So you’ve seasoned your meat and start firing up the pellet grill only to see the temperature not rising…
You turn the grill off and then back on again. Still the temperature does not rise.
So what is causing the pellet grill to not ignite?
After all these pellet grills are supposed to be low maintenance and an easy way to smoke meat.
Thankfully there’s a few checks that will help the pellet grill ignite again.
The most common reasons for a pellet grill not igniting are:
- No pellets remaining in hopper
- Auger not feeding in pellets
- Firepot full of ash
- Igniter (Hot Rod) not working
- Combustion fan not turning on
Below are the checks I use to fire up a pellet grill that has trouble igniting.
1. Check Hopper Is Full Of Pellets
The first and most important check is to make sure the hopper is full of pellets.
As the name implies, pellet grills need pellets in order to work. The pellets are burned which is what creates the smoke and heat used to cook the food.
So open the hopper and make sure there are pellets.
If the hopper is empty then check out this step-by-step guide on restarting pellet grills that ran out of pellets.
Another thing to look out for is “tunneling” which is where the pellets stick to the side of the hopper and don’t fall into the auger. Here is my Traeger where the pellets stick to the side and can cause the grill to not ignite.
I just shake the hopper and the pellets fall down into the auger if they’re stuck to the side.
2. Verify Auger Is Feeding Pellets Into Firepot
The next check is to make sure that the auger is actually feeding pellets into the firepot
To reach the firepot, make sure that the grill is turned off and is cool to the touch.
Remove the grill grate and the drip tray to reveal the heat baffle which can be seen below.
Remove or slide over the heat baffle to reveal the firepot which is where the pellets are burned to create smoke and heat.
My firepot in the photo above has just been vacuumed out. Typically the firepot will have ash buildout from previous cooks.
Now that you can see the inside of the fire pot, turn on your pellet grill and crank it to high. Make sure that the auger is feeding pellets into the fire pot.
If you do not see any pellets falling into the firepot then wait at least 1 minute to give the auger a chance to push pellets from the hopper towards the firepot. Turn off the grill as soon as a few pellets fall into the firepot.
3. Clean The Fire Pot – Vacuum Ash Out
Firepots will fill up with ash when burning pellets. If not vacuumed out then the ash will build up so high that the pellet grill will not ignite.
Below is a photo of my firepot that filled up with pellets after my Traeger failed to ignite. The firepot was full of ash so the pellets could not ignite and kept getting fed in by the auger.
So it’s always good to vacuum out the firepot if the pellet grill is not igniting.
Typically firepots should be vacuumed out after every 2 or 3 smoking sessions so that the pellet grill can continue to operate smoothly.
4. Ensure the Igniter (Hot Rod) is Working
The igniter or hot rod is located in the firepot. The best way to test if the hot rod is working is by having the firepot exposed and turning the pellet grill on to low or smoke.
If you feel heat coming from the firepot then the hot rod is working.
If you do not feel any heat after 5 minutes of the pellet grill being turned on then try the following steps:
- Lookup the wiring diagram for your brand’s pellet grill
- Unplug and replug the connection for the hot rod
- Turn the pellet grill back on and feel for heat
If that does not work then contact your pellet grill’s customer service and ask for a replacement. Worst case you may need to purchase a new hot rod which can be found on Amazon.
5. Check Combustion Fan Is Working
Below is an image of how a Traeger pellet grill works. As seen in the graphic, the combustion fan sits on the bottom side of the pellet grill.
The best way to determine if the combustion fan is working properly is by turning on the grill with the firepot exposed.
You will be able to feel air blowing up from the firepot if the combustion or induction fan is working.
If the combustion fan is not working then it will need to be replaced.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why isn’t my Traeger grill turning on?
A: Traeger pellet grills will not turn on if the grill is not plugged in or if there are no wood pellets in the hopper. Once the grill is plugged in and has fuel, make sure that the firepot has been vacuumed clean of excess ash. If the pellet grill is still not turning on then ensure the hot rod is turning red hot during the ignition cycle otherwise the hot rod may need to be replaced.
Q: Why is my pellet smoker not smoking?
A: Pellet smokers will not smoke if the smoker is not turned on. Once turned on, the pellet smoker will produce thicker and heavier smoke at lower cooking temperatures such as 180°F or 225°F since this allows the wood pellets to smolder. Pellet smokers set to a high cooking temperature such as 450°F may not produce as much visible smoke but there will still be smoke produced from the burning wood pellets.
Pellet grills are a great way to smoke food but they can run into some issues if not properly maintained.
First, always check that the hopper is full of pellets. Next, make sure to vacuum out the firepot every 2 or 3 smoking sessions so that the grill can ignite properly.
Once the pellet grill ignites again, you’ll be back to smoking meat in no time… or in slow time.