Quick and Easy Fixes for Common Gas Grill Problems

Gas grill and propane tank
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If your gas grill is relatively new, in good shape, and suddenly starts acting up, you can probably get it back to good working order quickly and easily. When a gas grill is working properly, the flame is evenly distributed through the burners, the flame itself is blue with yellow tips, and the grill should heat quickly on the high setting. With all burners on, there should be no difference in temperature anywhere on the cooking surface.

If this isn't how your grill works then you probably have a problem. Usually, there are a few simple tricks you can try before you start shopping for a new grill.

Understand the Parts and Functions of a Gas Grill

Gas starts out either in the gas tank or a gas line. The gas passes through a regulator (to limit the gas pressure), through a manifold to divide it up between the burners, then through the control valves where you adjust the flow rate to control the temperature.

From here it passes through the venturi tubes to mix with oxygen so it can burn. The final step is into the burners and out through the burner ports to make the visible flame. Above the burners, you have some type of barrier that protects the burners and helps to distribute the heat. The barrier catches drippings from foods so they can be burned off by the heat of the grill.

Safety First Prior to Troubleshooting

Always make sure that you have turned off your tank valve and disconnected your grill from its fuel source before you do any work on your grill.

If you have had your grill on, make sure it has cooled down completely. If you had the gas on, give the grill five minutes for the gas to dissipate before troubleshooting.

Problem: Low Flame, Low Temperature

This is a common problem with many grills and is almost always because of the fuel line regulator (the UFO-shaped thing on the gas hose near the fuel tank).

Regulators tend to be sticky. When they stick, they limit the amount of gas and will not generate a good grilling temperature. To reverse this, release the pressure on the regulator to restore normal fuel flow by following these steps:

  1. Open the grill lid.
  2. Turn off the gas at the propane tank.
  3. Disconnect the gas line from the tank.
  4. Turn all control valves to high (including the side burner if you have one).
  5. Wait for one minute.
  6. Turn all control valves to off.
  7. Reconnect the gas line to the tank.
  8. Slowly turn on the gas at the tank.
  9. Light the grill.
  10. Your grill should now heat normally.

To keep the regulator from sticking again, turn off the grill's control valves first, then turn off the tank valve or natural gas supply line. Always open the tank valve slowly. If this doesn't work give it a second try. Gently tapping the regulator during step five may help. If you still have a low flame, then you probably have a faulty regulator that will need to be replaced.

Problem: Yellow or Orange Flame

Check the control valve(s) and venturi tubes for obstruction and alignment. Make sure that the flow of fuel is continuous. The venturi tubes may not be properly aligned and the venturi shutters might need adjustment by doing the following:

  1. Locate the venturi tube adjustment screw. This screw releases the shutters.
  2. Light the grill and turn to low.
  3. Loosen the screw and open the shutters until the flame is mostly blue.
  4. Turn off gas and tighten the adjustment screw.
  5. Let the grill cool.

Check the burner for clogged gas holes. You can usually see this problem by observing how the grill burns. If there are spots without flame then you probably have a clogged burner. Try cleaning the burner or letting it burn on high for 15 minutes.

Problem: Uneven Heating/Hot Spots

The main reason for uneven heating is a blocked burner. Burners have a series of holes or ports along the sides that gas flows through to produce the flame. Frequently, drippings run over the burner and clog the ports. Use a wire brush to remove these deposits from the burner and restore normal gas flow.

Sometimes the burners become so clogged that you have to remove the burner from the grill to clean it. With some grills, you can simply lift out the burners while others are bolted in place and may be more difficult to remove. If you can easily remove the burner from the grill, clean the area thoroughly with a stiff wire brush. Make sure to remove all the debris from the inside of the burner. Do not use oven cleaner or harsh detergents on your burners. These chemicals can cause further corrosion of the metal and shorten their lifespan.

Problem: Gas Grill Just Won't Light

Some grills have push-button (piezo-electric) igniters and others are battery powered. If you have the battery type, try replacing the batteries. Determine if you are generating a spark in the igniter unit. The igniter is going to be near one (or several) of the burner(s). Some grills have independent ignition, some have a single igniter that lights all the burners.

If you have independent ignition and none of the burners will light then you have a faulty button or the wiring is bad. You might have to get these parts replaced.

