How to Start a Gas Grill (With and Without Automatic Starter)

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Are you the proud owner of a new grill? Want to get started but not sure how? No worries! You’ve come to the right place.

In this TheGrillingDad.com guide, you will learn:

  • How to start a gas grill
  • What you need to start a gas grill
  • And much more!
a large gas grill with food on it

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What You Need to Know About Starting a Gas Grill

Gas grills are the go-to option for those looking to bring their cooking to the backyard. Its speedy heat-up times, temperature control, and easy cleaning make it the most popular grill choice among Americans.

While lighting a charcoal grill requires charcoal, time, fire starters, and a chimney, in most cases, a gas grill simply requires the flip of a switch to get going. There are, however, some safety pointers to keep in mind when lighting your gas grill.

Equipment Needed to Start a Gas Grill

There aren’t many things you need to purchase to be able to light your gas grill, however, everything listed here is necessary if you want to get it started.

  •       A gas grill (preferably with an automatic starter)
  •       A full propane tank
  •       A long kitchen lighter or matches with a holder

How to Start a Gas Grill with an Automatic Starter

Gas grills with automatic starters have the easiest process for lighting up. However, we are going to go through all the steps of setting up a gas grill here just in case it is your first time.

Step 1: Open Your Lid

This is the most important safety tip for starting a gas grill. Opening the lid of your grill ensures that gas will not be trapped inside, causing a major flare-up once ignition happens. It also prevents any gas leftover from previous cooks from interfering with your light-up process.

Step 2: Hook Up Your Gas

If your grill requires a natural gas connection, you’ll want to hire a professional that is able to safely work around your home’s gas lines. A plumbing or heating contractor is usually the person you can call for this. 

Most grills will require a propane tank hookup, if so, simply connect the gas line from your grill to the propane tank’s corresponding valve. This line is normally stored at the bottom of the grill, which is also where you can store your propane tank during cooking.

Step 3: Turn on Your Gas

Make sure to keep the lid open and turn on your gas supply. For a natural gas connection, this usually entails turning the valve from a perpendicular position with the gas line to a parallel position with the gas line. For a propane connection, you’ll want to turn the circular valve on the top of the tank counterclockwise fully until it cannot be turned any further. 

Step 4: Ignite

There are a few things to note before you ignite. For one, locate your automatic igniter and how it operates. Most igniters are simply buttons that you can press, but these can vary from grill to grill. Second, take note of which burners are used for ignition. 

This will normally be one or two burners on the grill that are specifically used to start the grill. The flame from these burners will then light the remaining burners. Once you’ve taken note of these things, you are ready to ignite.

Hold the automatic igniter down. You should hear an audible click of the arc lighter starting to spark. Once you hear this, slowly turn the knob of the ignition burner to high. The igniter should ignite the gas coming from the burner, creating the flame. You can then use this flame to turn on the other burners of your grill and change your flame to your desired level.

If your burner does not turn on within five seconds, turn the burner completely off and wait a full minute before starting it again. This is to prevent a gas flare-up or even an explosion from happening. 

Step 5: Turning Your Gas Off

The safest way to turn off your grill is to turn off the gas supply first. With a natural gas connection, turn the shutoff valve to a position that is perpendicular to the gas line. For a propane tank connection, turn the circular valve clockwise until it can no longer be turned. After the gas supply is turned off, you can turn the burners to their off positions and close the lid of the grill.

location of the automatic starter on a gas grill

How to Start a Gas Grill Without an Automatic Starter

If your automatic igniter is not working or your grill requires a manual start, the process is more or less the same, with one key difference. 

Step 1: Open Your Lid

Once again, open your lid to prevent gas from building up inside your grill and to let any leftover gas dissipate. This is the most important safety tip for starting a gas grill. 

Step 2: Turn on Your Gas

Turn your gas source on and allow it some time to fill the grill with gas. This normally takes a minute or less.

Step 3: Light Your Grill

There should be a hole on the side of your grill that allows for manual ignition. It is usually around the same height of the burner and will allow you to light your grill externally. Insert a long kitchen lighter into this hole and turn it on. Once the lighter is ignited, you can turn on the ignition burner on your grill. Your burner should immediately ignite. Once again, if it does not ignite within five seconds, turn your burner off, and wait a full minute before trying again. 

