and glass base under running water with regular dish soap. Also, don’t forget to clean the hookah hose. It will be a waste of time if you just miss cleaning even one part.

Let everything dry and you are all set.

Hookah isn't smoking - troubleshoot

2. Check the water level

The water level is a very important part when it comes to hookah preparation. It can cause a harsh taste and even produce 0 smoke. On the other hand – pouring too much water will be even worse. Your hookah hose will become a giant straw. That is definitely disappointing.

The proper amount of water is between 1 to 1.5 or inches 2.5 cm. above the down stem. So make sure to check that each time when you fill your vase. Another way to check if the water level is proper is to measure it with your fingers. It should be 2-3 fingers above the down stem.

water level on hookah troubleshoot

3. Check the sealing:

  • Every grommet fits great – proper grommet size
    As you already know, there are multiple grommets attached to your hookah parts. Sometimes, when you decide to change one of your hookah accessories, it comes with a smaller or bigger grommet. Or another scenario is that your grommet is too old.

    The idea is to seal every part to make sure that no additional air comes into your hookah. If you can’t find any relevant grommets for your accessories, try with pink surgical tape. This is actually a great alternative to seal your parts and repair your hookah air leaks.

  • Check the hose – bent, unattached, screwed
    Another part to inspect when troubleshooting a hookah is the hose. First off, check if your hose is clogged with debris. This can cause a harsh session and you can even suck unpleasant substances from inside. As always, rule number one is то always clean your accessories and parts.

    Another strange hose troubleshooting is to check if it is not bent. This can happen in several places on your silicone hose, but ит мост often happens at the beginning, where it is attached to the stem. The bent hose will stop any smoke from travelling inside. That’s why most modern hoses have a metal spring attached to them to prevent this unwanted bent.

  • Bowl – grommet. If you do not maintain your bowl as you should, you will wns up with a clogged bowl too. Smoking the same hookah flavor for more than 2 hours will turn the shisha into a black substance. This substance will clog the bowl holes and will stop the smoke from travelling down. This only can happen if you use a traditional Turkish or Egyptian bowl.

4. Check the stem

To do that, make an airflow test. The hookah stem has multiple parts attached and screwed together. After several sessions and disassembles, it may have some loose parts. Make sure everything is attached well.

One way to test this is by putting a finger on the top and the bottom of the stem then trying to draw air throughout the hose. The test has failed if you feel the air in your mouth. Try screwing each part of your hookah and tightening it well. Repeat the test and you should be good to go.

hookah stem troubleshoot

5. Check the purge valve and bearing – the air should only blow from there

The purge valve could cause one of the “hidden” problems with your hookah. These days, 99% of the hookahs have bearing and purge valves attached. However, if you overlook them each time, you will end up with a ruined session.

First, disassemble the protective part and remove the little bearing ball. Clean the little parts well and test again for airflow leaks. When blowing through the hose, the smoke should come out from the valve, and when you draw, the only air coming into your hookah must be from the bowl.

hookah stem troubleshoot

6. Check the bowl packing – overload/underload

I’ve already spoken about how important it is to pack your shisha bowl properly. As I’ve mentioned before you can overload and underload your bowl.

  • An underloaded bowl means that there is not enough shisha tobacco inside and respectively your session will start and finish with much less smoke than desired.
  • An overpacked bowl, on the other hand,  if not done properly, will burn your tobacco faster. There’s nothing worse than bitter and burnt shisha.

So avoid these mistakes by putting in the right amount of shisha. Typically, 15-25 grams is enough, depending on your bowl size.

Shisha bowl packing troubleshoot

7. Check the coals

Hookah coals are a wide topic. I am going to focus on the critical points that can ruin your session.

Too much heat on your bowl will burn your shisha faster. Reduce the heat by removing coal or moving them to the edge of the heat management device. This will cool down the shisha and will save your session.

Always make sure that you use natural coconut coals such as Coco Nara or another reliable brand.

hookah coals troubleshoot

Note* – Quick light coals are not recommended. Not only can you burn your tobacco, because it concentrates the heat into 1 spot, but they are full of harmful chemicals. Avoid smoking with this type of coal.

8. Check the HMD

The heat management system is an important part of hookah heat control. Choosing the best HMD will ensure proper heat distribution and even tobacco usage.

One of the reasons that your hookah does not produce smoke is a not heated enough heat management device. To ensure the best results, put three coals on the top of HMD and let it heat well for 4-5 minutes.

HMD troubleshoot


You are all set! Now you know what to look for when you troubleshoot a not-well-running hookah session. To achieve the best results, be consistent and move throughout all of these steps.

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