charcoal grill won’t stay lit: Reasons and Solution

A common issue that charcoal a grill user faces is the charcoal not staying lit. This problem can be frustrating and ruin a perfectly planned outdoor cooking experience. Several factors can cause a charcoal grill to go out, including improper ventilation, low-quality charcoal, or a malfunctioning ignition system. 

The charcoal grill won't stay lit

In this brief, we will explore some common causes and potential solutions to help you keep your charcoal grill lit and your outdoor cookouts successful.

Charcoal grill won’t stay lit: Causes and Solution

Here I have listed all the possible reasons for charcoal not staying lit, also I have shared solutions according to it. Check if you can relate with any of the causes below.  

Charcoal grill won't stay lit: Causes and Solution
Charcoal grill won’t stay lit: Causes and Solution

Reason 1: Improper Ventilation

One of the most common reasons for a charcoal grill not staying lit is improper ventilation. When the grill is not getting enough oxygen, it can cause the flames to die down, and the charcoal will not burn correctly.

Solution: Adjust the Vents

To solve this issue, you must ensure your grill’s vents are fully open. This allows air to flow freely into the grill, providing the oxygen the charcoal needs to stay lit. Check the vents regularly to ensure they are not clogged with ash or debris that can impede airflow.

Reason 2: Low-Quality Charcoal

The quality of your charcoal can significantly impact the grill’s ability to stay lit. Low-quality charcoal contains a lot of fillers and chemicals that make it harder to ignite and keep burning.

Characteristic Of Good Quality Charcoal:

  • Good quality charcoal should be hard, To test the hardness, try to break a piece of charcoal. If it breaks easily, it may be a sign of lower quality.
  • A high-quality charcoal will have a low ash content, indicating that it burns cleanly and efficiently.
  • The higher the carbon content, the better the quality of the charcoal. Look for charcoal that has a carbon content of at least 75%.
  • Good quality charcoal should have a neutral or slightly woody odor. If the charcoal smells strongly of chemicals or has an off-putting odor, it may not be of good quality.

Solution: Invest in High-Quality Charcoal

Invest in high-quality charcoal, preferably made from hardwood that will burn longer and hotter, making it easier to keep the grill lit. You can also look for charcoal specifically designed for grilling, which will have a consistent size and density.

Reason 3: Ignition System Malfunction

There are a few different ways that a malfunctioning ignition system can cause problems with charcoal lighting. For example:

Ignition System Malfunction
Ignition System Malfunction
  • Insufficient spark: If the ignition system is not producing a strong enough spark, it may not be able to ignite the charcoal, or the charcoal may only partially ignite and then go out.
  • Malfunctioning flame sensor: Some grills use a flame sensor to detect when the charcoal has ignited, and then automatically shut off the igniter. If the flame sensor is not working properly, it may not detect the charcoal igniting, and the igniter may continue to run, which can prevent the charcoal from staying lit.
  • Clogged burner tubes: If the burner tubes are clogged with debris or rust, they may not produce a consistent flame, which can prevent the charcoal from igniting or staying lit.

Solution: Check and Replace the Ignition System

To solve this issue, you must check the ignition system’s components, including the spark plug, battery, and wires. If any of these components are damaged or worn, they may need to be replaced. If your grill does not have an ignition system, you can use a chimney starter or a lighter fluid to light the charcoal.

Reason 4: Charcoal Placement

If the charcoal is not placed correctly in the grill, it can affect its ability to stay lit. If the charcoal is too tightly packed or unevenly distributed, it can cause the flames to die down or the charcoal to burn unevenly.

Solution: Arrange the Charcoal Correctly

To solve this issue, you must arrange the charcoal correctly in the grill. Use a charcoal chimney starter to light the charcoal before adding it to the grill, and make sure the charcoal is evenly distributed across the grill. Avoid packing the charcoal too tightly, as this can impede airflow and cause the flames to die.

Reason 5: Windy Weather

Strong winds can cause your charcoal grill to go out, as they can blow out the flames and cause the charcoal to cool down.

Solution: Create a Windbreak

You need to create a windbreak around the grill to solve this issue. You can use a windscreen, such as a large piece of cardboard or metal, to block the wind and protect the flames. Alternatively, you can position the grill in a sheltered area, such as under a tree or beside a wall, to protect it from the wind.

Tips to Ensure a Charcoal Grill Stays Lit

In addition to the solutions mentioned above, here are some additional tips to help ensure that your charcoal grill stays lit:

Tips to Ensure a Charcoal Grill Stays Lit
Tips to Ensure a Charcoal Grill Stays Lit
  • Use a clean grill grate and remove any ash buildup to improve airflow.
  • Keep a close eye on the grill temperature and adjust the vents to maintain consistent heat.
  • Avoid adding too much charcoal at once, as this can cause the temperature to spike and drop quickly.
  • Consider using a charcoal basket to keep it in place and prevent it from shifting around during cooking.

Other articles regarding charcoal grill you may find useful: How To Put Out Charcoal After Grilling? | How To Fix A Hole In The Bottom Of A Charcoal Grill?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do I close the lid after lighting charcoal?

Yes, closing the lid after lighting charcoal on a grill is recommended. This helps to regulate the airflow and maintain a consistent temperature for even cooking.

Why does my charcoal burn out so fast?

Your charcoal may burn out quickly due to a lack of oxygen, too much ash buildup, or using low-quality charcoal that burns too quickly. Proper ventilation, regular cleaning, and using high-quality charcoal can help prevent this issue.

Does charcoal burn faster with the lid on or off?

Charcoal burns faster with the lid off because the increased oxygen flow allows for more combustion and faster burning. However, closing the lid helps regulate the temperature and can provide a smokier flavor to the food.

Can you relight charcoal while cooking?

Yes, you can relight charcoal while cooking if needed. Add more charcoal to the grill and light it separately before spreading it to the other coals. Make sure to adjust the vents as needed to maintain a consistent temperature.


A charcoal grill that won’t stay lit can be frustrating, especially when you’re in the middle of cooking. Several factors, including low-quality charcoal, lack of airflow, and weather conditions, can cause the issue. 

However, by following best practices such as using high-quality charcoal, regular cleaning, and proper ventilation, you can maintain the grill’s performance and prevent the issue from happening again. With these solutions, you can enjoy a perfectly cooked meal whenever you use your charcoal grill.

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