Think about it: an automated auger delivers the perfect amount of pellets to the fire in order to establish the desired cooking temperature. Then, sensors and a digital control board communicate back and forth to precisely maintain that temperature.
Like all pellet grills, Traeger Grills are a marvel of convenience. They make your grilling experience that much easier. When planning a party or hosting an outside event, you have one less thing to worry about with a high-tech smoker grill.
However, the ease ends when something goes wrong and you can’t figure it out. After all, the cornerstone of that convenience is technology, and now and again you may encounter problems.
Fortunately, most of those problems are easy to diagnose and fix with just a little troubleshooting. Most of the time, you won’t need to pull out your toolbox and pull apart the grill. (In fact, we caution you against doing that very thing.)
Certain grilling problems—such as abnormal temperature swings, the fire going out in the middle of a cook, or pellets not getting fed to the grill—might actually have an easy fix.
Abnormal Temperature Swings
The most common reason why people think their Traeger is malfunctioning is temperature swings. They set it at 250°F and then watch as the digital display climbs to 280°F for a few moments or temporarily dips to 215°F.
Since the Traeger Digital Elite Controller found on models like the Lil Tex Elite, Renegade Elite and Traeger Century 22 (also called the Costco Traeger) should maintain +/- 20°, it must be broken. Right?
Are Those Abnormal Swings Actually Normal?
Before pulling your hair out trying to troubleshoot your Traeger, stop and consider whether there’s actually a problem. Often, what users perceive as a problem is in fact how a Traeger Grill is designed to work.
When Traeger—or any pellet grill maker—states that their grill can maintain a particular temperature range, the number given is an average for an entire cook. Sometimes it will get closer to the set temperature and other times it will drift further from it.
Here’s a very simple way of looking at it:
Let’s say that, over the course of a three-hour cook, your Traeger holds its temperature within 10°F half of the time but only 30°F the other half of the time. That means it’s still within the stated range of +/-20°. Remember, it’s an average of the entire cook, not just a single data point.
When evaluating temperature swings with your Traeger, there’s another factor to consider: the conditions. When Traeger states that a grill can hold its temperature within a particular range (such as +/-20°), that claim is usually followed by an asterisk. And if you read closer, the asterisk indicates that those temperature ranges are based on ideal conditions—70°F, sunny, no wind, and no food in the grill.
Therefore, if you’re cooking a full load on a windy October day in which the outside temperature is hovering around 60°F, it’s completely normal for your Traeger’s temperature to drift outside the +/-20°. The same holds true if it’s raining or snowing or blazing hot.
(Note that Traeger says its Pro Series Grills with Advanced Grill Logic are PID, and PID controllers are not typically affected by the elements; however, they also have an asterisk that indicates their ability to hold +/-15° based on ideal conditions.)
What Pellets Are You Using?
When there’s too much ash floating around in the grill, the RTD probe, which measures the grill’s temperature and relays it to the controller, can’t get an accurate reading. That could lead to false readings on the digital display. The controller could also become confused, believing it needs to feed more/less pellets to the fire than it actually does.
Traeger recommends that you use their pellets, in part because those are the only pellets they can guarantee as good quality. While your Traeger should run perfectly well on any quality BBQ pellet, bear in mind that the first question any service representative will ask during is if you’re using Traeger pellets.
Even if you’re using quality pellets, be sure to regularly clean excess ash from the fire pot and grill interior with a Shop-Vac or household vacuum to keep your Traeger performing its best . While it’s recommended that you clean your Traeger every 2-3 uses, it’s a good idea to do so after a long all-day cook in which ash is likely to build up.
Take a Look at the Fire Pot
The fire pot on your Traeger Grill is specially designed to maximize airflow. A specific number of holes have been precisely sized and strategically placed to feed enough oxygen to the fire to keep the fire burning at the desired temperature. More so than any other part on a pellet grill, the fire pot withstands the most duress.
Consistent exposure to high temperatures and the constant heating and cooling make it susceptible to weakening and corrosion. Over time, perforations and holes can develop in the steel. This may allow increased and unwanted airflow to the fire, making it harder for the grill to accurately regulate its cooking temperature.
The fire pot is the most commonly replaced part on a Traeger. In fact, you can easily swap it for another standard steel fire pot or upgrade with a stainless steel Traeger fire pot. This latter product is more durable and should last the life of your grill.