If you have independent ignition and one of the burners will not light, or you have a single igniter and none of them will light, you probably have something clogging that igniter. Pull off the cooking grates and barrier to get to the burners. Locate the affected igniter and push the button. You should see a small spark and hear a single click for piezo-electric or a stream of clicks for electric ignition. If the igniter is clogged, very carefully clean it and test it again.

If there is nothing clogging the igniter then you need to inspect the wiring. Faulty wiring or switches must be replaced.

Problem: Grill Produces a Lot of Smoke

This is typically caused by a large build-up of grease on your grill. Give it a good cleaning and preheat the grill for 15 minutes to burn off any remaining residue.

Problem: Flame From Under the Grill, Behind the Control Panel

This is caused by misaligned or blocked venturi tubes.

After the grill has cooled, inspect to make sure all parts are fitting together. Check hoses and fuel lines to ensure they are not cracked, melted, or burned through.

Gas Grill Parts and Repairs

Most parts for any grill made in the past 10 to 20 years can be found online, though they may be very expensive. Prior to any home repair, ask yourself "Does this grill meet my needs?" If the answer is yes, then get it fixed. If the answer is no, then you should start looking for a new gas grill. Here are some common problems and troubleshooting tactics for the different parts of your gas grill.

  • The Tank: Modern propane tanks, mandated by the government, contain an Over Fill Prevention (OPD) Device. This makes it so a propane tank cannot be overfilled. Rarely, the OPD on your propane tank can be damaged causing the tank to work incorrectly.
  • Fuel Hose and Regulator: The output of a propane tank or your natural gas line is much greater than you need for grilling. The regulator controls the amount of fuel that can flow to your grill. This attaches to the tank (or natural gas line) with a flexible hose with an O-ring to create an airtight seal. Regulators are preset by the manufacturer and should not be adjusted by you. If you look at your regulator you will notice a small vent hole in the center. Common problems are clogged vent holes, which can cause irregular fuel flow and can lead to trouble. Usually, you can clear it by tapping or blowing into the vent. Other problems are fuel leakage caused by a worn or damaged hose or O-ring. To determine if there is leaking mix dish soap and water in equal parts and coat everything from the tank to the control valves with the mixture and see if it produces any bubbles. The tank needs to be connected and on but the control valves off. If you find a leak, replace that part.
  • Control Valves: The controls valves regulate the flow of fuel to the burner. Each burner on your grill has a control valve. You cannot repair a bad control valve and if need be, you should replace the whole unit. Before you do, however, remove the control valve from your grill and inspect it. Like other parts of your grill, insects love to climb in here to nest. At the center of the control is the orifice. The orifice controls the flow of fuel and can become clogged. If it is, use a thin wire to clean out. Make sure you put it all back together the way you found it. Without the orifice, you cannot regulate the amount of gas flowing to the burner and run the risk of explosion.
  • Venturi Tubes: The venturi tubes connect the control valve to the burner(s) and mix the fuel with air to provide the flame. To do this, there is an open gap in the fuel line that can easily become obstructed. Insects, especially spiders, commonly nest here. The best solution for this is to wrap the venturi tubes with an aluminum screen that will not block the airflow but will keep the critters out. Many grills come with protected venturi tubes. Another common problem is a misalignment of the venturi tubes with the burner. Typically the venturi tubes are simply placed in the fuel line and can get knocked out of place. The venturi tubes have adjustable shutters and they may need an adjustment to regulate fuel flow.
  • Burners: Burners come in many shapes, sizes, and materials. Burners range from aluminized steel at the low-end to cast brass and stainless steel on the high end. Low-end burners will typically last about three years under normal circumstances. Because the burner is inside the grill, it tends to get coated in burnt grease and can corrode quickly. Inspect and clean your burner regularly to avoid problems. If the burner is damaged or too heavily corroded, you will need to replace it. Get the same size and shape of the burner but consider purchasing one of a better quality metal if possible.
  • Barrier or Radiant: In between the burner and the cooking grate is a barrier, also called a radiant. It is supposed to absorb and release heat evenly to the cooking surface. The barrier protects the burners from drippings and creates a place for grease to collect and burn off. It may be constructed of lava rocks, ceramic briquettes, or metal plates. These need to be replaced periodically as they become crusted with burnt grease and food; this can eventually create an unpleasant flavor on foods. Porous lava rocks tend to need replacement more often. Metal plates can typically be cleaned and used for a longer time. Inspect your barrier. If it is broken up, heavily coated, or simply not creating a sufficient barrier, consider replacing it.