Traeger owned the patent on the first pellet grills, and the company still turns out excellent products. Still, even the best models can run into trouble from time to time. In our Traeger Grill troubleshooting guide, we’ll help you root out and solve any potential issues, so you can get back to grilling.
To begin, let’s take a look at the different error codes to determine their meaning.
A simple “ERR” message means that the resistance temperature detector (RTD) probe is not working correctly. You can fix it by disconnecting the wires behind the controller, then restarting the grill. It might be necessary to strip the wires in order to strengthen and reset the connection. If all else fails, you’ll need to replace the controller.
This code is similar to “ERR,” indicating a loose connection with the RTD probe. When you see it, unplug the grill and then plug it back in securely. This should do the trick. If not, the part is probably either defective or broken.
This message is a lot more straightforward. It indicates that the RTD probe has short-circuited and failed completely. Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix. The component will have to be replaced before you can continue using your Traeger grill.
This is a readout that every Traeger user dreads: The “LER” error message. “LER” stands for “Low Temperature Readout.” This typically shows up when the grill temp dips below 125 degrees and stays that way for longer than 10 minutes, causing the grill to turn off entirely.
What’s behind this? It could be a number of things. The firepot could be filled with ash and not whole pellets, or it might be completely empty. A firepot that’s too full can also trip the error code.
Low-quality pellets are another common cause. In fact, inferior wood pellets can create a host of problems. This is a subject that we’ll talk about more as we go on.
If the weather outside is too cold or windy, the grill may have a hard time keeping up. This is why many people restrict their pellet-grilling activities to the warmer months.
When the problem isn’t caused by chilly ambient temperatures or the wood pellets themselves, you might be dealing with temperature sensor issues or a defective induction fan. The chimney height or P-setting might need to be adjusted as well.
In short, there are almost as many potential causes as there are months in the year. Here’s how to deal with the “LER” readout.
Check the Firepot
First, unplug the grill. Wait until the firebox has had a chance to cool completely before doing anything else.
Take out the cooking grates, drip tray, and heat baffle so you can inspect the firepot. If it’s empty, or if you find nothing inside but a pile of ashes, the unit ran out of pellets. That’s what caused the temperature to drop.
This can happen even if you added more pellets to the hopper during cooking, since spaces can form between the pellet supply and the auger component. In pellet-grill terminology, this is referred to as void tunneling, an issue that’s more common in smaller pellet grills. For more information on tunneling, see the separate section below.
Once you’ve cleaned out the firepot and resupplied the hopper, try to restart the grill. Everything should be in proper working order.
You might also find that the firepot is full, meaning the fire just happened to go out at some point. If this happens often, you should contact customer service. If it’s a rare occurrence, there’s no need to worry. Just restart the grill and continue to cook as you normally would.
Check Pellet Quality
It’s also a good idea to check the pellets themselves. They should be shiny and cylindrical in appearance, not cracked or crumbling. If they aren’t in good condition, clean them out and replace them with a fresh batch.
Inspect the RTD Sensor
A damaged RTD temperature sensor can trip the “LER” message. Check it to make sure it isn’t bent or touching any of the grill’s other components. You can also look at the readout to find out whether it’s accurately displaying the ambient temperature.
If there’s a chimney on your Traeger pellet grill, try to put your thumb between the chimney and the triangular cap at the top. If you can’t, then you need to adjust the cap to improve the airflow. The chimney might also be blocked, in which case it needs to be cleaned out.
The induction fan is responsible for the noise you hear as soon as you turn on the grill. When you’re not hearing any noise, or if the sound is faint or squeaky, carefully spin the wheel with your fingers to try and get it moving. This should dislodge any buildup and get the component spinning on its own again. If it doesn’t, contact customer service.
As we mentioned, cold weather can affect your grill’s ability to retain heat. Folks who like to grill year-round should invest in an insulated blanket for their unit. It’s also helpful to keep the grill in a sheltered area, so it’s not subjected to strong wind gusts during cooking.
Waxing the grill can also help to prevent heat loss in cold weather. Should you notice that the paint is dulling or becoming cracked, wait until the grill is cold, then apply a layer of protective wax.
If you notice a great deal of ash collecting either in or around your grill’s firepot, you might need to clean it more often. Ash buildup is natural when you’re using a pellet grill, but it needs to be removed regularly. Otherwise, it could lead to temperature swings and improper heating.
When you clean the grill regularly and the ash still builds up, make sure you’ve installed the firepot and heat baffle correctly. The drip tray needs to be in the right position as well. Also, ensure that all of these components are in good working order.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have the “HER” code. This one stands for “High Temperature Error,” and it indicates that the grill’s temperature is running too high. In other words, it’s overheating.
Overheating has several root causes. The most obvious one is extreme external heat, which is easy enough to identify. Here are a few other common culprits.
