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 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. Furthermore, if the RTD is the problem to provide videos/tips on how to replace it. I’ve included the official how to videos guides from Traeger for both first-generation and pro series grills.
With this post, I’ll discuss how to change/replace the RTD Temperature probe on a Traeger pellet grill: Image – Amazon.com
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.
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 digital thermostat.
However, the RTD probe 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.
Introduction On The Traeger RTD Temperature Sensor
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 state 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 temperature probe is faulty you should give the temperature probe and the result of the grill a thorough clean. This way you will know that there is nothing obstructing efficient combustion and the temperature probe is not covered in grease/fat stopping it getting an accurate reading. I have a detailed post on how to clean a pellet grill if your 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 they 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 sensor, 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. Hence, while they will work for many many years in a stationary pellet stove/boiler they may not last as long in a pellet grill. Grills 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 may break.
RTD temperature sensors are notoriously fragile: Image – Amazon.com
After you have thoroughly cleaned the grill/sensor and put some good quality pellets in the hopper fire up the grill. To test the RTD sensor you are going to need another thermometer/temperature sensor monitoring the internal temperature of the grill. Now, many other pellet grill brands and even portable pellet grills have analogue temperature dials built into the grill lid, but Traeger doesnt. Why that’s the case, who knows, but when it comes to being able to check if the RTD sensor is faulty its definitely a problem.
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 and over time 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 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 thermostat controller is faulty. As stated previously, the controller is a lot more expensive than a new temperature sensor.
Therefore, first, change the temperature sensor as discussed below. Then re-run the fire up the 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 the first step 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.
I’ve included two official videos below from Traeger. The first video covers how to change the RTD thermocouple on older grills and current base models. The second video covers the process on the premium end Pro Series grills with the updated digital thermostat controller.
As shown in the video above, the green connector block on the back of the control panel is where the RTD sensor leads connect to. Once these wires are loose from the control panel you can then remove the temperature sensor from inside the grill and remove it. Installing the new probe is simply a reversal of this process. The problem is from reading the various forums etc, on some Traeger grills, this process is easier said than done.
On some models such as the Tailgater, the route the RTD wires take from the control panel into the grill are more obstructed. Therefore, in some cases, you may have to actually remove the hopper to change over the RTD sensor. This is also the case as you can see below with Traeger Pro series, where the hopper has to be removed to access the sensor.
Conclusions On Traeger Temperature Probe Replacement
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.