It’s backyard grilling season for most people. For tailgaters, grilling season never really ends. But for some of you who are “football only” tailgaters, you may want to take this time and check your grill before the season starts. By checking your grill now, you’ll know what needs to be cleaned, what needs to be fixed and what needs to be replaced. One of the major issues tailgaters find with their propane grill after giving their grill the mothball treatment is large yellow flames.
Propane or natural gas grills should have blue flames with little yellow tips. Large flames that are predominantly yellow are a sign that something is wrong. Yellow flames can cause low heat, uneven heat, a build up of soot on your food, hot spots and unpredictable grilling. Is the problem a big one that only requires a small adjustment or is it a large one that will require replacement parts? The only way to find out is to test it and try to solve the problem with solutions that are easiest and less expensive first rather than assuming you need to buy replacement parts. So if you see large yellow flames on your grill, try these steps to rectify the situation.
Possible Stuck Regulator: Sometimes a regulator can get stuck. This happens more frequently when a grill has been in storage and out of use for a few months. A stuck regulator can cause low gas pressure and the grill will fail to heat up properly. The good news is the solution to fix a stuck regulator is rather simple and won’t cost you and money. To fix a stuck regulator follow these steps closely and exactly in order:
- Turn off the gas at the propane tank
- Disconnect the gas line from the tank
- Open the grill lid
- Turn all control valves to high
- Wait for about a minute
- Turn all control valves to off
- Reconnect the gas line to the tank
- SLOWLY turn on the gas at the tank
- Light the grill normally
Hopefully that solution worked and you are now seeing blue flames. To keep the regulator from sticking again, make sure that you turn off the control valves first, then turn off the tank valve. Also, you should always open your tank valve slowly. If your gas grill still has yellow flames and the temperature is still low, you may need to replace the regulator.
Adjust the Burner: An improper mixture of gas and air can cause yellow flames too. The good news is that adjusting the burner could solve this problem. The bad news is that you are probably going to have to break out the tools and get some grill grease and soot on yourself to adjust the burner. The reason being is that on almost all grills the area where you would adjust the burner is where it connects to the grill manifold. This is typically right behind the control valve. If you kept your manual to your grill find out where the adjustment screws are located on your particular model. This screw or screws holds the sleeve in the right place and when the screws are loosened will allow you to slide the sleeve back and forth. In order to see the burner unobstructed, make sure you take out the grill grate and any drip pans or barriers before attempting this.
This may sound stupid but you never know…. Before doing this make sure your grill is off and is cool. Loosen the screw and rotate the adjustment sleeve. Tighten the screw and relight your grill. You’ll need to wait a minute or two to see if the adjustment you did fixed the problem. If it did and you are seeing nice blue flames with yellow tips, adjust the other burners on the grill the same way.
Dirty Burners: Because grilling has drips and other falling particles that make contact with your grill burners, sometimes debris or grease build up can block the ports that release gas out of the burner. If some of these holes are blocked, this will cause uneven pressure and force more gas out of those holes that are not blocked. The uneven pressure can cause yellow flames and thus uneven heat.
The first thing you need to check for is to see if the burner is cracked, damaged or rusted. If this is the case, you may need to replace the burner. With a wire brush you may be able to scrape the debris off of the ports thus clearing the obstructions. Brushing does not get the gunk out of the inside of the burner and you may need to remove the burner to gain access there. If you don’t have the manual, make sure to take good mental or written notes as to how the burner came out so that you can reattach it properly once you are done. Make sure you do not damage the burner when removing it because you don’t want to create a bigger problem when trying to fix a smaller one.
Once you have the burner out, use a thin wire or a pipe cleaner to clear out all the possible debris that may have collected in there. If you use water while cleaning it out, make sure it is completely dry before replacing it. While the burner is out and you have easy access to it, you may want to coat it with a layer of cooking oil. Make sure not to block the ports and use an oil with a high smoke point. (Examples of oils with high smoke points are Canola Oil, Olive Oil, Canola Oil and Avocado Oil being the highest.)
Replace the burner and see if you still have big, yellow flames. Yellow flames may not be a sign there is something else wrong, only that there way be an alignment issue. The burner, control valve or manifold might not be lined up right to let the gas flow through properly. The gas flow should be a straight line through all the parts. Look to see if the entire flow of gas is in the right alignment. While doing this examination make sure that there are no cracks or holes in any of these parts. Damaged parts will need to be replaced.
If your grill has multiple burners, you will need to see if you are having yellow flame issues with just one or all of the burners. If it is affecting all of your burners, you may have a bad regulator and will need to replace it. If you are only having trouble with one burner, you possibly have a bad control valve or a problem with the manifold. They may be broken or just need to be cleaned out. You can remove these parts and clean them out like you normally would but you may end up replacing them if that does not do the trick.
If you are looking at the possibility of replacing these broken or defective parts, you’ll need to weigh the possibility of replacing the entire grill. If the cost of a replacement part is going to cost a lot, you may be better off getting a whole new grill. Over Memorial Day Weekend, Buy.com was offering the Margaritaville Tailgating Grill for under $200 and that included free shipping. They said it was a limited time offer only valid during the holiday weekend. But a quick peek at their site and they seem to be still offering the grills for that price. We’re not sure if that is a mistake or not but if it is, you may want to take advantage of that sooner than later before they wake up and realize they did not put an expiration date on that coupon.
Make sure your grill is working properly before hitting the parking lot in August. College football season will happen whether the NFL gets its act together and ends the labor lock out dispute on time in order to have a season. You don’t want to be stuck in the parking lot with an underachieving grill at the first game.