Gas grill not igniting? Solve the issue with our troubleshooting and easy fix guide to common propane and natural gas grill ignition problems.
Picture the scene – It’s the first barbecue of the summer, and you’ve got some friends around and some drinks on ice. You’ve spent the morning marinating some meats with your favorite recipes, and it is time to fire up the grill. You hit the igniter and… nothing.
Don’t panic. In this guide, our grill igniter troubleshooting guide has you covered. From battery replacements to burner fixes, here’s what to do if your igniter isn’t working.
Grill Igniters Explained
Your propane gas grill’s igniter provides the spark that gets your gas grill burning. In general, the process involves your regulator hose feeding propane or natural gas into the grill, where it reaches the igniters, found on each of your grill’s burners. It will almost always ignite on first try, but if it doesn’t then you could have an issue.
Looking at the igniter is always the first step when gas grill troubleshooting, and finding the cause of issues with the ignition system is often the fix for a number of grill problems we see.
What Do Grill Igniters Do?
Grill igniters create the spark that’s applied to the gas in order to generate the flames needed for grilling. You may think of it like early man hitting two flints together to make a spark and get the fire roaring. There are a couple of different designs that do this in different ways:
Piezo igniters or “starters” don’t need any power source. They use a spring-loaded hammer that forcefully hits a crystal (usually something like quartz). You will turn them or press a button to operate them, and they make a hard snapping sound.
Battery-powered options make the spark to start the fire using the voltage of the battery. This also means there is a need for an extra component (the battery).
One easy way to tell which of these igniters you have on your grill is to listen to the sound as you press the button or turn the knob. The loud, snap sound you may hear suggests a piezo igniter, whereas a battery igniter will give you a repeated clicking sound until the grill fires.
Let’s go into some of the specific problems with your igniter and how to fix them so you can make a regular part of your annual gas grill tuneup:
How to Diagnose: If you have a battery igniter and don’t hear any clicking, the battery is often the issue. Listen for any sound from the igniter. It’s also possible that after a long break without use, the battery may have drained or corroded.
How to Repair: Follow manufacturer instructions to replace the battery. This usually means that you will have to turn the button cover counterclockwise, remove the dead battery and insert a fresh one. It’s a good idea to have a backup supply of batteries.
How to Diagnose: The electrode is a ceramic tube that has a metal end. This can also happen if the grill has been sitting there without use for some time. Damaged electrodes may just be dirty, so if you see any obvious signs of dirt then cleaning might be needed. You may also see visible signs of corrosion.
How to Repair: If there is dirt, rub a cotton swab with rubbing alcohol applied to it over the metal tip or casing of the electrode. Give it a little while to dry and repeat the process. If you see signs of corrosion, you can use sandpaper to gently sand this off, which may fix your problem.
How to Diagnose: If the electrodes look like they are in good condition with no corrosion or cracks, then you can visibly have a look for wires that may have come loose. You will have to ensure the gas is off, disconnect the electrodes, and then the wires from the ignition switch.
How to Repair: If you find there are frayed wires, you may be able to repair these with electrical tape as a short-term fix. If not, it could be time for a proper repair or adding a replacement wire using solder and shrink tubing.
This sign of age could also be a sign that you should replace the whole ignition unit.
How to Diagnose: It could be that the actual igniter is not the issue and that the burners are the problem. Check by turning on the gas supply and trying to light the grill manually with a match (carefully). If there’s still no flame, the burner has a problem.
How to Repair: Check for clogs to the gas portholes first. It could just be that they need a good clean. Use a bristled brush to clear out any leftover grease. If this is not the problem, this may not be a simple fix. Professional repair or replacement might be needed.
How to Diagnose: Wet, snowy, or icy weather is not the friend of a grill. If it is raining then the spark just might not work, in the same way that a wet bonfire won’t light.
How to Repair: In this instance, light the grill using a gas barbecue lighter or just a simple match. This will generate plenty of heat to dry out the igniter and should work the next time it is needed.
How to Replace a Gas Grill Igniter
If the time has come to replace the grill igniter to ensure it works next time you need to fire up the grill, you can follow some simple steps:
- Make sure the grill itself isn’t hot and that the gas supply has been turned off altogether
- Find the igniter box where the igniter itself is contained, and unscrew the front panel. This should loosen the box.
- Make sure you take note of how the wires fit into the box and are connected (photos are a good idea)
- Disconnect all of the wires and remove the igniter box
- Attach the wires of your new gas grill ignition kit to the ports as they were before. Some grills shave multiple igniters for multiple burners, so ensure you are replacing the right one or that you replace all of them.
- Screw your box back in place, and you should be ready to get grilling