My Traeger smoker is consistently blowing the GFCI switch when I use it, and I can’t figure out why. It seems this problem is not uncommon, and there are no solutions out there.

In the early 2000s, my best bud gave me a Lil Tex Traeger pellet smoker. It had been well loved already, but it was a great addition to my patio. I used it, the upgraded the temperature control panel, and used it a lot more. There was no question that it would come to California with us.

A couple weeks ago, it started acting up. Specifically, it would blow the GFCI switch of the circuit it was plugged into. Not the house’s circuit breaker. Just the GFCI switch.

Online discussion groups suggested that the hot rod could be the culprit, so I went to the local Ace Hardware store, bought a replacement, and replaced the thing.

The smoker worked for a little while, but it was unreliable. Soon, it became reliably non-functions. Five minutes into a smoke, it would blow the GFCI switch.

I went online again, looking for troubleshooting guides. I found this guide at the Trager web site. It provided steps for isolating the source of the short in the grill.

THe guide basically said to disconnect all the components from the power, and then run the grill for five minutes with each component plugged in, one at a time. At no point in this test did the smoker trip the GFCI.

I called Traeger to ask for pointers on troubleshooting, telling them that I went through their troubleshooting process. “Then it’s the control panel,” the first specialist told me. They proceeded to try to sell me one (part number BAC236), but I preferred to buy local.

And then I ordered an aftermarket control panel through Amazon. Turns out I bought part number BAC365 (the “Digital Pro Thermometer”), which was an upgrade from what I had. And it worked exactly the same way as the control panel I was using. GFCI switch was thrown five minutes into a smoke. I called Traeger back and they told me again that it was the control panel, and that I needed to use part BAC236.

So I ordered BAC236 from them. And an aftermarket version from Amazon. But today I’m not a patient person. I decided to take the smoker apart and do a close inspection of the wires for fraying or any other source of possible electrical shorts. I found nothing.

But it did lead me to try this: run the smoker for five minutes with all the components plugged into the control panel except the hot rod. When I did that, the smoker worked great. It ran for ten minutes with not issues. At that point, I powered it down, plugged in the hot rod, and restarted the smoker.

In 1.5 minutes, it blew the GFCI switch!

It feels like the (new) hot rod is the culprit.

Would it have been so difficult for the Traeger support experts to suggest I do this? It would have saved me the effort of buying and returning two control panels. Color me disappointed with them.

Update: I’ve learned through social media conversations with other pellet smoker people, that GFCI switches tend to weaken over time. The more a GFCI switch gets thrown, the easier it is to throw that switch the next time. This might be why I’m having troubles with my smoker. Said another way, I’m not having trouble with my smoker. I’m having trouble with my house’s electrical system. Maybe.