The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke

Grill Refurb Part 2-The Rust of the Story

Perhaps I should have taken the way the replacement burners were delayed three times and were finally delivered, as a sign that this part of my grill refurb operation might not run as smoothly as the rest of it had. The burners were out of stock and I had indeed received 3 different delivery dates for them, each 3 weeks later than the previous notice. When they finally did ship I breathed a sigh of relief that at least they weren’t discontinued. I’d gotten a range of arrival dates where they shipped via UPS ground. The day they actually arrived we had some very bad thunderstorms roll through with torrential rains. Knowing that the UPS driver always left packages at my front door, I’d checked the front steps several times that day and there was no package. Then around supper time I went out to light the grill. There was a very wet box on the SIDE stairs. I sighed and decided a little water wasn’t going to hurt anything. But perhaps this was a warning sign from the BBQ gods.

Despite being left out in the rain, the inner packages were nice and dry.

The first chance I got, it was out to the back yard to install the burners. The weather could have been better: mid 90’s (35 C) and wicked humid. But this shouldn’t take long at all right? Wrong. Things went well enough at first. I removed the 3 new grill grates, 3 new flame tamers & the smoker drawer I’d installed a month ago. I described that work and the reasoning behind it in my GRILL REFURB PART 1 blog entry. The next step was to remove the burners which sat on a front and back rail. The front rail served as a support and guide for the front end of the burners which slipped over the burner control knobs shaft. I needed to be careful removing the old burners because there was this delicate looking insulator ring on the gas valve end of the burner that I couldn’t get a replacement part for. These pieces looked so delicate I really had hoped to just order new ones. No such luck and I was determined to be careful. The burners sat on a back rail at the rear of the grill and had a round post that went through a hole in the rail. The burner was secured with a cotter pin that went through a hole in the burner post just below the top flange of the support rail. I was happy to see that the new burners came with new cotter pins. So at least I had no worries if the old cotter pins were brittle and snapped.

In this picture you can see all the rust that had flaked off the old flame tamers, burners and bottom side of the grill grates. This rust was from the last season of grilling. All of these pieces are now replaced with new parts.

Removing the cotter pins turned out to be far trickier than it looked. I have this pair of needle nose pliers with bent tips that work well for removing cotter pins. The exception to that is when you can’t find the end of the pin. The pins were out of site and in some cases they were buried in a clump of rust. For many of the pins the procedure was to carefully scrape away the clumps of rust, all the while not being able to see what I was doing. Then I had to try to get the bent tip needle nose pliers through the business end of the cotter pin by feel and pull the pin. None of them came easily and some pins had rusted and become one with their hole in the burner. Each one was a new adventure. Once the pin was out the burner was removed by lifting the back up and out of the hole in the back rail. Once the burners were clear of the back rail you continued to lift the back of the burner up while also moving it forward towards the rear of the grill. Fortunately this part went well and the insulator rings came out intact. One hour later I had removed all of the burners. Oh and did I mention it was 95 degrees and wicked humid? At least with my EZ-Up shelter I wasn’t in direct sunlight, but it was about as bad as it gets around here.

The old burners and their heat shield rings are all removed. Getting the rusted cotter pins off the existing burners had proved to be a bit of an adventure.

With the burners removed, it was time to vacuum out the grill,s inner cooking chamber. Normally I do a spring cleaning where I clean the inside and outside of the grill thoroughly. This year I had done the outside part only. The last year had not been kind to the original flame tamers and burners which had started flaking badly. Even the undersides of the grill grates had started flaking. This year I figured I would wait until I replaced everything to vacuum out the inside of the grill. I spent a good long time vacuuming out all flakes of paint and rusted metal. When I was done I was left with an inner grill bowl that was in reasonably good shape considering the amount of use and age of my grill. I’d ordered a new back rail and the existing back rail was the last item to remove. Two screws to remove and it was time to start putting things back together. Then I bent over with my reading glasses on to take a closer look at whether I’d need a screw driver or a wrench to remove the back rail. Close inspection showed the screw had been inserted from outside this chamber. Hmmn, thats odd. The grill has double wall construction and there is a 1” airspace between the inner metal wall I was looking at and the outer stainless steel walls you see from outside the grill. I bent over and looked under the side table of the grill expecting to see an access panel or at least a hole to feed a screwdriver into. Nope. You couldn’t get in through the front and back ends because the posts of the grill’s rolling base passed through. Ditto for the bottom as there was a horizontal rail for the cart there too. The outer side panel had a lip that prevented access from the top. WTF???? Who in their right mind would design this piece so the screw head wasn’t easily accessible? Particularly when this piece was listed as one of the popular replacement parts. At this point this quick project was at the two hour mark and I decided to head inside.

IMG_0515-Blog-300x225 . IMG_0515-Blog-300x225 (1)
The back rail had stainless 5 steel brackets that spanned between the burners. Sever had become damaged as can be seen in the left side of the left picture. Worse than that the closeup picture on the right shows the sad sight of the screw holding the back rail. The head is in the air space between the inner and outer walls of the grill carcass.