Check the Heat Diffuser and Drip Pan
Like the fire pot, the heat diffuser and drip pan on your Traeger are both made of standard steel. Like the fire pot, the heat diffuser constantly endures damaging high heat.
The drip pan, meanwhile, gets a double dose of corrosion causers; it absorbs radiant heat and exposure to moisture in the form of drippings. If either part begins to corrode, your Traeger could develop hot spots.
Test the RTD Probe
If everything else seems to be in order—you’re using good pellets, the fire pot is in good condition—you may need to test the RTD probe. The RTD acts like a thermostat; it measures the internal temperature of the grill and feeds the information back to the control board. Much like in your house, if the thermostat is bad, your grill won’t be able to accurately regulate its temperature.
The simplest way to test the RTD is to use a remote thermometer like the iGrill. While the RTD and thermometer readings may not line up exactly (they probably measure the temperature at different intervals), they should be close. Make sure that they dovetail over the course of a twenty-minute test cook.
If you don’t have a remote thermometer or don’t want to go through the process of testing your RTD, don’t worry. Through the process of elimination, you can zero in on it as a probable culprit; if it’s not the pellets, the grill is clean, and your fire pot and fan are in good working order, it’s probably the RTD.
And, because it’s fairly inexpensive, Traeger is usually good about sending a replacement RTD while your grill is under warranty. Even if your grill is out of warranty, the RTD represents a quick and affordable fix.
The Fire Goes Out Mid-Cook
Another common Traeger Grill problem is the fire going out mid-cook. This problem is usually rooted in the same issues that create abnormal temperature swings.
The top cause? … bad pellets that produce excessive ash. If too much ash builds up in the fire pot over the course of a cook, it can cut off airflow and suffocate the fire, snuffing it out.
Likewise, a bad RTD relaying inaccurate readings can cause the controller to dump too few pellets, preventing it from maintaining a proper fire.
Finally, look at the induction fan. As it helps feed oxygen to the flames, if it isn’t working, that could cause the fire to go out.
Give a listen. You should hear the fan humming while your Traeger is cooking.
Pellets Aren’t Being Fed to the Fire Pot
Wood pellets are fed to the fire pot from the hopper by a rotating auger that’s powered by a motor. After turning on your Traeger, you should hear it begin to move (note: it could take several seconds).
You can also look down into an empty hopper and see a section of the auger. If it’s not moving, it could be a faulty motor.
If the auger isn’t moving but the motor is fine, there could be a pellet jam preventing the auger from spinning. Clearing the jam requires removing the hopper and doing some light mechanical work; you’ll find plenty of step-by-step videos that simplify the process and show exactly you how to do this.
Your Traeger Won’t Light
If the auger is delivering pellets to the fire pot, but they’re not lighting, there’s a good chance the igniter is bad. You can check if it’s working by running the grill without pellets.
Remove the grates, drip pan, and heat diffuser so you can see inside the fire pot. The tip of the igniter extends into the fire pot and should glow when the grill is turned on.
If the igniter is working properly but the pellets aren’t lighting, the fan could be at fault. Without that necessary oxygen or airflow, the fire may not light. Again, listen for the sound of the fan humming to ensure it’s working.
Traeger Error Codes
While not every Traeger problem will produce an error code, Traeger Grills are designed to know when there are specific problems. In those instances, an error code will appear on the digital display.
Below are common Traeger error codes and their causes:
- ERR – RTD Probe malfunction
If your probe has malfunctioned, you can purchase a replacement probe.
- LEr – Low-temperature error. The temperature is running below 125°F for more than 10 consecutive minutes.
This could be caused due to some of the above issues, including too much dust or ash in your fire pot, or a grill that needs cleaning.
If the grill is clean and free of ash, you might try restarting the heat sensor to ensure that it is working correctly.
- HEr – High-temperature error. The grill is heating to 500°F.
Similar to a grill that is not heating up enough, a too-high grill can indicate a dirty grill with high amounts of ash or grease. It might also mean you need to switch to low-dust pellets.
Finally, you might be dealing with a faulty probe or a faulty temperature controller. Try switching these off and on to reset them.
- ER1 – Loose connection on RTD
Try making sure all the parts of the device are connected and tightened. If this does not fix it, you might need to contact a specialist.
- ER2 – Short circuit
This can be the most dangerous error, as it means there is a short circuit. If you get this error message, you will need to shut off the machine and get a specialist or technician to look at your smoker grill.
Last Updated on August 18, 2020 by Judith Fertig