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Beginner Tips on How to Light a Gas Grill for BBQ Success

It’s just a fact of life: if you want to use a gas grill, you’ll need to know how to light it.

It’s completely understandable that learning how to light a gas grill may feel daunting since gas and sparks make a volatile combination. 

But when you understand how to safely light your grill — and safely troubleshoot it if it won’t light — it’ll become an easy, natural step on your way to a great grilling experience.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about lighting your gas grill, troubleshooting lighting issues, lighting a gas grill manually, and shutting it down at the end of your grilling session. 

We’ll wrap it all up with some FAQs, and send you on your way to light your grill not just safely, but confidently.

Risks of Using a Gas Grill

It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that using an appliance that combines gas and flame can pose some risks. Propane gas especially presents some risks since it’s colorless, odorless, and difficult to detect if it leaks.

One risk associated with propane use includes inhaling high amounts of the gas in the event of a leak, which can lead to unconsciousness, asphyxiation, and even cardiac failure.

A gas leak can also raise your risk of an explosion or fire if the gas comes in contact with a spark or other heat source.

While it’s important to know the risks, also know that with proper handling and understanding of the risks, it is rare for these types of things to happen.

Safety Tips to Follow Before Lighting a Gas Grill

Before you fire up your grill, especially if you haven’t used it in a while, there are a few safety tips to keep in mind.

First, take a look into the body of your grill to make sure small critters haven’t moved in.

Next, take off the grill grate and burner covers to check for rusting or any place where the metal has worn through. If your burners look good, move on to a quick visual check of the gas tank and propane system to look for dents, cracking, or obvious leaking.

Visual checks are an important safety step, but a test using a 50/50 solution of water and dish soap is just as important to catch any small leaks.

Mix up your solution in a bottle or bowl, then spray or brush it onto all of the joints of your hose line system while the grill is off. After that’s applied, open the gas tank a quarter turn and keep an eye on the gas line. If you see bubbles, turn the gas off, remove your tank, and hire a professional — you have a leak.

The Importance of Checking the Instruction Manual

As with any appliance, your manual is going to be the key to successfully and safely lighting your grill.

Every grill is different, so even if you’ve been grilling for years, it’s smart to read through the instruction manual of a new grill to make sure you know exactly how to work it.

If you don’t have access to the manual, search online for the make and model. Chances are the manufacturer has user guides on their website that you can review before grilling.

Placing Your Grill in the Perfect Location

Just like in real estate, safe grilling is all about location, location, location. Rule number one: make sure your grill isn’t flush against the wall of your house.

Your grill should sit several feet away from any walls (including structures like garages and sheds) and away from any overhangs, eaves, trees, or branches.

If you have small children or pets running around, keep them away from the grill when it’s in use. Better yet, choose a location where there’s less of a risk of a kid or pet touching the grill.

It’s also best if you can find a somewhat sheltered area that is out of the wind if possible. Just make sure the sides and top of the grill have plenty of room from anything flammable.

And once you’ve lit the grill, your location shouldn’t change either — even leaving your grill unattended during a quick sprint into the house for some tongs can open the door to an accident.

Hook Up and Turn on the Gas

If you’re lighting your gas grill for the first time or if you need to replace the tank, there are a few steps to take to make sure you’re doing so correctly.

First and foremost: know what type of gas you’re dealing with. If you have a natural gas grill, you’ll be connecting it to your home’s natural gas line. If you don’t have a natural gas line (or a natural gas grill), you’ll be dealing with propane tanks.

If you have a propane grill, thread the regulator onto the valve on top of the tank all the way on, making sure it’s aligned and not over-tightened.

Next, open the propane tank valve or your natural gas valve all the way, and you’re ready to go. Always keep a fire extinguisher on hand near your grill before you light it, just in case.

How to Light a Gas Grill: 2 Different Ways

Lighting a Propane Gas Grill With an Auto-Ignition | Lighting a Natural Gas Grill With an Auto-Ignition | Lighting a Gas Grill Manually

Lighting a gas grill is a simple process that can be done in a couple of different ways. Whether you’re using the built-in igniter or opting for manual ignition with a lighter, using a propane or natural gas grill. we’ve got you covered.

We’ll explore these methods in detail, providing step-by-step instructions to help you fire up your gas grill safely in no time.

Let’s get started.

Lighting a Propane Gas Grill With an Auto-Ignition

Start a Gas Grill Step 1: Open The Lid
  1. To light your propane grill using its auto-ignition feature, make sure your lid is open, and all of your burner control knobs are off.

2. Next, check that your propane tank has enough fuel in it to handle your grilling session. It’s never a bad idea to have a second full tank on hand, just in case you run out.

Start a Gas Grill Step 3: turn the tank valve counterclockwise to open it up

3. If you’re good to go on gas, turn the tank valve counterclockwise to open it up and allow the gas to move through the line.

