Home / Troubleshooting - Tumbling Composters

Problem # 1 - Assembly

I think I have the wrong frame. My axle bar is too long (or the sides are uneven.)


If the axle is too long for the frame or the frame is uneven there was a problem with the assembly. Below is a page from the instruction booklet. The stand assembly images in the lower left illustrate your problem. (Happy face / Sad face)

IM4000 Assembly Instructions

Frame pieces CC and DD are both shaped like the letter “L”. You'll need to make sure it is the LONG side of each L-shape on the ground. If the axle is too long for the span of the frame then the CC and DD pieces were assembled with the short side of the L-shapes on the ground.

Another way to think of the assembly is the BB piece fits into the CC piece which fits into the DD piece, etc... BB > CC > DD > BB > CC > DD


Problem # 2 - Assembly

I think I have the wrong parts. I've reached a point in my assembly where the holes and pins don't line up.


If the pins are not fitting into the correct holes the issue is not with the pieces but with the order in which they were assembled. The pins on the part-C are different than those on part-B to create more stability in the door section. Please note that part-C must be the LAST panel installed and it must be installed on the lip of the part-A piece closest to circular vent opening that has 7 holes instead of 4. Below is a page from the instruction manual. A star has been added to the image in the top left that illustrates the problem. 

IM4000 Assembly Instructions two

The image states “END last panel here” and points to the lip of the part-A piece closest to the circular vent opening at the 12 o'clock position. (This lip has 7 holes instead of 4.) 

If you have reached a point in your assembly where the pins no longer align with the holes then BOTH of your part-A end pieces were not facing UP in the correct orientation when you began assembly. They are probably twisted slightly in relation to one another and now since the part-B and part-C pieces have different pins they will not align correctly with the part-A end piece. Unfortunately the only solution is to remove the panels and start again with the the end cap pieces in the correct orientation.


 Problem # 3 - Missing Parts

I've checked the parts I received and I think I'm missing part-D, part-ff, and the two part-E pieces.


Parts C and D are packaged together at the factory. It would be strange for you to receive the part-C but be missing the part-D. See picture below.

IM4000 Part-C & Part-D packaged together at the factory

The FF piece is not marked but it is a black plastic support tube that surrounds the part-AA axle bar. If you have the black tube you have the correct piece.

IM4000 Part-AA & Part-FF image

The E pieces are bow-tie shaped vent covers that should already be installed into the part-A end cap pieces.

If you are in need of these pieces please let us know and we can send them right away from the factory but I suspect you may already have them and don't realize it.


Problem # 4 - Composting

Why isn't the composter working?

I've been adding material for weeks and I have a wet, stinky mess...OR...I've been adding material for weeks and nothing is happening. 


The compost process is driven by little microbes that live naturally in the environment. Creating good compost requires a balance to make the microbes happy. Compost greens tend to be wet and have lots of nitrogen. (Kitchen scraps, fresh clippings, etc) Compost browns are dry and have lots of carbon. (Dead leaves, shavings, newspaper, etc) It’s the balance between the nitrogen and carbon and a balance between too wet and too dry that you’re aiming for.

If your mixture is wet and smelly you've been adding too many wet greens and not enough dry browns. If your mix smells like rotten eggs that's also a sign it's not getting enough oxygen. To fix the problem you'll need to add more dry browns and spin the composter more frequently to get more air into the mix. If you don't have any dry browns available then regular dry garden dirt will do the job as well.

If your material is too dry and the mix isn't heating up it is because there is not enough wet greens. Adding more greens will provide the nitrogen the microbes need. You can tell the nitrogen is working when the compost heats up. If the mixture heats up but then cools down it’s a sign that the microbes have used the available nitrogen and need more added. If you don’t have lots of green kitchen scraps available then alfalfa pellet rabbit food is very high in nitrogen. Depending on the moisture content of your greens you may need to add more water. Ideally compost should be damp like a sponge. You should be able to squeeze the mixture and have it stick together. If it falls apart then the mixture is too dry. If lots of water squeezes between your fingers then the mixture is too wet. If your compost is dry and cold try adding some water until the mixture is damp. This should allow the microbes better access to the nitrogen and carbon and the mix should heat up again. 


Problem # 5 - Getting Started

I'm new to composting. What are some important things to know when I'm getting started?

Things to Know

1) Greens vs Browns

There is a wealth of information available online regarding what constitutes a ‘green’ or a ‘brown’ for composting purposes.

The ideal ratio for tumbling composters is roughly 2 parts brown to 1 part green.

The main thing to avoid are meats, fats, and bones, since they take so long to decompose they might attract pests with the smell.

 2) The Squeeze Test

To simplify it: ‘greens’ are fresh and moist whereas ‘browns’ tend to be older and drier.

The easiest way to check your greens vs browns ratio is to do a squeeze test of the compost once it is breaking down.

If you squeeze a handful of compost and it crumbles apart then it is too dry and you should add more moist ‘greens’ (or some water).

If you squeeze a handful of compost and water squishes between your fingers then it is too wet and you should add more dry ‘browns’ (or some dry garden dirt) to soak up the moisture.

Ideal compost should hold together into a little ball when you squeeze it.

 3) Using The Double Chamber

In order to finish compost properly you need to allow the compost to 'cook' fully without adding fresh material. The idea behind the double chamber is so that you can continue adding material to the second side while the first side cooks.

As you get going with the composter you'll find that you'll switch sides based not only on how full the chamber is but also by how long the other side has been cooking.

Eg. If it takes 8 weeks for one side to fully compost you'll be able to switch sides every 8 weeks. If you're consistent with adding material regularly you'll end up with a continuous 8 week cycle of fresh compost. For the continuous cycle you may find that the chamber only gets 1/2 full before switching which will be ok.

Note*** You'll need a minimum of 1/4 to 1/3 of a chamber before switching sides to ensure there is enough material for the compost to heat up properly.