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Ed54

Refurbing a Sure Heat / Costco Sonoma

2 posts in this topic

My 2004 Sonoma, made for Costco by Sure Heat, had outlived its lifespan. I was going to buy a new one, until I started pricing replacements. Seems like anything with quality costs at least $1K. I live in Tampa, Florida, and it is hot and humid here. From June thru September it rains almost every day, so anything metal is going to rust through in a few years. While overall a budget grill, the Sonoma did have a heavy gauge stainless body and 5/16" stainless rod grates. I decided to try refurbing it.

 

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The original tube burners lasted a couple of years. The cast iron burners I replaced them with lasted about 5 years, until they rusted so bad that they broke in half. I decided to replace them with cast stainless burners. They are pricey at $85 each, but they are super heavy duty and I figured they would hold up to the environment.

 

Unfortunately, the brackets for the original burners would not fit the new stainless burners. In addition, the back set of brackets for heat tents were nearly rusted through.

 

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I fabricated replacement brackets from 1/8"x1"x1" stainless steel angle. That is very heavy duty material so I expect it to last.

 

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The burners fit the brackets well.

 

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The replacement heat tents are also stainless, and according to my measurements are 12 gauge so they should last a while.

 

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The biggest challenge was replacing the valve manifold. The valves were sticking pretty bad, due to valve grease deterioration. I thought I might be able to salvage them, but the pipe manifold was also corroded to the point where it would not last more than a few more years. The manifold was made of square steel tube, with machined slots for the bolt-through valves, so replicating it would be hard.

 

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In the end I decided to replace both the manifold and valves. In this particular grill the valves are mounted directly to the body of the grill, with no mounting bracket for the manifold, so that limited my choice in valves. I finally found a clamp-on valve with the right dimensions and a mounting bracket that appeared to fit.

 

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The valves are designed to clamp onto a 5/8" OD tube. Many grills use that setup, usually with painted steel tube. Fabricating that would require welding, so I began looking for alternatives. Finally settled on 1/2" copper plumbing pipe. I brazed a cap on one end and a threaded adapter on the other end to connect to the LP hose. I chose brazing with CuP rod rather than soldering because the melting point is much higher. I leak tested it and it came out great. Using copper is a bit unusual, so I will keep a close watch on it to see how it holds up. If I have any problems I may switch to brass tube.

 

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A few notes about making the manifold: drilling accurate holes for the valves was key. The angle of the valves depends on the location of the hole. Unless all three holes are lined up exactly on the top of the pipe, the valve orifices will not line up with the burner openings. Marking a line perfectly parallel to the pipe length was hard. I finally would up using a mill line that was left on the pipe when it was drawn during manufacture. A drill press, automatic center punch, and carbide scribe were essential tools. It took 3 tries, but copper pipe is cheap enough for trial and error.

 

So here is the grill all fired up and ready to cook. The new burners are rated for 15K each. The closest drill bit I could find to drill the orifice was 1.2mm, which corresponds to a 3/64 orifice, or about 15500 BTU. Should be good, but I'm a little worried that I overdid it, because this thing is hot! It heats to cooking temperature in less than 5 minutes, and that is with only 2 burners. The heat plates are glowing dull red on the ends. Note that I left the right burner space empty. I plan to install a sear burner later.

 

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It cooks awesome. Have just done burgers so far, but they cooked in 6 minutes with no burns or flare ups. Given the heavy stainless materials I used, I expect this thing to last at least 10 years.

 

I got all my parts from CLA grills, and was very happy with their products and service.

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Looks like you did a nice job and saved it from the scrap heap

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