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Rescue the BBQ

Give Your Gas Grill a New Lease on Life
By Lisa Readie Mayer
Published: May 1, 2006
Photo by Lynx Professional Grills
When the gas grill starts looking a little shabby, you’ll face a conundrum. How can you tell if it’s time to replace it or if a good scrubbing and a little TLC might extend its life a few more seasons?
While there is no hard-and-fast rule of thumb, you can compare the cost to repair it against the initial quality and cost of the grill. If the grill is on the lower end of the quality scale, say between $150 and $300, you probably wouldn’t want to spend $50 to $80 on a replacement burner. You’d be better off springing for a new barbeque, especially since other components will probably begin to break down or rust soon, too. The average lifespan of a lower end grill is around three years.  
However, if your current grill is of higher quality – say in the $800 range or higher – a repair is often worth it as you can usually count on many more years of service. In fact, grills at this price level often come with extensive or even lifetime warranties.
Another factor to consider when debating repairing versus replacing, is whether you want to upgrade the features on your grill. If you’d like to have a side burner, rotisserie, infrared searing burner, built-in grill light or any of the other conveniences on a new higher-end grill, it may be time to trade up rather than invest money in the older model.
If you do opt to repair, it’s relatively easy and inexpensive to replace  cooking grids, vaporization or flavor bars, lava rock, ceramic briquettes and rock grates. (Well, the vaporization bars are a tad expensive.) It’s also easy to take a grill marred by oxidation or “white bloom” and spruce it up with a new paint job.
Faulty ignition systems or non-functioning burners – two of the most common grill problems according to industry experts – require more money and more skill to replace.
The best reason for diligent upkeep is that your food will actually taste better.
Photo by
A guide to common maintenance
General ongoing cleaning and maintenance go a long way to helping your grill perform better, last longer and be more fuel-efficient. But the best reason for diligent upkeep is that your food will actually taste better.  Here are some tips for cleaning each major area of the grill, but be sure to consult your owner’s manual before you begin.

Cooking grids
Each time before you grill, burn off any grease or food by running the grill on high for at least 10 minutes, then scraping the cooking grid with a brush. Use a brass bristle brush on porcelain-coated grilling grids and a steel brush on stainless steel grids. If there is excessive grease, you can soak grids in hot, soapy water to clean them.  If cooking grids are severely rusted or broken, they should be replaced. (Please note that cast iron cooking grids require totally different cleaning and maintenance methods. It’s best to refer to your owner’s manual.)

Grease catch pan

Change or clean out the grease collector periodically to ward off insects and animals.

Photo by Jack Schiffer
Lava rock or ceramic briquettes
These items rarely need cleaning, as grease is continually burned off during cooking. If they are particularly grungy, they can be scrubbed with a wire brush. Lava rock and ceramic briquettes should be replaced every few years.

Vaporization or flavor bars
Some grills use stainless steel or porcelainized bars above the burners instead of lava rock or ceramic briquettes. Any residue can be burned off by setting the grill on high for 10 or 15 minutes and then scraping with a grill brush.

A clean burner ensures greater fuel efficiency and even temperatures across the cooking surface with no hot or cold spots. Check burners annually for excessive rust, holes or burned-out or clogged ports. A burner can be cleaned with a wire brush, but if it’s badly rusted or has holes, replace it.

Photo by Ducane Products Co.
Venturi tube
The Venturi tube is easily clogged, blocking gas flow so the burner won’t light. (Even a spider web can clog it.) Clean with a thin, flexible spider brush or a pipe cleaner.

Grill exterior
Different finishes require different care.

•  Powder-coat painted grills. These can be washed with warm sudsy water to brighten their appearance.  A light coating of cooking oil will help restore the grill’s color. If it is very oxidized (whitened), it can be repainted. First, sand or scrub the exterior with steel wool, then rinse, making sure no grease remains or the paint will not adhere. When dry, apply two or three light coats of grill paint. The paint will bake on during use.

•  Porcelain-enamel finishes. This type of finish should not be waxed or repainted. Cleaning with warm soapy water should be all that’s needed to restore the shiny finish.  Small paint chips are best left alone, but some manufacturers offer special porcelainized touch-up paint to prevent rust from forming. Check with your barbeque retailer or the grill’s manufacturer.

•  Stainless steel. The beauty of stainless steel is that it will never rust, chip or oxidize. It does, however, need some elbow grease to keep it looking good. Be sure to wipe up spills of barbeque sauce or marinade immediately to prevent staining. Then polish with a stainless steel
cleaner periodically.

Legs, wheels, cart base
Periodically examine the grill cart, legs and wheels to make sure they are still sturdy and stable. Check screws and fastenings; cart frames, legs and wheels should be attached securely. Likewise, the grill body and cart should be free of excessive rust. If the grill body has burned-out holes in it or is wobbly or seems unstable in any way, do not risk using it; it’s time to go grill shopping.

LP tanks
Check all tank and line connections to be sure there are no leaks.  To test, first make sure the grill is turned off and is cool, and then pour soapy water over the connectors. Next, open the tank’s gas valve; bubbles appear when a leak is detected. Tighten the connectors and retest until no bubbles appear. Also, the tank should be free of excessive rust and dents.
Remember, whether you repair or replace, a clean and properly maintained grill is the secret to great tasting barbequed food!

After more than a dozen years of loyal service, Lisa Readie Mayer’s propane gas grill recently gave out.  She opted to replace, rather than repair, and is looking forward to using her new rotisserie! 

Safety Tips

Common sense and proper precautions are the best ways to prevent accidents or injuries while grilling. Here are some key safety tips from the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association:
Read your owner’s manual for specifics on your grill, especially before attempting any maintenance or repair.

Barbeque only outdoors in a well-ventilated area. NEVER grill in an RV, tent, house, garage (even if the door is open) or any enclosed area where carbon monoxide could build up.

Set up the grill away from buildings, dry leaves or brush.

Use long-handled utensils and flame-retardant mitts to avoid burns and splatters.

When barbequing, do not wear clothing with hanging shirt tails, sleeves or apron strings.

To put out flare-ups on a gas grill, either raise the cooking grid or adjust the controls to lower the temperature. Do not use a water spray bottle. To put out flare-ups on charcoal grills, raise the cooking grid, spread out the coals, or reach for your water spray bottle.

Use baking soda to control a grease fire and keep a fire extinguisher handy. If one is not available, have a bucket of sand or a garden hose nearby.

Never leave a grill unattended.

Never move a hot grill.

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