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How to Replace a Grill Ignitor

A gas barbeque grill may have a single ignitor to light all burners or may have several different ignitors controlling different sections or burners. Most ignitors (also called igniters or ignition systems) are located directly underneath the main grilling surface but may also be found behind the grill or in other spots close to the heat source. There are many different types of ignitors used in gas grills; ignitors can even vary considerably from model to model made by the same manufacturer. While there are universal grill ignition systems on the market, each style only works in a limited number of specific models. To ensure full compatibility, replace all BBQ grill ignitors with a manufacturer's part designed specifically for your model.

older bbq grill

While there are many differences between ignitors, there are several common general designs in use. One of the more popular types of ignitors is the push button ignitor. Push button ignitors can be either mechanical or electrical, and as expected from the name, these models require users to push a button to light the grill.

Rotary ignitors are another popular style. In these, the initial spark is generated by rotating a dial rather than pushing a button. Battery powered spark generators are also fairly common. They provide a pulse of electricity that creates a spark which lights the grill burner.

Most ignition system failures are not actually problems with the ignitor. More commonly, the problem is a dirty burner, cracked electrodes that misdirect the spark, or even spider webs that inhibit the gas flow. When an ignitor does fail, replacement is the only option. The main exception is when a battery-powered spark generator needs a new battery.

Most gas grills can be lit manually if the ignitor is not working. Many grills even include holes on the bottom or sides of the grill for easy access to the burner system. Some people choose to just use matches to light their gas grills if the ignitor gives out; this is particularly true for less expensive models where the cost of a replacement ignitor may be as much as 25% of the cost of the grill. That said, replacement ignitors average around $20 and are a negligible expense compared to the cost of replacing most higher-end grills on the market today.

In general, there are systems in place to ensure that gas grill igniters are safe. However, users should always wait five minutes before trying a second time or manually lighting their grill so gas released during the initial attempt can dissipate. Additionally, John Sowden, Vice President of Purchasing and Technical Services at RepairClinic.com and host of "The Appliance Repair Show" on Detroit's WJR radio station, cautions do-it-yourselfers concerned that their ignitor is broken: "Don't hold onto the electrode end and push the button to test your ignitor." Doing so, he says, generates a quick but very high voltage spark that will shock.

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