Grill Parts Ignitor is Not Broken

As a gas barbecue grill parts 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 the perception of a customer is always true, the statement is generally not true.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 grill ignitor modules and electrodes

universal bbq grill ignitor kit contains battery module, electrode and wires to start any barbeque and replace the ignitor

gas grill electrodes spark against the burner to ignite gas in the grill firebox

barbecue grill starter with collection box on electrode sparks the electrode against the collector box

universal module for all gas grill ignition

rotary bbq starter sends electric spark when control knob spins

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 will not ignite, there could be a few different reasons. Reset the check valve if you are using a propane tank. To correct this issue read: Why won’t my gas grill get hot? 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 the grill parts, they clean cooking grates, the outer hood, control panel and things they can see or have to touch. When the grease, pieces of food, rust, rain water, dust and dirt get in to the firebox the electrode gets too dirty to spark.
If you take away one bit of advice from this message: 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. It is usually inside the firebox on the front wall near the control panel. Many electrodes have a “collector box” which is 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

charbroil ignitor electrode replacement

dcs ignition module spark generator

weber bbq push button starter module igniter

weber gas grill electrode ignitor

ducane ignitor attaches to burner to start gas ignition

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.

In Conclusion

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 identlfy 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.

11 Responses

  1. Have a Kenmore bar b que model number 141155400 the rubber ignition button rotted and tore in half. tried calling sears to see if they could order me the replacement rubber button but they say i have to order the whole ignitor, Do you have any info as to how to get just the rubber push button? Thanks Robert..

  2. I read your article on the “ignitor is not broken” & started cleaning the electrode on my 4 Burner Turbo grill Model XG4TBWN. Put in new battery (rubber cap is pretty much history.) Pushed down to make contact with the “+” battery terminal. Zip. Nada. I took off the cap & tried to unscrew the slotted screw T bottom of battery compartment. Bad idea; apparently broke the plastic housing, since I saw small capacitors at bottom. Unscrewed the plastic retainer nut which holds the ignitor body & it of course, fell into the grill’s control panel. I’ve now placed myself in the market for an entirely new ignitor assembly for this 12 year old grill. Do I need to remove the entire grill from it’s built-in brick support, in order to remove the control panel & install a new ignitor assembly?Appreciate any guidance. I’m not afraid to tackle any DIY project, and I’ve remained calm….. but I need some help, please!

  3. This article seems useful, but fails to explain when the ignitor module is bad. If I remove the electrode, should it “click”? Mine just “hiss” an electronic sound.

  4. great article, I too am dealing with the same problem however upon inspection of the grill (Kenmore elite) I found the problem to be that at some point the grill had became too hot near the ignition module, this caused the soldered circuit board to basically melt the connections of solder rendering the unit useless. Just a little FYI if cleaning electrodes don’t work. keep an eye on the heat.

  5. Wow! I have missed a few requests for assistance and I apologize.
    Robert, we do sell the rubber button alone and we sell the rubber button with the battery compartment behind it. Most companies have stopped making these and there is only one manufacturer any longer that we know of. It is an important item to have because the manifold and valves are too close to the button to retro-install a universal module like we would on any other barbecue.

    Bill:
    You do not have to remove the grill from its built in island to remove the control panel. Send us an email and I’ll attach a schematic to the reply message. Each grill is different and some imports do not allow the control panel to com off without a lot of work but that is almost never the case with built in models.

    Elvin:
    A rare case, but nonetheless true. I have a current client who was covering his cooking grates with aluminum foil to force the heat to stay in the lower grill and “clean” the grids, burners, briquettes and briquette grate. The heat rolled forward and ruined the module, control valves, electrode wires, rotisserie safety valve, melted the copper housing on the thermocouple an partially melted the knobs which ruined the valve stems.

    Needless to say we do not recommend using anything to force the heat into the bottom of the box — especially on a grill that gets a lot hotter than the traditional broilers and barbecues that most people have.

    I apologize for missing these questions as they were asked. So many blog comments are made by people trying to plant links into the comment that I stopped reading the comments for awhile. If you have a question that needs a little direction and advise please email us at:
    Service@Grill-Repair.com
    for immediate replies or call us at
    954-2-Grill-2
    which is also
    954,247.4552.
    jason.

  6. My ignitor was no making any spark or noise when I was pushing the rubber button. So Iunscrew this button and checked the AA battery and the voltage was at 1.45 volts. I noticed that inside the battery hole there was water that came inside. This module is a 4 terminal #03340. I blew air inside and wipe all the inside with a couple of cotton swab and checked if there some water. I put a new battery inside and it was not sparking at all. So I let this ignitor on the kitchen counter for 4 to 5 days near the range. I was going to order a new one and I tried again with the new battery and it came back to life. I think that the humidity dried because it was near the range. Now I bought a BBQ cover and I hope that the problem will not come back again. My BBQ is a Patio Chef and is about 7 to 8 years old. Many thanks to all those guys who share their experience on Internet.
    Bernard

  7. Hello, I live in Denver is there any body here that can fix this problem. Me and my husband are an older couple and we really do not know where to begin. My bbq ignitor doesn’t work and I have had it for 2 years. It did work the first year. Thank you

    Thanks for the question. Any ignition is an assembly with several different parts and electrical wires connecting one to the other. If the electrode inside the grill is not arcing it is usually because the electrode is dirty. In order to be effective the electrode must be next to the burner which means it is common for dirt, grease, blood, marinades and more to drip onto the electrode and dry there. This is the most common issue– clean the electrode tip and the collector box bracket around it.