Opening the Lid
Opening the lid too frequently can confuse the sensors. You’re allowing the smoke and heat to escape, which will cause the grill to overcompensate for the lost heat.
Similarly, the lid should always be closed when you power on the grill. Otherwise, the fire will start out too hot.
Too Many Pellets in the Firepot
Flare-ups may occur at the start of cooking if the firepot is already chock-full of pellets.
Missing Internal Components
Make sure the firepot, heat baffle, drip tray, and thermocouple are all in place and free of damage.
Did you remember to remove the protective orange cover from the thermocouple before firing up the grill? If not, you’ll need to contact customer service. The cover will have melted and blocked the sensor, leading to improper readouts.
The thermocouple might also be wired backward. In this case, the temperature will drop significantly when the grill is supposed to be heating up. Sometimes, you might even get a negative readout.
To rewire the thermocouple, remove the controller. Take a look at the symbols on the connection. The “+” and “-” symbols need to line up with their counterparts.
Alternatively, you can follow the steps outlined in Inspect the RTD Sensor, above. If all else fails, contact Traeger as soon as possible. A defective thermocouple can ruin your grilling experience. There’s no point in using a pellet grill if you can’t get accurate temperature readouts.
Understanding the P-Setting
Traeger’s system includes a feature known as the P-setting, otherwise known as the pause setting. You’ll find it on most older models and some of the newer ones. If you see a sticker or a tiny hole next to your grill’s digital display, it’s equipped with the P-setting.
This feature is designed to control the grill’s internal temperature when the weather outside is either extremely cold or very hot. It works by increasing the amount of down time between auger cycles. A low P-setting means that the auger will run more often, while a high P-setting is used to create a low-and-slow cooking atmosphere inside the chamber.
When it’s cold outside, you’ll want to choose a low P-setting to prevent the fire from going out. Conversely, in hot weather, select a higher setting to keep the grill from overheating as a result.
Wild temperature fluctuations are a common issue in pellet grilling. The folks at Traeger have stated that temp swings within 20 degrees are normal. However, as we’ve pointed out, weather conditions can make the fluctuations even more erratic.
To resolve this issue, follow the steps outlined in the Error Codes segment above. It’s especially important to perform regular maintenance on the grill to reduce the risk of ash buildup. If you’re still getting poor results, it might be time to replace your grill.
Smoke Temperature is Running Too High
Similar to overheating, a high smoke temperature could indicate that the grill’s components are due for a good washing. Excess grease buildup can cause just as many problems as too many ashes in the firepot.
For best results, wash the cooking grates and drip tray thoroughly after each use. Clean out the firepot, removing any ashes or stray pellets, and scrub out the inside of the grill to remove any grease or residue. A well-maintained grill will perform more efficiently and give you the results you crave.
As always, remember to use high-quality pellets from a reputable manufacturer. If you can’t find Traeger pellets, look for a “low-dust” designation on the label.
Smoke Is Pouring Out of the Hopper
If this happens during shutdown mode, make sure the lid is closed and that the grill is situated on stable ground. Once the grill has cooled down, clean out the firepot. Ash buildup might be causing the smoke to flow back into the hopper.
When smoke pours from the hopper during cooking, it’s still a good idea to make sure the grill is level. You can also listen to the induction fan to see if it sounds slower or weaker than normal.
Again, you should clean the grill as soon as possible to make sure ash buildup is not the problem.
Grill Isn’t Heating Up
Insufficient heat means that your ingredients will take longer to cook, which can lead to frustration. Depending on what you’re cooking, it might even be dangerous, since consuming uncooked meats poses a health hazard.
To begin, ensure that the grill has ignited properly. Remove the pellets, heat diffuser, drip pan, and cooking grates, then turn on the grill. Peek into the firepot to see if the igniter is glowing red. If it isn’t, then it’s time to call Traeger for a replacement.
You might also be dealing with a defective induction fan. Listen for a humming sound when you turn on the grill. A broken fan will lead to insufficient oxygen in the cooking chamber, so the pellets won’t be able to catch on fire. You can also check to make sure the fan hasn’t been installed upside down.
Grill Isn’t Smoking
If the grill isn’t producing enough smoke, it’s likely because the temperature is set too high. A hotter fire produces less smoke, which cooks the ingredients more quickly but also reduces the smoke flavor.
It’s easy enough to resolve this problem. Just raise the P-setting until the fire begins to smolder. If everything is working properly, you should get decent smoke within three to five minutes.
Also, remember to always use hardwood pellets for smoking. Soft wood won’t produce effective smoke, no matter how low you set the temperature.
Grill Won’t Turn On
Unlike charcoal-burning units, pellet grills require electricity to run the auger component and induction fan. When the grill isn’t powering on, it may be due to a tripped ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) or a bad outlet. You could also be dealing with a blown fuse.
