Common Gas Grill Problems

Quick and easy fixes to most gas grill problems

Gas grill and propane tank
gmnicholas/Getty Images

Many people expect the kind of reliability from their gas grill that they get from any kitchen appliances. Unfortunately, this particular appliance sits outside in the cold and heat, rain and the sun, and takes a lot of punishment. It also has its own fuel supply and all the plumbing that goes with that. This can cause a gas grill to act up and not work properly. Usually, there are a few simple tricks you can try before you start flipping through the yellow pages or head off to the hardware store to buy another one.

First of all, let me say that if your grill is getting on in years, has been experiencing increasing problems for a while, or shows signs of rust, wear and age in its internal parts (burners, etc.), then it is probably in need of repair or replacement. Gas grills generally don't last forever and many lower quality models only last a few years. However, if your grill is relatively new and in good shape and suddenly starts acting up, then you can probably get it back to good working order quickly and easily.

Safety First: 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 it to dissipate before doing any work on it.

1. Low Flame, Low Temperature, Yellow Flame: This has become the biggest problem with many grills recently and is almost always because of the fuel line regulator (the funny UFO shaped thing on the gas hose near the fuel tank).

Regulators seem to be stickier these days and when they stick you won't get enough gas to generate a good grilling temperature. To reverse this, you need to release the pressure on the regulator to restore normal fuel flow. Follow these steps exactly:

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

To keep the regulator from sticking again, make sure to 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.

2. Uneven Heating/Hot Spots: Most gas grills have uneven heating. Of course, this doesn't mean that one part grows volcanically hot while other areas are cool enough to park your drink. The number one 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. You can use a wire brush to remove these deposits from the burner and restore normal gas flow. Sometimes the burners become so clogged that you will 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 get all the gunk out from the inside of the burner. Do not use oven cleaner or harsh detergents on your burners as these chemicals can cause further corrosion of the metal and shorten their lifespan.

3. 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 (hey, it's worth a try). What you need to find out is 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 down to the burners. Locate the affected igniter and push the button. You should see a small spark and heat 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.