    The module generates the spark and just as there are hundreds of electrode designs there are a lot of module designs. We usually test them by disconnecting the switch and shorting the connection by laying a screwdriver across the 2 spades where the button was plugged-in. This completes the circuit without the switch. If the module sparks but does not spark when the button is wired in place then the switch needs to be replaced. If the module will not arc with a new battery and with the switch or the screwdriver then we replace the module.

    On the Blog comments is not the best place to answer deep questions like this but that should at least get you started and narrow down where the failure may be. email us at:

    service@grill-repair.com

    to go deeper with any repair questions.
    thank you.
    jason.

  8. Should the wire tip of the electrode be in the flame after ignition or not? It seems for mine to be close enough to the burner to light, it ends up being in the flame after its lit, and I was wondering if this will damage the electrode. Or worse will the heat be transmitted back to the power source along the wire and damage the module?

    • Yes. Many of the barbecues that use a bracket or a protective collector box around the electrode end up going bad faster because carbon fumes coat the tip of the steel electrode where it sparks. The bracket/box protects the electrode from dripping grease and marinades but there are other considerations.

      Many of the infrared grills and high-end grills have double prong electrodes and these end to spark right in the flames. The heat keeps the steel rod from being coated, from corrosion and from oxidation. From time to time it may be necessary to spray degreaser on a rag and wipe the steel (or lightly rub it with a small file) to get carbon off but mostly electrodes that are in the flame of the burner will ignite better and survive longer inside the barbecue.

  9. I have a Char Broil 3 Burner Grill Model Number 463320107. The igniter only seems to work when there is heat applied…meaning when I start the grill manually and the burner is on…the igniter spark will show when hitting the starter button. When the burner is off I hear the clicking when depressing the igniter button but no spark shows. It seems that heat promotes the conductivity and makes the igniter work but when the heat goes off the igniter will not spark. I replaced the battery already thinking it was that but it wasn’t. I did just recently replace the burners, crossover tubes and heat plates and I had to use a rust blaster product on the igniter electrode part to be able to remove the screws on the old tube burner so I could install the igniter electrode on the new tube burner. It was working fine that evening. We have had a lot of rain and it has been cool but I have used this in the middle of winter and had no issues lighting anything so I am unsure if its a moisture issue. I have the sense that I will have to chase down the wires and connecters when I get home but I would appreciate any insight. Thank You.

    • You are correct about having to trace back the wiring. The module will sometimes have an extra outlet we can use as a ground (for instance a grill with 3 burners has 3 electrodes but there are 4 outlets on the module so we attach the 4th outlet to a steel bolt or steel support somewhere as a ground) but otherwise the electrode connection is the ground for each electrode. Over time the inside of the BBQ gets dirty which weakens the ground connection. We then need to dislodge the electrode and clean the mounting bracket and the steel wall where the steel-on-steel connection is grounding the electrode so it sparks.

      This explains why the electrode will spark more reliably when flames are touching the tip of the steel post. Fire will conduct electricity so the flame may be grounding the electrode when the mounting bracket is too dirty to do the job.

      If the grill has an aluminum box then the module will always have a ground because aluminum is not going to ground electricity.

      The other option is that the spark is occurring elsewhere. If the porcelain housing is cracked the spark will jump from the post inside. If the module has an empty outlet spade without a wire attached to an electrode or a ground then the electricity sent to this spade will spark against the other electrodes plugged into outlet spades near the “naked” spade connector.

      If a wire is cracked or damaged the spark will jump through the wire just as a cracked porcelain housing will spark before the charge gets to the tip of the electrode where we want it to spark. We want to check the module and then trace the electrode wires to each electrode checking the outlet spades, tight connections, wire and porcelain housing and the mounting bracket for the electrode ground.

      Test the module by removing it from the grill and hold it so the outlet spades not plugged into electrode wires are about 1/4″ from steel. I usually use the grill hood or a screwdriver. When the button is depressed the spark should be visible jumping between the electrode and the steel so we know the module is functioning well. Then we can plug all the wires in and remove one wire at a time holding a screwdriver up to the spade to see if they work and identify the one that does not function.

      Please email me if you need assistance. We have videos of replacing electrodes, modules and testing the parts on our youtube video page and our blog page at:
      http://www.grill-repair.com/blog

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