Once inside I pulled up the exploded view from the Owner’s manual which I have in PDF form and it didn’t give me much of clue. The problem was when I bought the grill this part of the grill was all pre-assembled. You build the rolling base cabinet/cart and dropped this preassemble carcass piece onto the cart. This piece was a beast and weighs close to 200 pounds. I went back to the Sears Parts Direct website to see if I could glean any info by pulling up the individual parts and looking at their pictures. I figured I could see where the connections occurred and where any access points might occur. Only two problems: 1) The exploded diagram didn’t show the fasteners just the parts and 2) The parts for the grill bowl & sides didn’t have photos available. Cooler heads (literally and figuratively) prevailed and I decided to call it a day as opposed to going back out in the heat. When next I headed out to continue my head scratching session, it didn’t seem bad at first. The temps were far lower than the mid-90’s (35 C) I had last time. Only thing I’d missed was that the humidity was in the 90 percent range. My plan was to remove one of the side tables to see if I could easily get one of the stainless steel side panels off to gain access to the back rail screw head. After removing the side table, and removing several remaining screws I was no farther along. Rather than drag this out all afternoon, like the actual project did, let me get to the punch line. I soon had various parts of the grill laid out in the back yard and was no closer to getting access to where I needed. It was looking like I was going to need to remove the entire grill carcass off the cart. At 200 pounds (90 Kg) this wasn’t going to be easy and I really didn’t have a place to work on it easily. My second concern was going too far and not being able to get the genie back in the bottle. For example: What was the condition of the fasteners in the airspace between the stainless steel outer panels and the inner painted metal? The outside of the grill was certainly not watertight and if moisture gets trapped in this area who knows whether I’d be able to removed the screws.

The red heat shield inserts were a bit of a problem. The new burner on the right has just received the heat shield from the old burner on the left. The heat shields were no longer available and the existing ones were quite delicate.

One of the reasons I’d decided to replace the back burner rail was the condition of some stainless steel angles on top of the main rail. These five inverted L-shaped pieces spanned between the burners and several had small holes in the top piece. I’d also noticed there were 3 similar pieces on the front burner rail. One of them was missing part of it’s top corner. According to the Sears Parts Direct website they were available at the Sear Parts Depot about 10 miles away and another one 25 miles away. I was a bit surprised they’d have this part for a 7 year old grill in stock. But having been burned on a part for my dishwasher where these same outlets showed a part in stock and they didn’t even carry it - ever, I planned to call first. I started calling and the phone rang but nobody picked up. Meanwhile I looked at what was involved in replacing the front stainless steel piece. It wasn’t pretty and looked every bit as hard as the back. Plus there was an ignitor wire that attached to this piece. That is when the possible purpose of the stainless steel pieces became evident. The one in front helped channel some of the gas past the ignitor centered between the three pairs of burners. The back pieces I believe serve to direct the gas to a neighboring burner and contain the first flames when you achieve ignition. The fact that I couldn’t get through on the phone to check on the availability of the final part gave me more time to think. If those parts weren’t part of the cooking process, they were not responsible for the burners starting to have larger flames in certain parts of the burners. When I saw the deteriorated stainless steel pieces on the back rail I wasn’t sure if this was part of the cause. Now I was back to my theory the holes in the burners had enlarged over time. As for the ignition process the grill also came with a 6” (15 cm) long aluminum stick to hold a match for manual lighting. If the ignitors ceased working I could always light the grill manually, just like my parents first gas grill. The main part of the back rail was rusted in places, but was still sound and there was no concern about it holding the burners. If this changed I could possible have Sears do the work assuming I could get the grill back to them. So problem hopefully solved in the short run, it was time to start putting the grill back together.

The new burners are installed with 4 of the heat shield inserts intact and two of them a little worse for wear but in place.

As I was putting the various panels back on I ASSumed the worst was over. Silly me!! After I got everything back together except for the burners I discovered one last little hiccup. Those little heat shield pieces that were no longer available weren’t the easiest things to remove from the old burners. Rather than waste a thousand words describing them, look at the picture two pictures above this paragraph. First they were a fairly thin metal and the pieces that were flared broke off if you even looked at them cross eyed. They did not want to come out whether I pushed them or pulled them. I broke the first two heat shields in half, but fortunately I was able to put them in the burner and get them to slide over the shaft of the gas valve. For the third one I tried a new approach which actually worked, twisting them out like unthreading a screw. Once I got my first one removed and completely intact, I discovered the secret and the reason why this approach worked. This piece was actually wound in an overlapping spiral, similar to what you get rolling a piece of paper. If I turned in the correct direction it decreased the diameter of the insert, allowing me to twist it out. It was delicate work, but I got the last 4 inserts out in one piece. All the new burners were in and I made a last check to make sure they were seated over the shafts of the gas control valves. I reconnected the hose to the propane tank and held my breath as I lit the new burners for the first time.

When I lit the new burners I was treated to the sight of an even blue flame all around the burner. Any variations in size was caused by wind gusts. No large yellow flames anywhere.

Fortunately the burners all lit normally and better yet, there were no longer any areas with big yellow flames. I had a fairly even blue flame everywhere. This made me feel more confident in my theory that the stainless pieces on the front and back rails were for ignition not cooking. I also began to think I might take a look at cutting the stainless steel pieces off my new and so far uninstalled back rail. I could then file them down slightly to reduce the height. This would allow me to insert then with the new pieces nested inside the old, held in place with a friction fit. But most importantly: Short term crisis averted and my 4th of July weekend will include grilled foods, just as it has every year for as long as I could remember. A last thought I had that put a smile on my face involved the grill designer. I would love to find whoever designed that grill so you needed to gut it to remove two screws on a part that you’d expect to replace. You then lock them in a room with a grill the same age as mine. Their task: replace the back burner rail. They would remain locked in that room until said task was successfully accomplished. I am guessing their next grill design might be a little more end user and service person friendly. A guy can dream, right? Speaking of dreaming I am looking forward to the upcoming 4th of July weekend, where the weather is supposed to e about as good as it gets this time of year.

Here is the link for the Blog Entry on the first part of my grill refurb.



blog comments powered by Disqus