Big Green Egg - Pt 12 - Gasket Replacement - Blow by Blow
09/27/12 -08:47 Filed in: Big Green Egg | Maintenance
Part 2 of this blog entry on replacing the gasket on my BGE will cover the specifics of my installation. Watching some of the videos on YouTube I had no idea how time consuming and what a pain in the ass this process was. It is not hard or strenuous, but it was nowhere near as easy as some of the videos made it look. Now your mileage may vary and part of my problem may have been I had nearly 60 cooks on my Egg before I replaced the gasket.
INSTALLATION: DISASSEMBLING THE EGG: I started this process at 9:00 AM. This was quite easy. I reinstalled the two plastic retainers for the spring hinge that originally shipped with the Egg. I had a little problem getting the second retainer on and needed to use pliers to stretch the retainer to get it to fit over the nut. Then I used a 1/2” (1.25 cm) wrench to loosen the upper metal band clamp nut. I reached inside the chimney of the top lid and lifted the top lid off with one hand on the inside and one hand on the outside. I set the lid onto my Black & Decker WorkMate with the gasket facing up. The lid is very heavy so you might want to have a helper. I then loosened the lower band clamp nut and removed the hinge and clamps from the lower half of the Egg. I kept my Egg Shelves attached to the lower band clamp and was able to store the band clamp and shelves on the lawn supported by the Egg Shelves which were in the lowered position. All told this took 10 minutes, mostly because I had to run inside and grab some pliers to stretch the plastic retainer. Otherwise it would have taken 5 minutes.
REMOVING THE OLD GASKET: You make a cut in the existing wool gasket to allow you to get the blade of your scraper under the gasket. If your gasket is missing in places you can use this as a starting point. Once you get a start, it is a matter of running the scraper under the gasket with one hand while you are lifting the gasket up and off the edge. This part went reasonably well for me, but there were several places where some of the bottom surface of the wool gasket stayed behind. It pays to take your time here, because everything you remove is that much less you have to get up later. Even taking it slow and steady this process only removed the gasket and some of the adhesive. Anywhere the gasket was damaged, you had to use the scraper to get it the rest of it off. All told it took between 5 and 10 minutes to remove the gasket. So far so good.
REMOVING THE REMAINING GUNK: This is where things went way down hill and became tedious and time consuming. i was left with a lid that was dark brown and black colored over 95 percent of its surface. The remaining 5 percent were areas where the light colored color of the ceramics showed through.The black areas were primarily towards the inside surface of the rim, closer to the cooking chamber. I am guessing this is where the wool gasket was badly burned and basically what was left became fused to the ceramic rim. This conclusion seemed to be supported by the fact that the areas where the gasket had burned away completely were completely black all the way across the rim. The dark brown areas were places where the adhesive and parts of the gasket stayed behind when I pulled the gasket off. You could see pieces of “hair” from the wool gasket still stuck on the adhesive.
I started with the upper lid, which was sitting on my WorkMate. I went around with my 3-in-1 tool and scraped off what I could. This process removed most of the remaining large pieces of gasket that remained behind. It didn’t touch the black or brown areas I described earlier. I still wasn’t worried because the Acetone should get the rest. After-all in some of the videos on YouTube the person applied the acetone and the gunk just magically melted away. It seemed like they hardly had to do any work, just wipe the area clean with a cloth. I wet an old terrycloth wash cloth with the acetone and applied it to about a 6” (15 cm) long area of the rim. Instead of melting away the area just looked wet. OK I wasn’t worried (yet), I should let it sit for a minute or so to work it’s magic. After a minute the black areas or really burnt on crud still looked wet and the brown areas looked a little blurry around the edges. Wiping my cloth over the rim the now blurry edged brown areas broke down a little. And I do mean a little. The reality was the rim actually looked worse! The material that had broken down from the edges of the brown areas had spread into the clean areas and had given them the same brown color.
I was starting to get worried, but I didn’t want to panic yet. I applied the acetone to the terrycloth wash cloth and wrapped it around the blade of my 3-in-1 tool. I used this to apply the acetone and scrape the affected area. To cut to the chase after about 45 minutes I only had an area about 8 inches long about 75 percent clean. This wasn’t getting me anywhere and life is too short. While working on the rim and getting more and more frustrated, I began to think of alternate de-gunking methods. I had several other types of scrapers that I tried and they were equally ineffective. It was time to go nuclear. I had these Nyalox brushes for my electric drill which were intended to remove paint. In the past I had successfully used them to remove rust and loose paint from my smoker’s side firebox prior to repainting the SFB. This brush had 6 groups of brushes whose bristles were impregnated with aluminum oxide. The brushes were 3/4” (2 cm) wide which was a good fit for the rim of the Egg which is around 1” (2.5 cm) wide. This way if I was careful I could keep the brush up on the rim and not have parts of it damaging the side of the Egg. Before using it I donned a dust mask and some safety glasses. I began slowly and carefully and I could see this was going to work. The areas that were brown colored began to clean up fairly rapidly. The black areas were still stubborn. I could get them to clean but I had to move the drill left to right and up and down on the rim to get them to clean. The movement seemed to help make the cleaning action more effective. I also wanted to keep things moving so I wouldn’t be wearing a groove in the ceramic surface of the Egg. It didn’t look like I was removing much if any ceramic, but I didn’t want to risk it. Using the Nyalox brush did the trick. It was still slow and tedious work but it was having an effect. All told it took me nearly a half hour to clean the rim of the bottom of the Egg. After I finished with the drill, I used the acetone to clean the rim a little more. The top lid took me a little over 20 minutes, but this was because I’d already got an 8” long are cleaned earlier on this one. To finish the job with the drill, I removed the thermometer and nested the upper lid in the bottom half of the Egg. This gave it better support and was lower than it was sitting on the WorkMate. The lower height was far easier to work with. Once the lid was done I cleaned it with acetone and then took a 30 minute break to allow the acetone to thoroughly dry as was called for in the directions. I cleaned up a little while I was waiting and when the 30 minutes for the lower half was up I started installing the new gasket.
