Trouble Shooting Guide: 6 Common Nail Gun Problems

Common Nail Gun Problems

Photo: DeWalt

It can be incredibly frustrating when your nail gun starts to malfunction in the middle of an important project or will not work at all. While the actual problem will vary significantly from one nail gun to the other, there are some common ones that are often the source of the issues.

Most of these problems are quick and easy to fix, and you just need to know what to do. In this troubleshooting guide, we highlight some of these problems and the easy ways to fix them.

1. Air Leakage on the Nailer

If there is air leakage anywhere on the nailer, chances are it underperforms as it will not be getting the pressure required. In most instances, the air leakages are a result of damages to the O-rings or seals. These damages occur when you do not oil the nail gun adequately.

What to Do: If you suspect an air leak somewhere in your nail gun, you need to give it a thorough inspection to identify the exact spot where you are losing air. Once you do this, you can tell whether you have a worn or damaged seal or O-ring, and the only fix here is to replace the faulty part.

2. Air Pressure Issue

Sometimes your nail gun does not generate enough pressure to drive the fasteners correctly, which you can quickly tell by looking at your workpiece. Wear and tear can allow air to escape and hence affect the pressure. Sometimes, the issue results from an incorrect connection or improper installation of parts lie valves and seals.

What to Do: In some cases, just dry firing the gun and then hitting it with force, either with a mallet or your hand, is often enough to push back the parts to their rightful place to restore pressure. If this does not help, you may need to replace things like O-rings or reset the seals.

3. Driver Issues

Driver Issues

Photo: DeWalt

Driver issues such as complete failure to retract or retracting without a lot of force are pretty common for most nail gun types. While air pressure issues are often the leading cause of problems with the driver, sometimes they can be due to inadequate lubrication or accumulation of dirt. Poorly working internal parts or worn-out ones can also be a source of driver issues.

What to Do: The first thing to do when you have a problematic drive should be to check and fix any air pressure issues, if there are any. However, if the pressure is okay, you need to make sure there is adequate lubrication. In case this still does not fix the problem, then your nail gun may require general maintenance to check for damaged or worn-out internal parts.

4. Guide not Working

A guide that is not working or seems inconsistent can spell doom to your projects as you will hardly do anything with the nailer. The guide is what pushes the nail forward, meaning it plays a crucial role in the functioning of the gun. In most cases, issues with the guide result from dirt or grease buildup. However, other things like a bent magazine, broken guide, and compromised loader spring can also lead to this problem.

What to Do: Cleaning out the guide to remove any grease or dirt is often enough to fix this problem. However, if it does not work, you have to check for other issues that might cause the problem, such as a bent magazine or broken loader spring, and fix them.

5. Shooting Blanks

Shooting Blanks

Photo: Ryobi

Shooting blanks is among the most common and also most frustrating nail gun problems. If you do not notice the nailer is shooting blanks, you can end up nailing a large section without actually fastening anything. An empty magazine or a faulty one is often the common cause of this issue. However, shooting blank also occurs when the gun’s air passage is dirty, and the spring is damaged.

What to Do: When your gun is firing blanks, the first thing to do is to check whether you have nails in the magazine and, if they are there, ensure the magazine is fitted well and that it is not damaged. Another fix if this does not work is to clean the gun so that the air passage is not blocked. Remember to check the spring, and if it is bent or broken, you need a replacement.

6. Frequent Nail Jamming

Another common nail firing issue besides blank fire is frequent nail jams. There is hardly any nail gun out there that can boast of being 100% jam-free. However, the frequency of the jamming is what matters. If yours seems to jam almost constantly, there might be an issue with damaged fasteners, or you have the wrong size. Additionally, loose magazine screws, broken piston blades, and sudden pressure loss can also lead to this problem.

What to Do: Many top-tier nail guns allow for tool-free jam clearing, but if the problem is more frequent, you have to determine and fix the underlying issues. If the issue is with the fasteners, you only need to replace them with the correct ones. Tightening your nail gun screws often also helps keep things like the magazine secure in place. If the issue comes from a damaged piston blade, you should replace it as replacements are widely available for a few bucks.


Like any other tool, the nail gun is not foolproof. Common issues for these power tools range from air leakages and faulty guides to frequent jamming. The good news is that most of these are easy to troubleshoot on your own in just a few minutes.

That said, it is also important to note keeping your nail gun in good shape by ensuring it is always adequately lubricated and through regular maintenance minimizes the likelihood of these problems occurring.