Posted by Tracy Hollander on 2nd Sep 2017
Here at The BBQ Depot, we have repaired thousands of gas grills. Generally, the one of the first parts on a bbq to fail is the burner and not the ignition. Barbecue igniters will work for years.
We get many calls "My grill will not light" or "My igniter is broken."
Just because the igniter is not working does not mean that it is actually broken. We will need to troubleshoot.
Breakdown of the Grill Ignition System (Piezo and Battery operated)
The main parts of a grill ignition will consist of a spark generator (module), electrodes, collector boxes (that hold the electrode in place) and wires. The spark generator comes in either a battery form or piezo. The battery spark generator may contain switch (button) or it will have a plug that for a trigger switch. If you hear a constant clicking noise, your spark module is still working. The piezo creates a hard snap. This type of ignition was used on older Weber, DCS and Viking Grills.
Unscrew the cap on the battery spark generator and check the battery. The environmental elements can corrode the battery inside and damage the internal working of the spark igniter causing it to stop working. If you do not hear the continual clicking from the spark module be sure to put in a new battery. Many grills today use a battery ignition system like Charbroil, TEC, Delta Heat, Weber, Nexgrill and more. If you hear the continual clicking ... it works. If you do not .... it is broken and needs replacing.
The spark generator will have one to eight outlets to plug in the electrode wires. Some grills will use one electrode to spark one burner and have carry over tubes to light the additional burners. While others have an electrode for each individual burner.
Here you can identify the various spark generators that have been used in grills of yesterday and today....
This a rotary piezo igniter that creates a hard snap which the knob is turned.
This is a "AA" Spark Generator that has a push button to ignite the grill.
This type of Battery spark generator that uses a remote igniter switch (button)
9 Volt Spark Generator used in Many Alfresco, Viking and Solaire Grills
This spark generator gets a 9volt battery pack plugged in (AOG, Lynx, Fire Magic)
The next component is the electrode which is a ceramic tube with a metal tip. The placement of the electrode is crucial in sparking the burner. More often then not, an adjustment of the electrode will fix with igniter problem. The electrode will be mounted in a collector box near the burner and the metal tip will create a spark and ignite the burner. To see if your electrode is positioned correctly, you will need to remove the cooking grates and heat plates from the grill. You should be able to see the electrodes positioned next to the burner.
Electrode, Wire and Collector Box used in GE and DCS Grills.
You will also be able to make see if the electrode is in good shape and that the metal tip is till tact and there are no breaks or cracks in the electrode.
This is also a good time to be sure that the burner holes that are to spark the electrode are free and clear of debris. If you see a spark coming off the electrode tip then you may need to adjust it closer to the burner.
You can also wipe the metal tip off with rubbing alcohol. Keeping the tip clean and free from grease will ensure good contact,
The electrode can be surrounded by a metal collector box which keeps the electrode in place as well as protects it. The collector can be mounted in the front or side of the firebox or may be mounted on the side of the burner.
Most ignition parts are readily available for purchase but we always suggest troubleshooting the individual igniter parts before investing money in a new part that may not fix the problem. Learning how the ignition system works is important to know when troubleshooting.
In summary, here are the steps in troubleshooting your ignition :
1. Do you hear a hard snap or continual clicking (if yes move to step 3)
2. Replace the battery
3. Check the wires that are plugged into the spark generator. Make sure they are securely plugged in and not frayed.
4. Make sure the electrode is not broke or cracked
5. Adjust the metal tip at the end of the electrode and place closer to burner
6. You can also remove the ignition system and plug in the electrodes and place on a metal surface. If you see sparking, the entire ignition system works.
Here is a video showing how to connect and troubleshoot a spark module
Our best advice to people we speak with is "maintenance is key." Cleaning your grill will provide years of safe use. You can clean and maintain your grill yourself or find a local grill cleaning professional that will be able to perform this service for you. At least once (preferably twice) a year, the internal "guts" of the grill should be removed and degreased and checked to be sure that they are not corroded. These parts include cooking grates, heat plates and burners. Also, you may notice a black coating of soot inside the grill hood. This can also be degreased. Use a grill degreaser to clean the cooking grated, hood interior and heat plates (never the burner). To clean your burner use a brass bristle brush and take a small drill bit to clear out the holes that surround the burner. Be sure there are no structural holes around the burner and there is no rust that has penetrated the cooking grates as if there are, these items will need to be replaced. If you are still unsure, seek a professional. We have been servicing and repairing grills since 1956.
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