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Saturday, October 24, 2009

The gas grill check valve -- Why won't my bbq grill get hot

LP gas tank safety features and problem solving

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As a BBQ grill technician I repair gas and charcoal barbeque grills and clean or replace burners, grill cooking grates, ignitors, heat shields and various replacement parts every day.  There is a call I get at east once every day where a gas grill is inoperable and , although the customer thinks they need me urgently they do not need technical service at all.  One of the most misunderstood functions of your gas barbecue grill today in in your 20 lb propane gas container.  Any portable propane container manufactured after September 1998 must be fitted with a overfill prevention device (OPD) and no propane cylinder without an OPD may be re-filled after April 2002.  The triangulated handwheel denotes the OPD installation.  By now, most gas grill owners have had their tanks confiscated at the re-fill station and have purchased a compliant propane tank. While many home chefs understand the OPD, many do not understand other safety features of the propane tank.
The check valve is installed to detect hazardous leaks in your propane tank.  When the tank hand wheel is turned to open, the liquid propane travels through the check valve and the barbeque grill regulator to fill the hose attaching to the grill manifold.  Providing the barbecue grill valves are in the "off" position the propane stops before filling the gas grill burners and the pressure checks back to the valve.  If there is a leak in any of the fittings that connect your propane tank to your gas grill, the drop in pressure is noted and the tank goes "into check" which restricts or stops gas flow.

My barbeque grill ignitor does not work.

I get several service requests every week from customers who believe they need a new propane gas regulator, ignitor electrodes, replacement grill burners and more.  I have learned it is part of the mentality of the griller to self-diagnose the problem and come up with a solution and it is always tricky attempting to explain the probable culprit without telling the testosterone carrier of the house that the gas BBQ grill is not being used correctly.
The OPD can affect the pressure in the propane tank that goes through the valve.  Both the check valve and the Overfill Prevention Device are good tools intended to keep us safe while enjoying our gas barbeque grills and our backyard.  When a new or newly filled propane tank is attached to your gas grill, the OPD is usually at its maximum limit position above a tank filled to capacity.  The slight pressure of the OPD arm floating in the liquid propane can cause enough pressure that when the tank valve hand wheel is turned "on" the gas will rush through at a speed that feels like more water column pressure than is true. The propane tank goes into check and limits gas flow when too much pressure hits the valve.
The customer visits the gas grill store or calls the technician and requests a service call. Many grillers believe replacement parts are needed and burners, ignitors and regulators get replaced without reason.  Often, the gas will continue to flow into the gas BBQ grill but at such a low pressure that a customer will call to complain their grill will not get hot.  Sometimes the barbeque will be unable to exceed 200 degrees in temperature because the propane tank is in check.  I have had calls from customers who have been using their barbecue for several hours and cannot get their food cooked enough to eat!
Although gas grill parts do occasionally need to be replaced, properly diagnosing the problem is always the first step. Most grillers accept instructions and the problem is corrected in minutes -- but believe it or not I have had a few insist on purchasing replacement parts.

How do I fix the barbeque grill?

To reset the check valve and get back to cooking on your gas barbecue grill, first
  • turn everything off.  Turn off the grill, the rotisserie, the side burner and the LP gas cylinder tank.
  • Once everything is turned off disconnect the propane tank from the gas grill regulator by unscrewing it or pulling the quick-release on older or retro-fitted propane cylinders.
  • Now turn the grill on.  I know, it is dis-connected from the gas tank but we want to ensure that the pressure in the gas lines or any gas in the burners is released.
  • Leave the grill, side burner, rotisserie, etc on high for a few minutes with the hood open before turning all the valves back to the off position.
  • Make sure.  Most gas barbeque grill valves must be pushed in to turn them and if turning is attempted without pushing the knob, they will not turn to the "on" position.
  • With the grill, et al turned off reconnect the propane tank and slowly turn the hand wheel to the open position.
  • Slowly.  The trick here is to turn the hand wheel slowly.
Propane in a new or very full tank will be under more pressure, especially with the OPD floating in position. The extra pressure will come through the tank valve stronger.  Slow it down by turning the valve on slowly and the check valve will reset itself.
Once this is complete, you should be able to turn the barbeque grill on high and ignite your gas grill burner.  Your barbecue cooking heat should be back to normal and cooking times decreased.  If the problem persists, try this process again to make sure you followed every step.  The check valve exists to save your life if there is a leak in any of the gas fittings.  Constant check valve issues could imply a gas leak and a visit from your local gas grill service technician may be necessary.
To find a leak, turn the barbeque grill valves to the off position and the gas tank valve to the full on position.  This should pressurize the gas line.  Spray soapy water on all the fittings and look for bubbles just like checking for the leak in a flat tire.
Do not attempt to correct a gas leak on your own.  While a check valve error when your gas BBQ grill will not get hot or will not ignite is a user education error and an issue corrected by learning about your barbeque and your propane tank, a gas leak should be corrected by a licensed gas service technician.  When using your gas grill, turn the tank on first and then the barbecue grill to begin grilling.  When you are done cooking, turn the gas tank off first and then turn off the barbeque grill valves. The process releases the pressure in the gas grill hose and manifold which allows the gas tank to release pressure by filling these lines. Read the safety features of your gas grill, clean it when necessary and replace used and failing parts.   Aside from that be safe, eat well and have fun.