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Modifying the BBQ Guru Competitor

WileECoyoteWileECoyote Posts: 516
edited 10:07AM in EggHead Forum
I recently purchased a BBQ Guru Competitor kit from someone that had already sold their egg. The kit was like new with very little usage except the pit probe wire was melted in one spot and it only worked when held in a certain position. I was going to buy a replacement probe set from the BBQ Guru website but they cost anywhere from $53 to $65 after shipping which I thought was pretty steep considering that I only paid $40 for my Maverick ET-73 which included two higher quality probes and a great wireless monitor as well. I decided to attempt a repair of the Competitor probes since I didn’t have anything to lose.

The first thing I did was to disassemble the Competitor probes including removal of the connector plug and thermocouple junctions. I was disappointed to see that each probe wire contains two very thin single-strand conductors that are simply stripped, twisted together, and soldered with a special compound to form a crude thermocouple. The soldered wire junction is then enclosed in a thin plastic sleeve which is inserted into the metal probe body and crimped in place. I have disassembled and repaired a few other temperature probes including some expensive lab-grade thermocouples and all of those had slightly thicker conductors and a more significant weld material at the junction end. They were also protected by thicker insulation made from braided stainless steel or fiberglass that is rated up to 1000°F or higher, versus the thin plastic coating on the Competitor probes that is only rated up to 400°F. The Competitor manual states that the probe wires were made thin to avoid air leaks where they pass through the gasket which is a nice idea; however this made the wires more fragile as the previous owner found out when his pit probe wire melted and the unit quit working.

At this point I wasn’t optimistic about repairing the Competitor probes so I did some testing to see if the Maverick probes could work on the Competitor. Unfortunately the Competitor probes work on a very low resistance range which was between 0Ω and 20Ω during all of my testing. The Maverick probes and my other thermocouples were up in the 100kΩ range and above so they obviously use a different thermocouple compound which I believe is more durable and more accurate. Interchangeable probes were now out of the question so I decided to attempt a complete rebuild of the Competitor probes including a slight customization.

The first thing I did was to open the Competitor case and add two submini 3/32” phone plug jacks: one for the pit probe and one for the meat probe just like the Maverick unit. This will allow me to use the Competitor with only one probe connected instead of having both probes connected and the unused probe hanging from the case. I left the Competitor’s proprietary 4-pin connector in place so that I could still use an original BBQ Guru probe set later if desired.

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Next I removed the 4-pin plug and separated the probe wires. Both probes were shorter than I wanted so I soldered an extension wire onto each probe making them about 6’ long. Then I soldered a right-angle submini 3/32” phone plug onto each probe and protected all solder joints and strain points with high-temperature heat shrink tubing. I also reinforced the thermocouple junctions and reinstalled them inside the metal probe covers. Finally I covered both probe wires with high-temperature black wire sleeving that is rated up to 1000°F and beyond. The resulting probes are much longer, significantly more durable and heat-resistant, easier to handle without tangling, and easier to connect and remove individually when needed.

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I fired up the Competitor unit fully expecting the probes to fail or at least need recalibrated but to my surprise they worked just fine and both were within 5°F of the actual temperature based on several boiling water tests. If you have a BBQ Guru Competitor unit with a defective probe or if you sometimes use it with only one probe then you might consider making a similar modification to your unit. It was a pretty easy project that took less than an hour and cost less than $10 so it was well worth the investment for my needs. It may be possible to find replacement probes that work in the same range for a lot less money and if so then this would save you some cash as well.

Comments

  • bubba timbubba tim Posts: 3,216
    Nice work. You may want to contact BBQ Guru folks and offer to build them a better mouse trap or sell them yourself on line. I have the Digi II and if you can make one for that unit for above 800 degrees, I will buy one. For real!
    SEE YOU IN FLORIDA, March 14th and 15th 2014 http://www.sunshinestateeggfest.com You must master temp, smoke, and time to achive moisture, taste, and texture! Visit www.bubbatim.com for BRISKET HELP
  • EdemitchEdemitch Posts: 196
    VERY NICE WORK
  • I noticed that the DigiQ II model has separate probe jacks so BBQ Guru has already corrected that issue on the newer units.

    I don't know why they don't make the probes heat resistant up to at least 700°F since so many people cook steaks, pizza, and other goodies at high temperatures and it would be nice to use the controllers to get the fire up to the right temperature even if you didn't need to use the meat probe at those temps.

    It is fairly cheap and easy to build probe wires that can withstand the higher temps so the only reason I can think of is that they don't want to spend the extra money to buy good quality thermocouples and improve the controller to handle the higher temps.

    I also wish they would just make all probe wires longer, at least 6' each, since the short wires are a real hassle and if people didn't need the extra length they could always tie up the excess wire. My guess is that they include short probes and then sell the longer probes to make more money. I suspect this is also why they used the proprietary 4-pin connector on the Competitor model. You can't buy those probes anywhere else which is probably why their replacement probes cost so much even though they are only worth about 1/3 to 1/2 the price.

    If you have a DigiQ II then you can easily modify your probes in the same manner by simply adding the protective high-temp sleeving. I did this to my Maverick probes and it works great. They don't tangle, are virtually fire proof, and I don't need to wrap them with foil or worry about the stainless braid getting dirty. I still have some excess sleeving and had offered to sell it by the foot at my cost to forum members a few weeks ago. If anyone needs sleeving then send me an email through this forum and let me know how many feet you want. It is only $0.72 per foot and I will ship it to you for free. See the original post here for more detail.
  • Grandpas GrubGrandpas Grub Posts: 14,226
    Nice job. Thanks for posting, Kent
  • For those that want probe covers: I have a very good anti-spam service which blocks all spam so you will immediately receive an email asking you to click on a link to confirm the message that you sent via the egghead forum. If you do not click on the confirmation link then I will not receive your email.

    I have already received several probe cover requests so I am almost out of the sleeving material but I will fill orders until my excess is gone. If you have trouble reaching me via email then post a note to this thread.
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