Your Gas Grill Ignitor isn't Broken
As a gas barbecue grill technician, I get to see thousands of BBQs in various states of use. Gas grill technicians and plumbers provide technical service and cleanings for any barbecue even if they only stock and sell particular brands.
“The igniter on the barbeque grill stopped working within the first year” is a phrase I hear frequently, regardless of the price or quality of the barbeque. Sometimes “the first year” was ten years ago!! While it may seem that way, just because the gas isn't igniting doesn't mean the igniter is broken. Barbeque grill igniters usually work long after they have stopped igniting the gas grill.
Of course, you could point out the obvious confusion in that statement which is that if the grill stopped igniting, what does it matter if you say the igniter is not broken?! If it does not ignite the grill, it is not working. I have been shocked by ignition modules off grills when the owner claimed the ignitor hadn’t worked in ten years.
Gas BBQ Grill Ignition Parts
A gas barbeque grill ignition system consists of several replaceable parts. The module, the electrode wire, and the electrode are the primary parts although sometimes the module will be split into a spark generator, a connection switch (button) and a power source (battery). The electrode is like the spark plug in your car, the part that mounts on or near the gas grill burner and sparks to light the grill. The electrode is usually the culprit when you cannot light your grill.
The gas BBQ ignition module, or spark generator, is the part that creates the juice. Many older gas barbeque grills used a Piezo electric module. These simple ignition modules would last forever. However, most gas grills today use a battery-powered module. Ignition modules with batteries can corrode from moisture, but it is not as common as most of us assume and it can usually be cleaned off. An electrode wire connecting the ignition to the module delivers the spark to light your gas grill. You should be able to see the steel running through porcelain in the front of the firebox just above or beside the gas grill burner. The electrode will consist of the steel rod in porcelain that receive the current and another piece of steel to spark against as a ground. The power from the battery ends as a spark at the tip of this steel rod. If the gas is on, this arc should ignite your gas grill burner.
If your gas grill does not ignite, there could be a few different reasons. Reset the check valve if you are using a propane tank.
Rarely, a gas regulator may need to be replaced. If you have been grilling on this gas BBQ for over five years, have a professional test your regulator. However, the most common problem we see is in the ignition system.
What is Wrong with the BBQ Grill Ignitor?
As you cook on your gas barbeque grill, the heat trapped in the hood causes the food to “sweat” and grease drips into the grill. When most people clean their grill parts, they clean the cooking grates, the outer hood, the control panel and things they can see or have to touch. When the grease, pieces of food, rust, rainwater, dust and dirt get into the firebox, even though you can't see it from outside, the electrode gets too dirty to spark.
If you take away one bit of advice from this message, remember this: if you do not hire a professional to clean your grill, don’t just clean the parts you can see or eat off. At least once a year, remove the cooking grates, burners, lave tray or heat plates and get a good look inside the firebox. Often you will see the ignition electrodes, the grease management, and other parts integral to the safe operation of your gas barbecue. Clean them. I understand this is not a 10-minute fix. Do not take all day but give yourself an hour once or twice a year.
Make the Gas Grill Ignite.
To keep your gas barbeque grill starting reliably and safely, keep the electrodes clean. They are usually inside the firebox on the front wall near the control panel. Many electrodes have a “collector box,” a small stainless steel box that protects the electrode. The arc may jump between dual electrode posts or from a single electrode post to either the collector box or the gas burner. You grill starter will not light if the electrode cannot spark against a clean piece of steel. The module, battery and switch are still functioning to send the spark to the gas, but the failure is at the electrode. A dirty electrode will not spark.
Charbroil, DCS, Weber and other grill ignitors
Barbeque Grill Replacement Parts
Gas barbecue grill manufacturers make these products to be outside in the weather. They expect you to treat them poorly, to leave them in the rain and the snow. When you clean your gas grill, simply knowing the parts of the igniter should give you the ability to ensure the electrode stays clean and your gas grill ignition will last much longer. Gas BBQ grill replacement parts are available, but learn how the barbeque operates and you will replace a simple electrode for being dirty instead of spending a hundred dollars on replacement parts that you may not need.
Ask any gas BBQ grill technician and they will all tell you they get more calls for ignition problems than any other complaint. We can also promise you that more than half the barbeque grills we service have nothing wrong with the ignitor that a little degreasing soap won't fix. Look at the images in this article and go identify the module, electrode and electrode wire on your gas grill. Make the electrode a part that you clean at least once or twice a year, change your battery, and the ignition trouble that has been plaguing the last five grills you have owned will be a problem of the past.