When Thomas Leali tries to clean his grill, he makes a bigger mess.
"This thing is like crumbling in my hand," Leali said. "You have this giant hole. I can stick my whole fist through it."
Leali noticed the problem on his Kenmore grill after we first exposed it nearly two years ago.
"Did you know to look before our story?" NewsChanenl 5 Consumer Watchdog Jenn Strathman asked.
"No clue," Leali said.
Since then, the hole in Leali's grill keeps growing. The firebox is a tray that supposed to catch food and grease, but now those drippings are exposed to the propane tank.
"It doesn't take much to ignite the gas into a big dangerous fireball," explained Leali.
Sears knows about the safety issue, and agreed to a free fix after we first brought the problem to their attention. Here's the catch. They're only repairing five grill models, and Leali's grill is not on the list.
"They told me they couldn't determine if it was under warranty unless I paid them $90 to have a technician come out," Leali said.
Frustrated by the price to get this rusty firebox fixed, grillers from across the country are emailing the Consumer Watchdog.
Gary Johnson wrote, "They will only process the claim if we pay for an authorized representative to come out to look at it at a “minimum” $99.99 charge. If they approve it repaired under warranty, the cost of any replacement part is free, but there would be an additional charge for the labor to install it so it could easily exceed the "minimum" $99.99."
Johnson went on to say the grill cost just over $300, and he worried he might come close to paying the same amount for the repair.
On ConsumerAffairs.com, J.J. from New Jersey wrote that his grill is one digit off from one of the models qualifying for a free fix. He said his grill looks identical, but Sears will only offer him 20-percent off a new grill.
"Stand behind the product and do what's right for the consumers," Leali explained.
We've tried turning up the heat on Sears, but the company continues to tell us Kenmore grills are not repair-prone based on its low number of service requests. Sears said its handling the small percentage of customers having issues on a case by case basis. If you have the following model numbers you qualify for a free firebox: 16154, 34176, 34178, 34308 and 23683.
Sears full statement
Kenmore grills are manufactured to our brand’s high standards for quality and the Kenmore brand places the highest priority on the safety of our products and those who use them.
In fact, a leading consumer magazine recently placed Kenmore models in 4 of the top 5 spots within its large grill ratings based on an evaluation that includes consumer feedback with respect to reliability. We are confident, and our experience and low incidence of service requests supports, that Kenmore grills are not repair-prone.
We are confident that the vast majority of Kenmore grill owners have not experienced any service issue. Regardless, Kenmore strives constantly to improve the features and quality of its grills, and our newest models offer the highest level of performance and reliability.
We continue to offer to replace firebox trays on a limited number of Kenmore grills. Sears and the Kenmore brand are providing a complete firebox tray replacement only for the following affected grill models: 16154, 34176, 34178, 34308 and 23683. Both the firebox tray kit and installation are provided at no charge to the customer. Any other complaints regarding any brand of grill purchased at Sears will be handled through our normal customer care process, on a case-by-case basis and in some cases require a service charge."
An overwhelming majority of our members/customers are satisfied with our Kenmore grills and for the relatively small percentage of those who have experienced an issue, we have taken steps to address their needs. If they have questions they should contact our customer care team at 1-800-4-MYHOME / (800) 469-4663.