Troubleshooting 101: Diagnosing A Grill That Isn’t Working

Troubleshooting 101: Diagnosing A Grill That Isn’t Working


People have said "A grill will never give you a problem until the moment you need it most."

That's not true, but when you're standing next to a broken grill with a turkey pan on Thanksgiving Day, you believe it! So, what do you do when your grill has an issue that prevents you from cooking and you have no idea where to begin?

Let’s find out…

The easy answer would be to call our Team of Experts at ATBBQ or the Yoder Smokers Customer Service Team. Before you make the call though, let's go through our list of troubleshooting tips

Possible Issues and How to Diagnose

No Power:

You've turned your grill on, and the screen doesn't light up. What do you do? To diagnose a power issue, we'll start from the wall and move toward the grill.

Symptoms of a power issue:

  • No blue light and the LCD screen does not light up.
  • When you push the power or start button, a house breaker trips, or a fuse blows.

Testing Power To Your Grill:

  • Is the power cable plugged into the wall?
  • If you using a GFI outlet, push the reset button to make sure that your GFI is not tripped. You should feel a click when the reset happens.
  • Check the power cord to make sure there are no cuts or bad spots in the cord and no damage at either plug.
  • Is the power cord inserted into the grill socket housing?
  • Grills with a competition cart have a secondary cable under the pellet hopper. Look under your grill and you should see it to the left side. Make sure both ends of the plug are in place.
  • Check your fuse. All current grills come supplied with a 5 amp fuse. To check it, you will see a round housing with a cap to remove by turning with a flat head screwdriver. Push in on the cap and turn counter-clockwise until the head pops out, then pull the fuse cap out of the fuse housing. You should see an unbroken filament inside.
  • If you plug in a new fuse and your fuse filament immediately breaks again, you may have a bad igniter.

Failure to ignite:

It is important to know that the igniter only works for a few minutes during the startup session. Once the grill is running, it will no longer turn itself on unless you push the reignite button. For information, please see our article on “What happens when you push the start button?”

For the igniter to work, two things MUST HAPPEN.
  • Dry pellets must be touching the end of the igniter.
  • Your igniter must be receiving power and heat up. Your igniter is working if you can see a red glow through the burn grate about 2-3 minutes into the startup process.

Symptoms of a bad igniter:

  • If you push start and your igniter immediately trips a breaker or breaks your 5 amp fuse, you may have a bad igniter. This will present itself as a power outage.
  • You push start and your grill fails to light.

Testing the igniter:

  • Unplug the igniter and push the start button. The grill should go through the entire startup process without it. You will hear the fans come on and pellets dropping onto the burn grate. This tells you that every other part in the system is working except the igniter. This also means you can light your pellets with a torch or fire starter and your grill will continue to work.

Can I still cook without my igniter?

Yes! A failure to ignite is one of the easier problems to overcome. Unplug the igniter and push the cords back into the space behind and light your grill with a torch or a fire starter.

Failure to maintain temperature:

A failure to maintain temperature is usually due to a failed thermocouple. We recommend keeping a spare thermocouple stored for an emergency replacement. If your grill is not maintaining temperature, this is the first step we recommend.

Note: Failed thermocouples also show symptoms that are mistaken for faulty control boards.

Common Symptoms of a failed thermocouple:

  • The temperature inside the grill cannot reach the setpoint temperature.
  • The grill is running much hotter than the setpoint and will not come back down.
  • The ACS controller seems confused and will not respond to temperature changes.

Note: When discussing maintaining temperature, a small degree of temperature fluctuation is normal.

Testing the Thermocouple:
  • The easiest test we recommend to test a thermocouple is to replace it and see if the new one works.

Obstructed Or Insufficient Airflow:

The next issue we see is a grill that is pushing fire back into the auger and sometimes the pellet hopper. This is usually due to an airflow issue which caused by a chimney blockage or faulty fans.

Chimney Obstruction:

  • Over time, particles and creosote buildup inside the chimney. That buildup blocks airflow and pushes fire back into the auger or pellet hopper. This can create a fire.
  • Symptoms of Chimney Obstruction:
  • Fire is not blowing away from the firebox and is reaching back into the auger or even the pellet hopper.

Testing for Chimney Obstruction:

  • Look down into your chimney to make sure that the chimney is clear of buildup or obstructions. For safety, Please do this while the grill is off.
Pro Tip: Check your chimney at the beginning of every season to make sure that it is free of obstructions.

One or both fans inside the grill are weak or are not working:

Yoder Smokers pellet grills use two constant velocity fans to feed fresh air to the fire. One fan is inside the side cover on the pellet hopper and the other fan is at the end of a tunnel that leads to the firebox. These fans help to keep the fire going. They also maintain positive pressure that keeps pushing air toward of the chimney.

Symptoms of a fan issue:

  • Grill cannot maintain accurate temperature.
  • Fans are not heard when the grill is on.
  • Fire is not blown toward the center of the cooking chamber.

Testing the outer fan:

Make sure you have the fan end of the grill pointed away from the wind. Look into the fan vent, you should see the fan turning at a steady pace. It should be moving at a constant speed. Take a loose piece of thin paper (receipt paper works well) and hold it near the fan vent. When the paper gets within a few inches of the vent, suction will pull the paper toward the fan against the vent.

Testing the inner fan:

  • Hold a loose piece of thin paper over the firebox. You should see it moving in the airflow provided by the inner fan.

Pellets will not feed:

Any time you press the start button, your grill should soon begin dropping pellets. You should hear pellets falling from startup until the grill turns itself off after a cook.

Symptoms of a failed auger:

  • Cannot hear pellets falling onto burn grate. This is the plinking sound you hear any time the grill is cooking.
  • You hear a loud grinding or unusual noises any time the auger is moving. The auger will not move at all.

Diagnosing The Auger:

  • Empty pellets from the pellet hopper, turn the grill on, and push start. You should see the auger turning.
  • Look inside the cooking chamber to verify that pellets are falling into the burn grate.
  • If the auger is not turning at all, remove all pellets to verify that you do not have a pellet jam. The usual cause of a pellet jam is moisture entering the pellet hopper. When pellets get wet, they turn into a wood slurry that turns into a more solid consistency as it dries.

How can I insure that I have no downtime:

We can't avoid every possible problem, but we can get around 99% of them. To do so, we recommend purchasing the following parts to create your own Zero Downtime Kit:

  • Spare Igniter
  • Spare Thermocouple
  • Spare Outer Fan
  • Spare Inner Fan
  • A few spare fuses
  • A tube of high heat silicone

Keep in mind that we can’t cover everything that could happen in one article. If your problem is not in the information provided, please reach out to the ATBBQ Team of Experts. We'll work with you to determine the issue and help you resolve it so you can get back to cooking again.