Common Nail Gun Problems and Troubleshooting

We all have at least one nail gun in our toolbox, right? They are easy to use and last for a long time. However, nail gun problems are also pretty common whether you use them frequently or not.

You might notice your nail gun isn’t shooting, there is a lack of air pressure, leaks, the driving blade isn’t retracting, etc., and many other problems while using the nailer. It can be frustrating when it happens in the middle of your work.

But you don’t have to worry about it as I’ve got your back. Here, I’ll discuss the causes and solutions to the most common nail gun firing problems. So without further ado, let’s dive right in.

Problem 1 – Your Nail Gun is Jammed

Image: thejunkyshack | Instagram

This usually happens when you keep the nailer unused for a long time. However, it can also happen to a fully functional nail gun due to the wrong loading style. Luckily, it’s easy to unjam a nail gun once you find out why it’s stuck.

What’s the Cause

  1. When you fail to maintain the nail gun regularly, dirt and debris build-up jams the barrel.
  2. Nail guns require regular oiling for optimal performance. Sometimes the nails get stuck inside the gun due to a lack of lubrication.
  3. A hidden nail or its pieces might get stuck inside the barrel and collide with the driving blades when you try to shoot the nail gun.
  4. Wrong-sized nails can hinder driving blade movement and jam the gun.
  5. Too often, new users tend to load the nails in the wrong direction, causing the nail gun to become jammed.

What You Can Do

  • Carefully disassemble the nail gun and inspect the parts for jammed dirt. Thoroughly clean them all with a proper cleaning solution.
  • Check for rust and wear. Use oil or other suitable lubricants regularly to keep the nail gun slippery.
  • Inspect the barrel and driver blade for wedged nails. If there is any, press the release switch to remove it easily. In case your nail gun doesn’t have this button, pull it out using your fingers. Otherwise, use pliers to easily access and extract the stuck nail.
  • Use loading nails of the correct size and shape. Make sure you insert them in the right direction.
  • Remember, regular maintenance is the key to avoiding nail gun jams.

Problem 2 – Leaks in the Air Supply System


Most users have faced air leaking problems with their nail guns. If your nailer blows only air or fails to shoot the nail with proper force, that’s a clear sign of an air leak. Typically, two types of leaks happen in air guns: Leaks through exhaust vents and the gun trigger.

1. Leaks through exhaust vents

Here, you’ll notice the air passing near the gun head through the exhaust vents or rear ports.

What’s the Cause

  1. Due to the lack of lubrication, O-rings (rubber-made) around the seal or head valve are worn out
  2. Defective O-rings let the air through
  3. Damaged or low-end seals

What You Can Do

  • First, check the system for broken seals or worn-out O-rings
  • Replace them with new ones. Make sure the seal or O-rings are compatible with your nail gun
  • Or, order a rebuild kit that matches the nail gun model
  • Regularly lubricate the O-rings to avoid this problem in future

2. Leaks through the gun trigger

An air leak around the gun trigger is a sign of a compromised trigger valve. It can be worn out or defective.

What’s the Cause

  1. The trigger valve fails to cycle properly
  2. Wear and tear due to overpulling of the trigger
  3. Defects in the trigger valve


  • Replace the damaged trigger valve with a new one
  • Follow the instructions provided by the nail gun brand to buy a new compatible trigger valve

Problem 3 – Nail Gun Shooting Slowly


In this case, your nailer will shoot nails but won’t penetrate deep enough into the surface. Also, you’ll feel there’s not sufficient air pressure for the gun to function properly.


  1. The incorrect setting for the air supply system
  2. Lower air pressure
  3. Lack of lubrication
  4. Faulty O-rings
  5. Leaks in the pipe

How to Solved

  • If you’re shooting nails continuously, the smaller compressor might fail to build up necessary pressure immediately. So, take some time before driving the nails and see if it works.
  • Inspect the pipes for leaks. If there are any, repair or replace them with new ones
  • Make sure the compressor, fittings, and hose are fully functional and compatible with your nail gun model.
  • Try adjusting the pressure settings according to the optimal PSI recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Lubricate the inner parts with oil
  • Replace the damaged O-rings

Problem 4 – Your Air Gun is Having Trouble While Shooting

Source: svacher / Openverse

If your nail gun isn’t driving properly or shooting blanks, you must address the problem as soon as possible. Otherwise, the inner parts of the nailer might get damaged.

