If you are having trouble with your Traeger grill reaching or exceeding the temperature set on the digital thermostat, there could be several reasons for this. There could be an issue, such as an auger jam, or maybe its an issue with the hot rod igniter or induction fan. There could even be an issue with the wood pellets themselves, they may have gone bad. However, they could be another issue. The temperature probe (RTD sensor) within the pellet grill may be faulty. With this post, I wanted to discuss the process of how to identify if it is the RTD temperature probe which is the problem. Right, let’s get into this!
IMPORTANT: Check out my Traeger error codes article if your grill won’t turn on, but you don’t know what the issue actually is.
Disclaimer: Hey! By the way… any links on this page that lead to products on Amazon or other sites are affiliate links, and I earn a commission if you make a purchase.
Introduction On The Traeger RTD Temperature Sensor
If your pellet grill cannot achieve or maintain a consistent temperature, your ability to use that often expensive grill to produce the quality of food you’re after will be severely impacted. Now, in some cases, the temperature sensor/RTD probe may not actually be the problem, it could be the control panel.
However, changing the RTD sensor is significantly cheaper than replacing the digital thermostat. Therefore, changing/replacing the temperature sensor is often the best place to start to try and address any temperature-related problems with your Traeger pellet grill.
Before you even consider removing the temperature sensor in your Traeger pellet grill, you need to try and discover if that is actually the problem. As referenced above, you first need to evaluate the BBQ wood pellets you are using. Do they have good integrity, for instance, do they snap cleanly and have a surface shine?
Secondly, are there lots of fines/dust within the pellets? Excessive fines can significantly impact the combustion process and reduce the temperature of the fire. As discussed in my best Traeger accessories post, having some means to sieve the pellets before you put them in the hopper is a very good idea.
Now in the video above, Traeger states to ‘only use Traeger grill pellets‘, well you should expect them to say that. Traeger makes their own pellets, so they want to keep you in their ‘sales ecosystem’.
The reality is there are lots of high-quality pellet manufacturers out there, as I discuss in my best BBQ wood pellets post.
However, I do agree with the video above in that before you determine the RTD temperature sensor is faulty, you should give the temperature sensor and the result of the grill a thorough clean.
This way, you will know that there is nothing obstructing efficient combustion and that the temperature sensor is not covered in grease/fat, stopping it from getting an accurate reading. I have a detailed post on how to clean a pellet grill if you’re not sure how to do it.
How To Test If The RTD Temperature Sensor Is Faulty?
First, I thought I should briefly discuss what an RTD temperature sensor is and why it can develop a fault and stop working. Well, RTD stands for Resistance Temperature Detector.
As you can see from Wiki, there are several different designs of RTD sensors, but they are generally all based on the same principle using a piece of fine wire.
The problem is while they are very accurate, RTD sensors are notoriously fragile. Grills/smokers are commonly moved around, and depending on how gently the grill is moved around, especially if the grill/RTD sensor is warm, that fine wire inside may break.
After you have thoroughly cleaned the grill/sensor put some good-quality pellets in the hopper and fire up the grill. To test the RTD sensor, you are going to need another thermometer/temperature sensor to monitor the internal temperature of the grill.
Oven Thermometer or Heat Gun?
To check if the RTD sensor is faulty, you have two choices. You can place an oven thermometer within the Traeger pellet grill on the rack as close to the temperature probe as possible. Over time you would check and compare the readout on the digital readout on the grill against the oven thermometer.
However, that’s not going to tell you the temperature of the actual RTD sensor. Therefore, the other alternative is to use an infrared heat gun.
An infrared heat gun is the best/easiest means to check if the RTD temperature sensor on your Traeger pellet grill is working properly: Image – Amazon.com
With a good aim with the heat gun directly aimed at the RTD temperature sensor, you should expect to see the results between the heat gun and the digital readout within a few degrees of each other.
If that’s not the case, the temperature sensor or digital controller is faulty. As stated previously, the controller is a lot more expensive than a new temperature sensor.
Therefore, first, change the RTD temperature sensor as discussed below. Then re-run the fire-up test with the heat gun. If the temperature results still don’t match, you will then have to change the digital temperature controller. I have a post on how to replace/upgrade a Traeger control panel.