Reasons Your Gas Grill Isn’t Lighting 

If you have tried both of these methods but still aren’t able to light your gas grill, read through a few of these steps.

Check Your Gas Supply and Supply Lines

An empty tank or a turned-off gas supply line will not allow your grill to function. When using a propane tank, make sure it is full, and the circular valve is turned counterclockwise until it can no longer be turned. If you are using a natural gas connection, the valve should be parallel with the gas piping to allow gas through.

If your gas supply line is old, it may be time to replace it. You can normally find these at any hardware store. Usually, if the rubber on it feels brittle or worn, it’s time for a new one.

Check Your Automatic Igniter

If you turn your igniter on and do not hear the clicking of the arc lighter or if it sounds different than it normally sounds, it may need an inspection. Some igniters use a small battery to power the mechanism. If that isn’t the problem, your igniter may have become faulty. Check your grill’s manual to find out the process for replacing this part.

Check on Your Burners

If your gas supply and igniter are not the issue, your problem may be coming from your burners. Once again, check your grill’s manual for the process of replacing its burners. These can normally be replaced relatively inexpensively with new parts from a hardware store or straight from your grill’s manufacturer.

Starting a Gas Grill Expert Tips

While starting a gas grill is normally fairly straightforward, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure the safest and most efficient way to get your grill started.

Keep Your Lid Open

This is the single most important tip there is when it comes to lighting a gas grill. Keeping your grill’s lid closed when igniting can cause gas to build up inside the grill. Once a large amount of gas in such a concentrated area is ignited, you’re looking at an explosion instead of delicious grilled meats. 

Always make sure to open your grill’s lid when turning on the gas and igniting to ensure that no gas builds up in your grill and also to let any leftover gas from previous cooks out. 

Multiple Propane Tanks

You’ll want to have at least two propane tanks on hand at any given time. This will ensure that if one runs out during a cook, you’ll have an extra to get by until you can conveniently refill or purchase a new tank. Make sure to store your propane tank in an outdoor, well-ventilated area. 

You’ll want to keep it out of a closed space in case any valve isn’t fully closed. Keep it out of direct sunlight and store it upright.

Become Familiar with Your Ignition Method

Gas grills can have multiple different types of ignitions. Some of these include single spark ignition, hot surface ignition, flame thrower ignition, and more. Knowing what type of ignition method your grill uses can be important if you ever need to diagnose a problem with your grill or figure out if a part needs to be fixed or replaced.

Climate Considerations

The weather outside can sometimes affect the efficiency of your grill. For example, cold weather can cause the internal pressure of a propane tank to decrease. This, in turn, will result in a slower-flowing stream of gas than normal.

You should allow your tank more time to supply gas through the line when it has been sitting in chilly weather. Furthermore, if your tank is frozen, you will not be able to use it until it has thawed.

Also, on windier days, manually lighting the grill with a flame lighter can be very hard. If you are using a flame lighter, try to get another person to hold up some sort of shield to protect against the wind while you light the grill.

This can be done with a large piece of plywood or even a trash can lid. You can also opt for an arc lighter, which creates sparks using electricity and is completely windproof, eliminating the need for another person.

Final Thoughts on Starting a Gas Grill

All things considered, gas grills are a convenient and fairly simple way to bring your cooking outdoors. Starting a gas grill can be very easy, but we understand that it may be a little confusing for a beginner.

However, once you master the art of starting up your gas grill, nothing compares to firing it up and cooking a delicious dinner in the comfort of your own backyard!

Hope Davis

Hope Davis

Born in Denver, Colorado as the oldest of 5 children, I learned at a young age that the grill was one of the best ways to prepare food for a crowd. And during the winter storm months, when the snow was likely to knock out the power to our house, the propane grill was a lifesaver! You wouldn’t believe the number of things you can cook on a grill when necessary. With parents who couldn’t tell salt from pepper unless you told them, I spent my late teen years making my own seasoning mixes and marinades to dress the meat before barbecues. It wasn’t long before I developed a secret marinade that people still beg me to make for them today! When I was 21 years old I bought my first smoker. Picked up some cedar chips for making a cedar plank salmon...and well, the rest they say is history! I’ve been grilling and smoking all kinds of creations ever since and I’m always excited to share my passion with others through my favorite medium--writing!

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