What’s the Cause

  1. Your nail gun is jammed due to the lack of proper maintenance
  2. The air pressure range isn’t optimal for the gun
  3. Using outdated gas-fuel cell
  4. Loading wrong-sized nails
  5. Inserting the nails in the wrong direction


  • Clear the jam inside the nail gun and lubricate it properly
  • Install a suitable nail gauge & length for your nail gun model
  • Check for air leaks and maintain the correct air pressure range. It can be anywhere between 60 PSI and 120 PSI. Refer to the owner manual to know the exact range
  • Replace the outdated gas-fuel cells
  • Load correct-sized nails in the right direction

Problem 5 – Driving Blades Failing to Retreat


It’s important that the driving blades are retreating at optimal speed. Otherwise, they might come in the way of the next nail. However, older nail guns might fail to retreat the driving blades thanks to the dirt and debris.

What’s the Cause

  1. The driving blades are twisted or bent
  2. Dirty driving blades 
  3. Out-of-place cylinder
  4. Poorly functioning internal parts
  5. Broken or worn-out pieces wedged in the blades

What You Can Do

  1. If the driving blades are bent, replace or repair them
  2. Clean the dirt and debris jamming the blades
  3. Fit the cylinder snugly in place
  4. Inspect the internal parts, particularly the seals and O-rings
  5. Remove wedged pieces from the driving blades

Problem 6 – Producing Loud Noises While Driving

This might not bother you, but you must address the problem as it indicates something is wrong with the inner parts of the nail gun.

What’s the Cause

  1. Damaged or faulty terminal board
  2. The fan is dirty or not fitted snugly
  3. Dysfunctional fan motor, thanks to a bent probe
  4. Some wires have become loose

What You Can Do

  • Take off the top and examine the fan. Clear the dirt and make sure it’s well-fitted
  • Inspect the fan motor for a bent probe. Fix it if you can or replace it
  • Reconnect the loose or damaged wires
  • Check and fix the terminal board

Problem 7 – Nail Gun Shoots Every Other Time

Although rare, this problem is pretty annoying for users. Again, you can easily avoid this just by taking care of the nail gun regularly. 

What’s the Cause

  1. Lack of lubrication in the feeder area
  2. Jammed internal parts


  • Check out the feeder area and lubricate it with oil
  • Thoroughly clean the internal parts to unjam your nail gun

Problem 8 – The Nail Guide is Inconsistent

The ‘guide’ is the part that pushes the nail forward. Apart from grease and dirt build-up, there are a few reasons why the guide may be dysfunctional or inconsistent.

What’s the Cause

  1. Broken guide
  2. Bent magazine
  3. Narrowed guide channel
  4. Worn-out or bent loader spring

How to Fix

  • Avoid hitting the gun magazine against rough surfaces
  • Replace worn-out loader springs
  • Use a flathead screwdriver to widen the narrowed guide channel

Problem 9 – Nail Gun Not Firing At All

Image: YouTube

This is also a pretty common issue for new users. Also, your nail gun might not shoot after long inactivity.

What’s the Cause

  1. Empty or almost empty magazine 
  2. Misplaced inner parts
  3. Severe damage to the nail gun parts
  4. Lack of air pressure
  5. Insufficient lubrication

How to Solved

  • Some nail guns have a unique lockout feature that prevents shooting if only a few fasteners are left. Reload the magazine and check if the gun is still shooting blanks
  • Dry fire your nail gun or hit it against your palm to set the parts back in place
  • Use an air compressor to increase the air pressure while driving.
  • Disassemble the nail gun to check which parts are causing nail gun problems
  • Lubricate the internal parts

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