Unplug the grill and check the power connections and fuse box. Often, you’ll be able to find and resolve the problem this way. If not, a call to customer service is in order.
Fire Goes Out During Cooking
This situation is usually caused by the same problems that cause erratic temperature swings. Low-quality pellets, which produce too much ash, are the primary suspect. Excess ash can extinguish a fire, even in the middle of the cooking process.
The RTD probe might also be giving bad information to the controller, causing it to feed a lower number of pellets into the firepot. The induction fan is another common culprit.
When your fire goes out unexpectedly, follow our previous advice for dealing with these issues.
When you hear a clicking sound coming from the grill, it’s usually coming from the auger. This device is responsible for feeding the pellets into the firebox, so it’s a vital component. If the Traeger auger isn’t turning, the grill won’t heat up properly.
A clicking auger could mean that the auger screw is warped or bent. To check it, remove the auger and attempt to roll it across a flat surface. If it moves smoothly, it’s in good condition. Otherwise, it needs to be replaced.
If the problem isn’t with the auger screw itself, then the gears are likely to blame. This means you’ll need to invest in a new auger motor.
Pellets Aren’t Moving Into The Firepot
If the auger motor isn’t faulty and the pellets still aren’t being fed into the firepot, there’s probably a pellet jam. Turn the unit off and remove the hopper so you can tend to the issue. There are plenty of instructional videos available that can walk you through the process.
As we mentioned, tunneling is a phenomenon that occurs when the auger feeds all the pellets from the middle of the hopper, leaving huge piles on either side. It’s most common in grills with a smaller cavity, such as the Tailgater or Junior models.
To avoid the issue, check the pellets every time you monitor the grill’s progress. Stir the pellets around to keep them moving steadily through the hopper. Additionally, inspect the hopper’s interior to make sure there’s no blockage or structural damage.
Repeated instances of tunneling may indicate an underlying problem. If it happens often, contact customer service.
Issues with the Digital Thermostat
If you’re having problems with the Digital Pro or Digital Elite controller, you may need to get in touch with Traeger’s customer service department. Some of the most common issues include a blank screen, missing or dim numbers, a readout that consists of either “—” or “888,” or physical damage such as cracks or dings.
If there’s no obvious damage, check to make sure that power is being delivered to the unit. If the other parts of the grill are working, then the issue is with the controller alone, and you’ll need to contact customer service.
On the other hand, if the grill isn’t working at all, you’re dealing with connection issues. See Grill Won’t Turn On, above, for advice on how to handle this.
If you’re experiencing issues with the Wi-Fi connectivity, ask yourself the following questions:
- What type of phone are you using? The app works with the iPhone 5S, the iOS 12, and all models above.
- Are you using the latest version of the Traeger app? If not, download it now.
- Does your phone have a current 2.4GHz wireless network connection? You’ll need one in order to proceed.
- What’s the status of your grill–cooking, preheating, or cool-down?
Through the Traeger app, you can monitor the pellet level in your grill thanks to this handy device. If the pellet sensor isn’t working, then you won’t be alerted when it’s time to refuel.
Check the sensor’s connectors to make sure they haven’t suffered any damage. Next, ensure that there’s no blockage that could affect the sensor’s ability to do its job.
Additionally, you can use the switch on the rear of the hopper to power cycle the grill. If it doesn’t calibrate properly, you’ll need to clear the cache. To do this, turn the grill off and disconnect the sensor, then switch the grill on and off again. Reconnect the sensor, turn the grill back on, and run through the calibration cycle.
Note that the grill needs to be powered off when you unplug the sensor. The sensor won’t work if it’s still connected when the grill is switched on.
Replacing the Controller
Should you need to replace the Wi-Fi controller on your Traeger grill, here’s a quick rundown on the procedure.
For Timberline models, you’ll need to remove the Wi-Fi antenna before you do anything else. When the grill is turned off and unplugged, take off the lower panel using a Phillips head screwdriver. Dislodge the lower part of the antenna, then hold the upper part of the coaxial antenna connector to remove the lower nut.
Remove the coaxial connector from the antenna mount, and you’re ready to proceed.
For all Traeger grills, remove the screws and plastic connectors from the old controller. Plug the plastic connectors into the replacement controller and reinsert the screws. Then plug in the grill and turn it back on.
Again, the procedure is slightly different for the Timberline. You’ll need to thread the Wi-Fi antenna line through the controller hole before plugging the connectors into the new controller. Once you’ve replaced the screws, put the coaxial connector back on the antenna mount. Your final step will be to replace the lower panel.
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An invention as clever as the pellet grill is bound to run into problems. We hope this Traeger grill troubleshooting guide has given you the information you need to get back on track.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!