When the popcorn begins to pop and fill the kettle the steel rod (with the cog attached above) bounces away from the cog above (the motor) causing the popcorn to bind up in the kettle.it will not stay engaged with the motor to spill the popcorn out, however it will turn easily while its empty or if you just use a small amount of kernels(less than 1\2 ounce)
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There are many possible problems that will cause your agitator to not spin, But you said the gear in the cabinet comes off easily, it should not.
There is a flat part of the motor shaft that extends thru the top of the cabinet that the gear should be tightened onto with an allen wrench via a set screw. This is the first place to check. When the motor is on, you should not be able to stop that cabinet gear from turning. (not easily anyway).
Take the kettle crossbar assy off the kettle and look and see if there is a set collar above the shaft weight. If so loosen it so you can slide the weight up...enough to get the old one out and the new one in.
This is a hard symptom to troubleshoot, it can have many different causes. 1. Is the stire wire in the kettle straight and spinning freely? 2. Does the agitator shaft spin freely in the crossbar? 3. Is there a small needle bearing on top of the spur gear attached to the kettle? it is a small metal circle that spins independently of the agitator shaft located ontop of the kettle spur gear, it can fall off. 4. The plastic block in the cabinet roof that has the motor spur gear coming out of it, is it cracked? 5. Does the motor turn when the switch is turned on with the kettle in the dump position?
All of these can lead to an answer of why the agitator stops turning while popping.
The instructions say make sure kettle motor is plugged in. Turn unit ON with switch on crown of machine. Allow unit to run for 3-5 minutes to heat up kettle. Turn unit off. Add 2 teaspoons of your favorite popcorn cooking oil to the kettle. Then add 1/4 cup of popcorn kernels to the kettle. Turn the unit on and close the door. When popping sound slows down turn the unit OFF. Flip the kettle over with the crank handle to empty the kettle. Repeat process until desired amount of popcorn has been popped.
I have a Popcorn machine from Nostalgia too that had this problem. I cleaned it out and everything but it still had the problem of the it getting stuck. After days of analizing, I found the solution. after a while the ceiling of the popcorn machine starts to fall in, lowering the handles of where the kettle goes. making the knob that turns being lower that the one that makes it turn, causing it to get stuck, all I did is add so leverage so the kettle is once again at the same level or higher. Making it turn with greater force and not getting stuck. In other words make sure the turning mechanism is leveled and not one lower than the other. preferably the kettle part being higher.
Popcorn popper is approximately three weeks old and now the popcorn clogs up in the hopper (cooker pot), the gear quits turning, and we have to pry the popcorn out. It worked perfectly when we first got it and now it is nothing but a pain to use. We tried several popcorns, cooking oils and amounts of oils, but the problem continues. I noticed the small spring located on the lower shaft doesn't cover the entire shaft. Is it supposed to be longer? Your prompt reply for a solution would be greatly appreciated or we will have to return the unit to our local retailer where we purchased it.