Gas grills are loved by many for their inherent convenience and relatively low cost of ownership. They also tend to last longer than charcoal grills, as there is little messy corrosive ash involved with operating a gas grill.
Of course, like all things mechanical, it is possible for them to breakdown, go wrong, or straight up die without any warning. Now, this isn’t a knock against the engineering or build quality of gas grills. Time, the elements and things like metal fatigue caused by frequent use can all take their toll on a once proud and powerful gas grill.
Though just because something isn’t perfect doesn’t mean that you should park it by the curb on junk pickup day and start shopping for a new one. The truth is, a lot of the best gas grills are engineered by the manufacturer to be relatively easy to repair yourself.
In this article, we will take a closer look at some of the more common gas grill problems and tips on how to fix them yourself.
Before you roll your sleeves up and grab your trusty tool kit, you need to first make sure the fuel line is disconnected from the grill. If you have a propane tank, make sure the tank valve is also turned off before disconnecting them. If you have a natural gas grill, make sure the valve is closed at some point in the gas line, so there is no risk of even a minor leak while you are performing the gas grill repair.
Check Your Gas Grill’s Components
Part of the diagnostic process calls for thoroughly checking your gas grill’s components. Understanding each one’s role and it’s potential faults will go a long way toward figuring out where the problem lies.
The Propane Tank
Natural gas grills and some propane grills are connected to a single gas line. Though a lot of propane grills still connect to a replaceable or refillable liquid propane tank. With these grills, the federal government applies rigorous standards and safety devices.
This includes mandating that every liquid propane tank has an OPD or Over Fill Prevention Device. Its’s sole purpose is to ensure that the propane tank can’t be overfilled. With older tanks, it’s possible for the OPD to be damaged or corroded, which can potentially cause your tank to not work properly. If you suspect the problem is with your tank, and you know the tank has liquid propane in it, try switching to a different liquid propane tank. If your grill runs normally, then you know it’s the tank and not the grill itself.
It’s also possible for cold weather to affect the pressure inside a liquid propane tank. Especially if it’s low. If you know that your tank is running low and the mercury has dipped below freezing outside, then you might want to take it inside for a few hours to warm up. This will restore some of the internal pressure enough to let you reconnect the tank to test the grill. If your grill works normally, then you simply need to refill or replace the propane tank.
The Regulator & Fuel Hose
It’s possible for there to be a fault in the gas line if your grill is connected directly to a propane or natural gas line. In a case like this, you can check the line’s pressure, or look for leaks. If there is no gas coming out of the end of the line it’s an obvious fault in the line from the municipal source to your grill.
You also need to check the internal gas line of your grill for leaks. Especially if you have noticed the telltale rotten egg smell that’s infused into otherwise scentless propane and natural gas.
You can test where the leak is by lightly coating the fuel line with dish soap. Make sure to get some around the valves and connections as well. Then turn the gas on and look for bubbles. If you see any, you will need to replace the hose altogether. This really isn’t the sort of thing you should try to patch up with duct tape and chewing gum.
The regulator plays a crucial role in making sure that the gas delivered to your grill is consistent. It attaches to the tank or the municipal gas line via an O-ring that creates an airtight seal, and looks a little like a hockey puck. All regulators come set up by the manufacturer for the specs of the grill.
If you take a close look the regulator you will notice a small vent port in the center. If this vent hole is clogged by debris or dust it can affect the regulator’s performance, which will then impact how gas is delivered to your grill’s burner elements. If you notice something clogging the vent port, you might be able to tap it or blow it clear with some canned air.
If you suspect there is a leak near the O-ring or hose line connection, you can use the same dish soap trick you used when diagnosing the gas line leak. If you do find gas is venting out of any part of the regulator or the connection, you will need to replace it.
The Control Valves
With most gas grills each burner element has its control valve. Each control valve then consists of several components that are engineered specifically to that model of the grill. You might be able to repair a bad control valve, though it might be easier to replace the whole unit. Sometimes bugs will get into the knob or assembly components. Sometimes the plastic components can strip out making them hard to turn. If cleaning out any debris doesn’t help, you might need to source a new one from the manufacturer.
The Venturi Tubes
While they sound complicated venturi tubes play a simple role in connecting the control valves to the actual burner elements. They essentially help to mix the fuel and air at the proper ratio for combustion.
Here again bugs and debris can sometimes get into the venturi tubes causing clogs. They are especially prone to clogs if you like to use smoker boxes with wood chips or charcoal to add a smoky flavor. Then the ash finds its way in, reducing the flow of gas to the burner elements. Sometimes they are hard to reach or shielded by the manufacturer. A quick blast of canned air might help clear the debris from the venturi tubes.
The Burner Elements
Burner elements can suffer from metal fatigue. Especially low-end metals. Still, even commercial grade 304 stainless steel burner elements can be prone to failure after 3 to 5 years. Clogged flame ports can also be an issue, though they can usually be cleared by poking them with a grill skewer.
Common Gas Grill Problems
Now that you have an understanding of your gas grill’s components, you can use the following “Symptoms” of a problem to help dial in what might be going wrong.
Gas Grill Has A Low Flame Even When Turned To High
Some new model propane tanks have a self-regulating feature that will automatically reduce the flow of fuel if it thinks the flow is too high. To diagnose and repair a problem like this, try turning the tank valve completely off then disconnect it. Then open the control valves on the grill’s control panel and manually close them. At that point, you can reconnect the propane tank and slowly turn on the valve. When it’s at half, ignite the grill and test it.
The Grill Produces A Yellow Or Orange Flame
A properly burning propane burner should produce a rich blue flame with flickers of yellow flame. This is a sign of full oxidation of the hydrocarbons. If the flame is yellow or orange and your grill is giving an artificial butane flavor to the meat, you might have clogged or misaligned venturi tubes. Try clearing them with compressed air, and make sure everything is aligned properly.
If cleaning the venturi tubes doesn’t help, you might need to adjust the shutters on the venturi tubes. This starts by locating the venturi tube adjustment screw. This screw releases the shutters. Light the grill and turn to low. Gently loosen the screw and open the shutters until the flame is mostly blue. Turn off the gas and tighten the adjustment screw. Then let the grill cool down completely before testing again.
The Gas Grill Produces Too Much Smoke
Rendered grease and drippings in the lower part of the firebox can sometimes build-up to the point where they can start to smolder. This is even more likely to be an issue during a longer grilling session or if there is a clog in the gas grill’s grease management system.
In a situation like this, the gas grill likely needs a good old fashioned deep cleaning. While you are at it, take a few minutes to check all the grease management tubes and drains.