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The BBQ Grill Repair Technician.

It takes a certain mind-set to be a barbecue grill technician.  There is a “get-r-dun” mentality to working on gas appliances that are several decades old, whose original manufacturers have been out of business for many years and there are no original replacement parts available.

Many of the barbecue grills we supply replacement parts to repair are appliances built many, many years ago.  Working on barbecues from the early 1960’s is not unlike working on any other small appliances or machines from 40+ years ago.  Parts that easily and simply slide in are not usually available just like perfect replacement parts for a 40 year old blender or a 40 year old refrigerator, even a lot of 40 year old cars are not available.  Many of the barbecues from several decades ago were built by companies like Peterson, Arkla, Preway and they built these products to be very strong with high-quality materials and American workmanship so they can still be used, can still be repaired.  The main parts of these applainces are still in good working order today and only the inner parts that get a lot of heat and grease need replacing.  Fortunately a lot of these older barbecues were made in similar form and not-so-perfect parts can be used to repair these old grills.

Newer models are not so different because most of the commonly known names on barbecues we see in the big-super-retailers are all manufactured overseas.    These recognizable brands simply buy the appliances by the container-load, they put their own name and sometimes their own model number on the products and they sell them as a disposable commodity.

Because of the way overseas manufacturing factories function it is very likely that factory is manufacturing a completely different product — like bath robes — by the time the containers makes it all the way across the country to be unloaded and then shipped off to the various stores throughout the US.  By the time a grill box is opened and someone realizes the hood has a big dent in it there is no one to contact to get a new hood under the warranty provisions.

When the containers came across the world full of appliances there is a single pallet inside of each container with a bunch of random parts on it.  These are the over-runs and there will be hoods, screws, handles, cooking grates, wheels, side panels and everything else fabricated for these products.  This way if something is missing, damaged or becomes damaged in transit there are parts included to repair the prodcust and make them new.  Often there will still be leftovers to give customers who have a warranty issue but usually there are not parts available for the warranty.  For these retailers the warranty is a loaded gamble planned by accountants measuring profits per container against discounts and giveaways for the product-owners who actually try to activate the warranty when a ridiculously poorly-made burner falls apart 6 months after it was brand new.

The point is that the original manufacturer from 45 years ago is no longer making parts for that old appliance if they are still in business today.  The manufacturer of the products made today are also not making parts because they are selling a much cheaper product destined to be thrown away and repurchased.

We work on barbecues and we absolutely love all of you grill owners who choose to keep fixing a 50 year old grill or choose to repair a 6 month old barbecue that already needs service.  However, it takes a “can-do” attitude to repair a grill sometimes.  Often the parts are not perfect or the exact pieces do not line-up exactly the same.  We have a lot of the gas BBQ grill replacement parts we sell made for us to match older grills but there are some similarities with slight acceptable differences.

For instance if one model of Preway from 1973 used a double venturi burner 7″ x 18″ and the 1974 model used a double venturi burner 17″ x 8″ but there was a very popular model manufactured from 1971 – 1983 with a double venturi burner 17.25″ x 7.75″ we will not make a different burner for all 3 of these models.  A 17.5 x 8″ burner will repair all 3 of these models.  Even if each model had a different support system for the burner the venturi’s will hold the burner in place and it is possible to make on support system work on another burner system without re-inventing the wheel.  It would be nice if it was perfect and everything just slipped together perfectly but just about any replacement part for a product that is very old will have to have some inventiveness and ingenuity applied by the grill technician.

Gas lines, manifolds, valves and orifices have to have respect because they can be dangerous but the technician also has to be experienced enough to not allow themselves to be paralyzed by fear of possible problems because the parts available today may demand some “can-do” attitude that will work.  Many, many times we have used a hood orifice where there used to be a spud orifice but as long as the orifice attaches properly to the valve and gets the proper BTU to the burner it is perfect.  We have used different venturi tubes, over-sized screws to tighten an attachment and made our own gaskets from kits used to make header gaskets in high-heat parts of a car engine.  As long as the gas grill technician understands the process and has that can-do attitude this is a very simple and safe thing to do.

We also have a wide selection of universal grill parts used to replace BBQ parts in thousands of barbecue models.  There are “universal” parts available in some of the super-stores but they are very cheaply made and usually much worse quality than the parts they replace.  It is possible to use adjustable parts to repair a grill as long as the parts are made by a good company with good materials and they can be installed safely.

A lot of the newer companies bringing in commodities from overseas have been using a different type of control valve called a flame thrower.  The flame-thrower valve integrates a rotary module and electrode in the control valve so the simple act of pushing and turning the knob automatically ignites the burner — when it works.  American made grill that are higher quality have a set of electrical connections on the control valve so the effect is the same.  Flame thrower valves with the mechanical version are a good idea but in a poorly made barbecue they eventually fail because of other failures in the appliance.  Flame thrower valves are very difficult to replace because the import companies usually have low supply.  Instead out “git-r-dun” technicians use old-fashioned control valves.  As long as the control valve can properly seal to the manifold to pull gas and can properly insert on orifice into the venturi tube to light the grill, then the valve is doing it’s job.

When we replace the control valves in this type of barbecue model we do have to replace the entire ignition system — which is a very simple thing to do if you do not make-believe it is difficult in your own head.  For instance a simple module can hold a battery behind a button and attach to a small hole in the control panel.  With anywhere from one outlet on the back to 6 outlets on the back it is simple to screw an electrode next to the burner  inside the grill and plug the electrode wire into the module.  Now, anytime the button is pressed all the electrodes inside the grill spark until the button is released.

When a tire gets shredded on the highway it is possible to remove the tire and replace it with the exact same type of tire, made, distributed and sold by the exact same tire company.  This is comforting.  However, with grills made overseas and barbecues made 20, 30, 40, 50  years ago this is not always the case.  The barbecue technician must understand gas and how gas is stored, moved, how gas is measured and how gas burns — and does not burn — in order to repair a grill because repairing an old appliance that does not have factory made replacement parts takes and attitude that is going to get the job done.

The barbecue technician has to know how to cut-out a rusted bolt, how to use a self-tapping screw or a larger machine screw to ream the hole, how to make a gasket and how to re-invent the path of gas to get the gas where it belongs.  In order to do this there is a certain education necessary to know that propane is heavier than air and will be affected by gravity whereas natural gas is lighter than air and will rise.  It is also necessary to know that propane is vaporized (boiling) liquid and how it boils, at what rate, creating how much pressure.  There are some things a gas technician has to know but more than anything else a gas grill technician has to be willing — indeed wanting — to get the job done at all costs.  If the screw broke removing that electrode I know with a LP BBQ i can move the electrode 1/4 inch down and drill a new hole to attach it there.  Natural gas? then 1/4 inch up. Heat shield is in the way? then 1/4 inch left or right.  Venturis needs to be attached to an H burner but did not come with screws or gaskets?  Use a machine screw and custom header gaskets.  The person who says the screw broke so now the electrode cannot be replaced or theres a screw missing and I don’t have any that will work  should do something else for work.  Honestly very little of grill repair is very difficult but it does take a little education and a lot of that “never surrender” type of attitude.

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