If you have ever owned a grill with an ignition system, then you’ve most certainly had issues with it. Since we also own a grill cleaning and repair business (Palm Beach Grill Cleaner), we have seen igniters break, time and time again. Even the most expensive outdoor barbecue grill, Kalamazoo (which sell for $17,000+), has problems.
There are two different ignition systems in outdoor barbecues. One of them is the traditional spark ignition, which makes the “click, click, click” noise. The spark igniter is the most finicky. It is powered by one of two methods. Either a disposable battery or through a traditional 110 volt plug. If the grill uses a disposable battery ignition system, then it does not have any lights or a built-in rotisserie. The 110v ignition systems usually have a transformer that powers the ignition system, interior grill lights, front panel knob lights, and rotisserie motor. The “click” igniter utilizes electrode prongs that generate a spark near the burners, thus turning the grill on. For either the battery or the 110v spark ignition, there is typically a separate button on the front panel to start the sparking, whereas the knobs strictly control the gas flow.
The ignition system that is becoming more popular is the “glow rod” igniter. This system will always need to utilize 110v power because it draws too much electric for a standard battery. It works by heating up a rod that sits near the front panel. Once the rod starts to turn bright red it will ignite the gas. This ignition is mostly seen imbedded in the knobs instead of having a separate button like the spark ignitions do. You have to have hold the knob in, wait for the glow rod to heat up, then turn the knob to open the gas valve.
The glow rod ignitions tend to hold up a lot better than the spark ignitions because the powering is all internal vs. the sparking of an electrode. However, if either of these igniters get wet from rain, humidity, cleaning…etc., then they might have an issue igniting the grill. The best thing to do in this case, is to ignite the grill with either a stick lighter or match and let it heat up until the ignition system dries out.
The absolute most important thing that you must do when igniting any gas grill is to turn on the ignition first (whether it uses a spark ignition, glow rod ignition, or a lighter/match), then turn on the gas. We can’t emphasize this enough. If you turn the gas on first then press the ignition switch or put a lighter by the burner you could potentially catch fire or blow yourself up. This is because you are letting gas accumulate in the air before burning it off, and when you can’t see it (i.e. natural gas or propane), it’s easy to make this mistake. If by accident you leave a knob turned (valve open) before igniting the grill, turn it off, leave the hood of the grill up and let it sit for 5-10 minutes before attempting to light again. Also, when igniting the grill, the hood should always be up for the same exact reason (you don’t want to accumulate any gas in a closed grill).
Ignition systems are the shortest warrantied item on a grill and for good reason. If you like to use a barbecue grill, you should learn how to light it using a stick lighter or match as well, because you don’t want to be without it for your next big party!