How To Change The Traeger’s RTD Temperature Sensor
If, after following the steps above, you have determined you need to change the RTD temperature sensor in your Traeger pellet grill, you’re going to need a replacement. You can purchase replacement RTD sensors directly from Traeger or from Amazon through the links below.
The first step in the replacement process is to isolate the grill from 110V power. You should not be removing the digital temperature control panel etc, while the grill is still plugged in.
Legacy Traeger Grills RTD Replacement Process
If you own a first-generation Traeger Pro Series model or similar, the video below is the one you’ll want to want to watch on the RTD sensor replacement process.
As shown in the video above, the green connector block on the back of the control panel is where the RTD sensor leads connect. Once these wires are loose from the control panel, you can then remove the temperature sensor from inside the grill and remove it.
On some models, such as the Tailgater, the route the RTD wires take from the control panel into the grill is more obstructed. Therefore, in some cases, you may have to actually remove the hopper to change over the RTD sensor.
Gen 2 Pro Series RTD Replacement Process
If you own a Traeger Pro Series Gen 2, then as per the video below, you are going to have to remove the hopper to remove and replace the RTD sensor.
Traeger Ironwood RTD Replacement Process
If you own a Traeger Ironwood, just like in the Pro Series video above, the hopper will need to be removed to access and replace the RTD sensor. However, there are several more steps involved.
Ironwood models have side heat deflectors which need to be moved first. Furthermore, on Ironwood models, the hopper is bolted to the cooking chamber, not screwed like on the Pro Series.
Traeger Timberline RTD Replacement Process
If you own a Gen 1 Timberline model, then as you can see in the video below, you don’t actually have to remove the hopper to replace the RTD sensor.
The process does require the removal of the internal heat shield and the removal of the lower access panel under the hopper and control panel. However, overall the replacement process is the simplest of all the Traeger models.
It is important to note, the video above is only applicable to Gen 1 Timberline models, its not applicable to Gen 2 Timberline models. As I discuss in my Timberline Gen 1 vs Gen 2 article, the differences between the models are significant.
At this point, Traeger has not released a video on how to replace the RTD sensor on Gen 2 Timberline models. However, I will update this article once that video becomes available.
Final Thoughts On The Traeger RTD Probe Replacement Process
If you are having problems with the temperature regulation on your Traeger pellet grill, as stated above, you first need to try and work out if the temperature sensor is actually the problem.
Check the quality of your pellets and clean the grill. After running through the fire-up test stated above with the oven thermometer/heat gun, if the results don’t match, then the next step is changing the RTD temperature sensor.
It may not solve the problem, the issue may actually be with the digital control panel. However, its a much cheaper potential fix to replace the RTD sensor first. But if your Traeger grill fails to turn on, there could be a range of potential issues.
Thanks for reading, I hope the information/videos above help you to fix the temperature problems on your Traeger grill. Please check out my Wood Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide for more of my posts. 🙂
Back in 2007 when I first become aware of pellet grills and smokers the only brand I was really aware of was Traeger. Traeger is really where this whole concept of cooking with pellets started in the 1980s. It was a ‘slow burner’ (pardon the pun) but since the 2010s is really when pellet grills and smokers started to get mainstream awareness, discussed alongside gas and charcoal grills. There are now over 30 pellet grill/smoker brands that I’m aware of, and the link above goes to my A to Z list of brands article.
Now, you may already be aware of a few of the other brands such as Pit Boss, Camp Chef, Z Grills and I’m sure you are aware of Weber, though you may not have known they have entered the pellet grill game. However, they are now many, many more brands to look into. Some may be what are commonly referred to as ‘Traeger clones’, but many others are offering their own unique designs and features.
A pellet grill/smoker is only as good as the BBQ pellets you put into it. The type/quality of the BBQ wood pellets you use will impact temperature performance and smoke flavour. There are many pellet flavours including Apple, Hickory, Mapel, Oak and Walnut to name but a few. However, some brands are hardwood blended pellets whereas others are 100% single wood species.
In this article, I provide details on over 20 brands of BBQ wood pellets, their range of flavours, whether they are 100% single wood species or hardwood blended pellets, their typical price and where they are available. I also provide tips on how to get the best deal when buying BBQ wood pellets and how to test pellet quality. Finally, I discuss the new kid on the block, charcoal pellets and their special attributes compared to all other hardwood BBQ pellets.