Like lot of other people, I've been very tempted by the specs of the Lowe'e CB/TEC grill and have been lurking
here for a couple of months, gleaning information from all the discussions on this grill. All I have to say is that I'm both glad AND dissapointed that I haven't bought one of these. Glad I held off because of all the problems being exposed during its first full year on the market, but dissapointed because this grill has great specifications, cooks really well (when working properly) and is sold at a great price. It sounded too good to be true and apparently may be too good to be true.
When I saw the pictures of the busted screws, I decided I had to chime in. I'm a mechanical engineer and have worked with austenitic (300 series) stainless steels for over two decades. I'm very familiar with 304SS, so when I saw the CB claims of a stainless steel grill, I immediately went to Lowe's with a magnet in my pocket. I was pleasantly surprized to find that almost all of the CB/TEC grill panels are non-magnetic, thus most likely 304 SS. I did find a couple of sheets of magnetic meterial on the inside - they are the two panels that support the drip tray (it was a while ago when I did this check, so I might be off on the exact purpose of the panels). I also suspected, but did not verify that some of the fasteners would not be 304 either. "No big deal" I said to myself, I'll just get some proper 304 fasteners and replace every one on the grill if I have to.
I was ready to plunk down the $499 sale price that Lowe's wanted for the 3-burner unit and was waiting for my brother-in-law to help me get it home with his truck, but Lowe's has since raised the price back up to $699 so I held off. At this price, considering all the problems I've been reading about (melting knobs, lousy rotisserie design), it is not as great a bargain as it appears. This recent rash of TEC burner screws popping off has really turned me off.
All the pictures posted show brittle fractures. Annealed 304SS is a very ductile material and will not fail in that way. At grilling temperatures, it will become a bit weaker, but not brittle. The fact that these fasteners rusted and suffered a brittle failure tells me that they are just cheap junk. Why would CB save a few pennies on the fasteners, when they spent the considerable $$ on 304 panels for the entire grill housing?? I suppose that the TEC burner, screws and all, may have been procured from a third party source that provided the crappy fasteners.
So what am I to do? I'm always looking for a bargain, and I'd rather not spend twice as much for a more reliable product from a manufacturer with a better reputation - but in the long run this might be the better option. I suppose that I can buy this grill (but only if Lowe's brings it back down to $499) and replace the ALL the fasteners, but I'm worried that there are too many things going wrong with this product - where there's smoke, there's fire!! Besides, why should I have to field-engineer CB's bad design. Will they put out an improved product in 2008 - who knows??
I apologize for the rant and the lecture on materials and fasteners, but I had to get it off my chest. These things aren't hard to engineer and it drives me nuts
when I see this degree of poor execution being offered to consumers as a quality product.