Propane Smoker / Needle Valve Issue

Discussion in 'Propane Smokers' started by lucrosus, Jun 17, 2013.

  1. Ok, I figured I'd reach out to the forum community for some help.

    For starters, I'm using a Master Forge 2-door propane smoker, Lowe's cheapo model.  I noticed on my last smoke that I was having to throttle the gas using the manufacturers burner control.  But the knob on the front and the actual valve itself has a lot of play in it, such that I could spin the knob a good 1/4" to 1/2" either direction before it actually "grabbed" the gas valve to make the change.  This made it a bit touchy to dial in the right burner setting.  I actually found it more efficient to set the burner, and then adjust the side vents to let more/less cold air in.  This is fine for now, but I fear in the winter that's going to be an issue.

    Anyway, I've read numerous posts on here and other places about the wonders of a needle valve.  So I grabbed one off Amazon.  I think it was King Kooker by branding, but from what I can tell the thing is nearly identical to the Bayou one so many people talk about, right down to the stamping marks on the sides and it being 1/4" threads - only a minor issue (or so I think) to get it mated into the 3/8" propane line for the burner.

    After a trip to the local big box hardware store, I had enough brass fittings (including flared type male for gas) to accommodate the valve.  I decided to install it where the flex hose (after the regulator) mates to the hard line on the smoker burner.  After some wrenching and some soapy leak checking, I tried to light the burner...Nothing.  I made sure the tank valve was open, I made sure the needle valve was open, nothing.  I swapped from a half-full propane tank to a full tank, nothing.

    I took the valve/fitting assembly off, hooked up the full tank with the propane line as the manufacturer intended, and the thing lit right off.  Tried the half-tank, and again the thing lit right off.

    I checked the valve assembly - I can blow air through that very easily, so I know the valve isn't plugged.

    Any thoughts on what's going on?  I've seen enough forum posts using the 1/4" needle valve to assume it should work.  Did I miss something in the fittings I used that's tricking the regulator into thinking there's a leak and its shutting off gas flow?  Or somehow putting back-pressure on the regulator and it's knocking the flow off for that?

    With the needle valve installed, I don't hear any gas flow through the burner when I try to light it.  Without the valve, there is a clear audible flow of gas to the burner before I push the igniter.

    Would love some help on this.  My smoker isn't dead in the water by any means, but I was planning to use the needle valve for a little better fine tuning.
  2. Try this.  Close the valve on the propane tank.  Make sure the valve on your smoker is closed.  Make sure the needle valve is closed.

    Open the valve on the propane tank all the way until the handle stops.  Open the needle valve 4 full turns.  Slowly open the valve on the smoker to the medium position.  You should hear propane flowing.  Immediately light the burner if you hear propane flowing.
  3. Thanks, I'll give that a shot when I get home tonight.  That's also what I heard from some buddies I work with.  I figure I'm missing something simple like flooding the line with gas "tricking" the regulator into thinking its venting to atmosphere and kicking off based on high flow.
  4. The propane tanks do have high flow limiters.  You might be tripping the limiter, stopping the gas flow.

    let us know if that solves your problem.
  5. Success!

    Thanks for the tips.  Apparently my patience and time wore thin yesterday when trying things out.  So, for anyone else who ends up with the King Kooker needle valve, here's what I discovered (and thanks for the tips about starting very low on the needle valve):

    I can get what visually looks like full burner flow at one full turn on the needle valve, and hi setting on the burner control knob.  This should give plenty of room to go up if I am, in fact,not at full burner flow.

    I still get very good burner condition at roughly one-half turn (180° rotation) open on the needle valve, hi setting on the burner control knob.  I have an untrained eye, the burner still looked pretty strong at this point, maybe not max but not much reduction.

    I didn't see any drastic change to burner quality until I approach about one-quarter turn (90°) open on the needle valve.  The flame quickly goes from visually strong to visually weak very quickly between one-half and one-quarter turn open.  If I close it down much more below one-quarter turn, I can hear the burner "cavitating" for lack of a better term - sputtering as if there's not enough gas.  Should give me very good low control.

    So, thanks again for the tips.  My initial method was to start with the tank closed, the burner knob off, but the needle valve wide open, with the plan to open the tank, open the control knob and light the burner then back it down with the needle valve.  I'll have to dig out my old thermodynamics books some day and figure out exactly whats going on.  My guess is something in the design of the valve at fully open is throttling the propane gas, causing localized pressure drop which the regulator is picking up as a high flow situation due to a lack of appropriate back pressure - as if the regulator is seeing it as if it is disconnected and just an open tank and hose.
  6. Glad to hear that you got it working!  Now, SMOKE ON!  and don't forget the Q VUE!

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