INSTALLING THE GASKET:
One nice touch about the High-Que gasket was it was pre-cut into two pieces. As it turned out this was a good thing, because even my sharpest scissors had trouble cutting the gasket material. A sharp single edge razor tool (aka paint scraper) or a matte knife (aka utility knife) is essential to get a clean cut. I figured it was going to be easy from here and initially it was. You peel back a little of the backing tape and start running the gasket around the rim. You want to keep the gasket in a bit from the interior edge of the rim to avoid exposing the gasket to direct flames. You are also taking a straight gasket and forming it around a curved rim. The trick is not to stretch the gasket to do this but to compress it to form the curve. So as you are placing the first edge along the inner side of the rim, you push it together to form a curve. I was initially a bit worried about this concept, but in practice it isn’t hard to do. You can watch the YouTube video from High-Que to see how this is done. Everything was going fine and then I ran into one last unexpected annoyance. Some of the tape was remaining behind. I think what caused this was how the rolls were cut to width at the factory. Every so often the edge of the tape would become frayed or ragged and this is where the backing tape would remain behind. I have a feeling that where the edges were ragged, the backing tape may have been slightly torn as well which caused it to remain behind when peeling it off. I found wiggling the backing tape from side to side a bit helped, but was not a total cure. The backing tape would still tear every foot or so. So a sharp razor knife or X-Acto knife was required to lift and peel the remaining piece of backing paper. The one catch is the adhesive is very sticky, VERY STICKY. Now most of the time this is a good thing, but whatever you do don’t lay the blade of the knife flat down on the the adhesive to try to get under the stuck on backing paper. Then you will end up with both the stuck backing paper and a stuck knife blade. Don’t ask me how I know this.
When I got to the very end I kept the last 3” (7.6 cm) of backing tape on the gasket. I pulled the gasket over the starting point and used this as a guide to cut the edge for the end. I made it about a 1/16” (0.16 cm) of an inch longer than needed. I just scored the gasket while it was over the starting point so I’d know where to finish cutting through it. I pulled the gasket end back off the starting point and finished cutting through it still sitting on the rim. I then peeled back the tape and laid down the last 3” (7.6 cm) of the gasket being sure to compress it so it laid in flush with the starting point of the gasket. It took a little less than 10 minutes to lay the new gasket down even with the whole stuck on backing tape issue. If the backing tape had come off cleanly it would have been under 5 minutes.
Before reassembling the Egg I used my shop vac with a brush attachment to thoroughly vacuum the dust from the inside and outside of the lid. Then I removed the upper lid, which was nested in the base of the Egg, and I placed it back on the WorkMate. I reinstalled the two band clamps and spring hinge with the Egg Shelves still attached. I then placed the upper lid over the bottom half of the Egg, making sure to get the top lid centered over the bottom. I then reinstalled the upper band clamp. I then did the dollar bill test, where you place a dollar bill on the rim and pull it out to see how much resistance you get. I had to do some tweaking to get resistance near the hinges. It was a compromise between getting perfect alignment but no resistance (meaning a potential air leak) near the hinges or good resistance near the hinge and a slight underbite where the lid didn’t extend out quite as far as the bottom. After talking to a dealer and his installer, I found a slight under or overbite of the two halved of the Egg, but a good seal is the lesser of two evils. The steps I went through to get to this point are beyond the scope of this blog. Some of the gasket replacement videos found on YouTube describe the alignment process. Now that the gasket is installed I just need to wait 12-24 hours before using the Egg.
I would still advise watching some of the gasket replacement videos on YouTube. But don’t necessarily believe everything that you see. Don’t necessarily believe the 40 minutes to an hour time estimates you hear. You want to get the rim back to the original ceramic finish for the best adhesion of the gasket. Sure it will take an hour if you pull the gasket and give the rim a quick scraping and cleaning. A deep cleaning takes longer. Also in my experience, the Acetone isn’t a magic wand. It didn’t just dissolve away the remaining gunk. I had 60 cooks, around 1/3 of them high temperature cooks on my gasket when I replaced it. Perhaps if I had done it sooner, it might have been easier....Figure on 3-4 hours and if things go faster for you, good on you. You’ll have some spare time to kill. Underestimating the time is far worse than over estimating the time.