Every year I am amazed how much money is needlessly spent on purchasing new gas barbecue grills. This article will provide you with some money-saving tips on how to repair your old grill, or turn someone elses trash into your own BBQ treasure.
First off, here’s the reality with gas grills. THEY GET VERY DIRTY. There is no way around this. Whether you spend $100 for a cheap one, or $3500 for the stainless steel deluxe grill with all the trimmings, you will still end up with a dirty mess that needs to be cleaned at the end of the year. Many people upgrade their gas grill simply because they don’t want to deal with the mess…. and they do get nasty. This leaves a LOT of perfectly functional, very dirty, gas grills in the trash on the side of the road in the late Spring when the weather starts to get warm.
Do you need a gas grill? Why not cash in on someone else’s laziness??? Usually with a paint scraper and 2 hours of your time you can have a very smart-looking gas grill that will work perfectly fine. If you have a power washer it’s that much easier to clean. If it has a glass window in the top, use a razor blade window scraper with some kitchen detergent / degreaser to get it back to new. Do not use engine degreaser. This could cause a fire when you re-lite your grill later.
That said, I do need to insert the following disclaimer for my own protection:
WARNING: Outdoor barbecue grills can be a fire hazard if not used properly. Please follow the manufacturers recommended procedures to avoid the risk of fire. You are responsible for your own actions. The instructions in this article may be used as a guide, but in no way will I accept responsibility for fire, injury, or death by someone who misuses this information.
Also, as your mother always told you, never shoot propane directly into your veins. The rumors aren’t true.
Sometimes the grill that you have (or your newly salvaged gem) will need a mechanical repair. This is almost always a very simple fix. Below is a list of symptoms and probable causes of the most basic gas grill problems.
- I hear the gas, but the grill will not light………… Needs a new igniter.
- The flames are concentrated in one part of the grill……… Needs a new burner or additional lava rock.
- Flames are eating up my food!……….. The lava rock is saturated with grease. Time to replace the lava rock.
Gas grills are insanely simple to repair. If you can use a screwdriver and a pair of pliers, you are qualified to repair your gas grill. Many people are afraid of gas. They are afraid of explosions if they do something wrong. Below you will find some basic tips to keep that from happening if followed.
First here are the basics of how a gas grill works. The gas comes from the propane tank and enters a pressure reducer. This reduces the tank pressure down to the two pounds per square inch needed for the burner to function. From the reducer the gas enters the valve manifold which is where the chef controls the size of the flame from the front panel. Each valve has an outlet port with an air mixer where outside air is mixed with the propane before it goes off to the burner in a flexible aluminum hose. The air mixer looks like a short piece of pipe with slots cut into it. That’s all there is to it! The propane and air mixture goes to the burner and as long as flame is present everything should work fine.
To avoid the risk from gas explosions, never turn the gas on from the front panel for more than 10 seconds without a flame (15 seconds if the valve on the tank has just been opened prior to starting). You should hear a hissing sound while these valves are on. If not you may be out of gas. If it doesn’t light in that amount of time something is wrong. With the top opened, wait a full two minutes for the gas to dissipate before doing anything else. By this time any remaining gas in the area should have become mixed with enough air that all danger of an explosion should be gone. Check to make sure that the igniter is sparking (you can do this with the gas off). If it is not sparking you can replace the igniter, or use a long reach cigarette lighter to light the grill. If the igniter is working, check the lines from the front panel valves to the burner. You will need to look underneath to do this. If the hoses are disconnected, broken, or clogged, then you need to take the appropriate actions. I once found an inactive mud wasp nest in one these hoses. I cleaned it out, and it worked fine. If you follow these steps you should have no danger of explosions. Low pressure propane from the outlet side of the pressure regulator has minimum risk if you follow these procedures.
Each of the listed parts above are available for less than $40 from your local home center. If you want to go crazy you can buy one of the deluxe burners for $80 to $100, but they won’t last much longer than the cheap ones.
If you don’t have a propane tank to start out, the home centers will charge you a core charge for the tank. You can avoid this charge by going to your local salvage yard to find a used tank. You can often get one for free. If your county has a hazardous waste drop off point, they often have propane tanks they are happy to let you take. Remember it doesn’t need to be a perfect tank. You will be exchanging it for a new tank at the home center when you buy your gas. This will save you the core charge.
In some places you can get a tank refilled on site. If you are using a recycled tank from the salvage yard I would not recommend an on-site refill. When a tank is exchanged at the home center the old tank will be tested for safety by their propane provider before it is refilled. They work with propane tanks every day and know what to look for in their safety inspection.
With these tips you should be able to save lots of money this year either cleaning / repairing an existing gas grill or restoring one from the side of the road. Please comment below if you have any questions. I would be happy to help out in any way I can.