Start a Gas Grill Step 3: push or turn the ignition button

4. Depending on your grill, you may have an ignition button or a dial — push or turn this for five seconds or until your grill makes the telltale “whooshing” sound that comes with ignition.

If your grill doesn’t ignite, check your igniter’s batteries, if it has them, and then wait at least five minutes before trying again.

Lighting a Natural Gas Grill With an Auto-Ignition

The process of lighting a natural gas grill is pretty similar to how you’d light a propane grill.

  1. First, make sure all of your knobs are off, and your grill’s lid is open to prevent gas buildup.
  2. Next, turn your natural gas knob into its open position to allow the gas to flow into your grill. Turn on one burner knob all the way to high.
  3. Depending on your grill, you may need to push a button to light the flame, or it may light itself once the gas is going. Once the grill is lit, turn all of your remaining burners to high and close the lid to allow the grill to heat up.

As with a propane grill, if it doesn’t light the first time, turn off the gas, wait five minutes for the gas to disperse, and then try again.

Lighting a Gas Grill Manually

Let’s say the above methods aren’t working, but you have a hungry crowd to feed and burgers ready to hit the grill. Now what?

You can actually light your grill manually. It may seem intimidating, but as long as you do it correctly, it’s perfectly safe.

Here are the steps:

  1. As usual, make sure your grill lid is open, and all of your burner control knobs are off. Then turn on your gas valve.
  2. Next, look for the hole or series of holes located on the side or base of your grill’s body. This is where you’ll insert a match or a long lighter — turn on the control knob for the burner closest to the lighting hole, and insert your match or lighter to ignite it.
  3. If your grill doesn’t have a lighting hole, no worries! If you have a long lighter, long match, or a match holder, you can insert these through the grill’s grates to light the burners. Just be sure to stand back and use a match or lighter that allows you to stand as far from the grill as possible.
  4. Once one burner is lit, the rest of the burners should light themselves once you turn the control knobs on. If your grill’s burners don’t light themselves after one is on, you may need to light each one individually through the grates.

For an in-depth and step-by-step guide on manually lighting a gas grill, you can check out this helpful article: How to Manually Light a Gas Grill Safely.

Shutting Down a Gas Grill Safely

Once you’re done grilling, you’ll basically follow the reverse process to safely turn the grill off.

Shut all of your burner knobs off, then close the knob for the propane tank or natural gas line.

Give your grill a thorough cleaning once it’s cooled down a bit, and you’ll be all set for your next grilling session!

Lighting a Gas Grill in the Wind or Rain

Lighting a gas grill can be tricky when Mother Nature isn’t cooperating.

To safely light your grill in the elements, first position your grill so it’s perpendicular to the gas flowing through your burners. This will help decrease the chance of the wind blowing out your flames once you’ve lit the burners.

Keep an eye on your flames through the lighting hole — if your burners do blow out, turn off all of your knobs and your gas valve, open the lid, and wait five minutes for the gas to clear out before trying to re-light the grill.

Even if you have a grill with an ignition system, it’s a good idea to have a lighter or matches on hand, just in case, since igniters can fail when it’s wet or windy.

For more information on how wind affects gas grills, you can check out this article: How To Grill When It’s Windy.

Here are some tips for grilling in the rain: Can I Grill In The Rain?

Troubleshooting a Gas Grill That Won’t Light

If your grill isn’t lighting, it could be due to a few different reasons.

First, check your gas supply. Make sure your propane or natural gas valves are open and that there aren’t any kinks or leaks in the supply hose.

If you use propane gas, double-check that you have enough in your tank — if not, it’s time to pull out your backup tank or make a trip to the hardware store for a refill.

Obstructions in the burner, such as grease, food debris, pests, or dirt, could also stop your grill from lighting. Regularly cleaning your grill should help keep this issue at bay, but take a look at the burners just in case.

There may also be an issue with the position of the valves or control panel within the burners that are preventing it from lighting.

Of course, it’s also possible that the issue is with the igniter itself. If your igniter uses batteries, change them out to see if that solves the problem. Also, take a look at the ignition area — it is possible for dirt and debris to get in there and prevent the spark from lighting the gas.

It’s also possible that the electrode wires in your igniter are not connected or placed properly or are too dirty to function correctly. If this seems to be your issue, it’s one that you’ll want to fix immediately or call a professional to check out, as faulty wiring can be an accident waiting to happen.

To learn how to troubleshoot and replace an ignitor if needed, check out this article: Why Is My Gas Grill Igniter Not Working? How to Replace a Gas Grill Igniter.

Checking if There Is a Gas Leak

There is a chance that your gas grill isn’t lighting because the gas is leaking out before it ever makes it to the burners.

You should be able to smell this, and you may even hear it whistling as it comes out.

Other than a smell or sound, you can perform a test with a 50/50 solution of dish soap and water to test for leaks.

