Sounds like a P.O.S. homemade job to me. Not all stickburners are "hard to work with" as grant said above. However, the cheap ones are. I've seen folks spend twice what one is worth trying to "fix" these things, some with some success, others just wasted money, time, effort, hope.
A good/inexpensive smoker would be a WSM (aka. Weber Smokey Mountain). I love my stickburner, but it's a GOOD one.
Hance - Lake Dogs Cooking Team - MiM/MBN/GBA CBJ and comp cook
Lake Sinclair, GA (strategically about an hour from darn near anywhere)
Started competing in chili cookoffs back in the 1990's and have competed in more than I care to count. I became a CBJ in MiM in 2005, then MBN and in GBA in 2010. I've probably judged 130+- BBQ comps (sanctioned and unsanctioned) over this time. That said, I really enjoy competing more than I enjoy judging, and hope to get back to doing 4 or 5 a year in the near future.