First, make sure your burners and gas valves are completely shut off. Next, mix up your soap and water solution and spray or brush it onto the connection of your grill and gas tank or line, as well as the hose.

Turn your gas back on, and look for bubbles to form. If you see bubbles, turn the gas off immediately and contact the grill manufacturer or a repair professional to fix the leak.

If you don’t see any bubbles, rinse the area off with clean water and let it dry before trying to light your grill again.

For more tips and techniques for testing for a gas leak on your grill, check out this article: How to Test Your Grill for a Gas Leak and Enjoy Safe Outdoor Grilling.

Safety Tips for Lighting a Gas Grill

To stay safe while lighting your grill, it’s always important to remember that a loose connection anywhere in your grill can allow gas to escape.

Read the below tips for a safer gas grill lighting experience:

  • Make sure your propane tank or natural gas line is properly connected, and immediately shut the gas off if you smell anything like rotten eggs or a skunk. When in doubt, perform a leak test to be sure.
  • When lighting your grill, never lean over the burners, and avoid wearing anything loose and long, like flowy sleeves or untied apron strings that could potentially catch on fire. If you have long hair, tie that back as well.
  • If your grill is having trouble lighting, always turn the gas off and give it some time with the lid open to prevent a buildup of gas from causing a fire or explosion.

Even though gas grills are designed to be as safe as possible, it’s always smart to remember that when dealing with gas and fire, accidents can still happen.

How to Start a Gas Grill FAQs

Still have some burning questions about lighting your gas grill? We’ve got answers!

Below you’ll get answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about lighting a gas grill.

If you don’t find what you’re looking for, leave your question in the comments below or send me an email and I will get back to you.

Who knows, I might even add your question to this guide.

For a more in-depth frequently asked question guide, you check out this article: The Ultimate Gas Grill FAQ

Should I Light a Gas Grill With Lid Opened or Closed?

You should always light your gas grill with the lid opened to prevent gas buildup which creates a dangerous situation that might lead to a fire or explosion when ignited. Keeping the lid open allows for proper ventilation and helps the gas to dissipate safely.

What Is a Lighting Hook for a Gas Grill?

A lighting hook for a gas grill is a long metal stick with a coiled piece on the end used to manually ignite the grill. One end is designed to hold a match or lighter, while the other end can safely reach the burner. It keeps your hand a safe distance from the flame.

Is It Safe to Light a Gas Grill With a Lighter?

Yes, it is safe to light a gas grill with a lighter, especially when the grill’s igniter isn’t working. Using a long-reach lighter is recommended to keep your hands away from the flames. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and safety guidelines when lighting the grill manually.

Do You Need Lighter Fluid for a Gas Grill?

No, you do not need lighter fluid for a gas grill. Lighter fluid is typically used with charcoal grills to help ignite the charcoal. In a gas grill, the fuel source is either propane or natural gas, and it is ignited with an igniter or manually with a long-reach lighter.

Why Is My Grill Igniter Clicking but Not Lighting?

If your grill igniter is clicking but not lighting, it could be due to several reasons such as a faulty igniter, a blocked burner, a misaligned or dirty electrode a loose connection on your gas tank, or an empty gas tank. Solutions include cleaning the electrode, checking for proper gas flow, or replacing a worn igniter.

Final Thoughts on Our How to Light a Gas Grill Guide

If you want to master the art of grilling on a gas grill, understanding how to safely light and troubleshoot it should be your first step.

By following the steps and troubleshooting processes in this guide, you should be able to light your grill with ease and tackle any issues that pop up.

Remember to always keep an eye out for leaks, keep your grill clean, and turn your gas flow off at the first sign of any issues.

If you have any questions or grill lighting issues of your own, let us know in the comments, and we’ll do our best to answer them. If not, go forth and light your grill with confidence!

Cheers,

Pat G.

Next Steps:

What Is a Gas Grill Regulator

Troubleshooting Gas Grill Regulator Problems

A long handled match with flames.

How to Manually Light a Gas Grill Safely

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DisclosureAt The Grilling Life, I am committed to researching and writing thoughtful, informative and editorially independent reviews of the best products for your outdoor cooking needs.  If you like what I do, you can support me through my chosen links, which earn me a commission.  This allows me to continue sharing with you my love for all things barbecue.  Your support is truly appreciated.

Patrick Ginise

A backyard warrior, certified carnivore, lover of good whiskey, grill master and I’m Living The Grilling Life!

I have a passion for cooking with live fire and smoke, no matter the weather. I’m a real person just like you, who loves outdoor cooking and BBQ. Food, fun, and time spent with family and friends are what it’s all about! It is my mission to take my passion and knowledge for outdoor cooking and all things BBQ and share this expertise in techniques and grilling equipment with you. In other words, Living The Grilling Life!

I have personally tested over 150+ Grills and Smokers and hundreds of grilling thermometers, temperature controllers, grill brushes, grilling tools, fire starters, and other BBQ products.