How To Fix Common Kerosene Heater Problems

Do you have a kerosene heater at home? They are an ideal backup source of heat in the winter if your power were to go out. They are efficient as well, making them a popular choice for homeowners to have on hand.

But, what if something were to go wrong with your backup heater? Like any piece of equipment, kerosene heaters can break or need troubleshooting. We made this guide to help you figure out what is wrong with yours and if it is possible to make the repairs yourself.

kerosene heater problems

Common Kerosene Heater Problems

Wick Will not Raise

When the wick is consistently too low, it is a sign that it has slipped too far down into the unit.

There are a few steps you can take to fix the issue.

  1. First, turn off the heater. If you were using it, you will want to wait until the unit cools down before you touch it. In some cases, you are going to have to change the wick.
  2. Remove the screws that hold the cabinet in place with a screwdriver, then you can lift its handle to take it off.
  3. Remove the knob used to adjust the wick, then when you reassemble it, you should be able to adjust the wick with the knob again.

Note: if your kerosene heater is going out frequently, it could also be a sign that your wick is not raised high enough.

You might need to find a replacement kerosene heater wick if it is too short to burn.

Heater Will Not Light

kerosene heater fuel

There could be a few different reasons as to why your kerosene heater will not light.

  1. First, you will want to check that it has enough fuel. You can do this by removing the fuel tank’s cap and checking. If it seems low, be sure to refill the tank with kerosene.
  2. If that did not help, you can try replacing the batteries for the igniter. You will only need to do this if the ignitor plug is not glowing when you press its button. If replacing the batteries does not help, then you can try replacing the actual igniter plug to fix it.
  3. Once you have done that, lower the wick until it is just touching the igniter plug. Drain all fuel from the tank and take out the wick and replace it. Finally, refill the tank with kerosene.

If you have followed all of those steps, and your heater is still not lighting, then you will want to hire a professional to fix the issue.

For Emergency Heating

If you are in a pinch and need the heater on right away, you can always try lighting it manually until someone can fix the ignition problems.

All you will need is a match. Even though it is simple to do, you will always want to be safe while handling fire.

  1. First, open the body of the heater and use the burner knob to raise the burn chamber and wick.
  2. Light the wick with your match and adjust the size of the flame to the recommended settings for your unit.

Even though it is easy, it can be annoying to do this every time you want to turn the heater on. Be sure that you contact a professional repair service to set up an appointment.

Smoke or Foul Smell

If smoke or a foul smell is coming from your kerosene heater, you will want to act quickly.

This might be a sign that the fuel being burned is not K-1 kerosene, so starting fresh and draining the tank might help.

Check your wick, if it is too high, then lowering it might be all you need to do to correct the issue.

Smoke can also indicate that there is too much air compared to the amount of fuel in your unit. If there is a draft or fan nearby, be sure to move the heater away where it is out of the breeze.

If nothing seems to be stopping the smoke, then wait until the unit has completely cooled and inspect the burner. It may need to be cleaned or even replaced, depending on what state it is in. 

As for a foul smell, it might be caused by the type of fuel your unit is burning. Lower quality fuel often has a bad odor.

Plus, if the wick is installed too low, the fuel does not burn completely, causing that smell. This can be fixed by upgrading to better fuel or raising the wick.

Uneven Flame that Goes Out

If you are experiencing a flame that is flickering or frequently going out, then you will want to drain the fuel tank and remove the wick.

Replace the wick with a new one and refuel the tank with K-1 kerosene.

When you light the wick:

  1. Allow it to burn dry until the flame dims.
  2. Then raise the wick as high as you can and let it burn until it goes out completely.
  3. Wait an hour, then relight the wick manually.
  4. After you have completed these steps, remove the ash from the wick.

Now, your flame will hopefully stop going out!

The Igniter is not Glowing

Before you start trying to fix this issue, be sure that your wick has been able to soak in fuel for an hour before attempting to light it for the first time.

If your igniter is not glowing, you might want to check the batteries before you call a professional to help you.

Replace the old batteries with fresh non-alkaline ones.

If the igniter still is not glowing, then the igniter might be what needs to be replaced. Luckily, many igniter replacements are cost-effective. 

You can prevent this from happening again in the future by always making sure the igniter is above the wick when you light it and quickly removed from the flame.

Heater Will not Shut Off

If your heater is stuck on, you will want to find a way to safely put out the flame before you can fix the problem.

You can use a wet blanket or towel to smother the flame or even try to blow it out. Whatever you decide to do, be sure that you are doing it safely so you do not get burned. 

Wait until the heater has completely cooled down before you move on to these next steps. Take out the burner unit and the wick. If it was not lowering easily, then the wick might be too soiled to use. You can burn it dry or replace it.

Be sure that the next time you turn the heater on, you are being careful to follow the guidelines in your owner’s manual. If it still does not turn off, you will want to safely smother the flame once again. Contact a repair service as soon as you can, they will be able to help you fix the problem.

Other Wick Problems

kerosene heater wick

If something is wrong with your wick, then your whole kerosene heater will be thrown off. These are some of the wick problems you will want to keep an eye out for:

  • Wick has ash build up on it: This might prevent the wick from lighting. Be sure to burn the wick dry to clean it or replace the wick with a new one.
  • Wick has hardened: Tar and debris can stick to the wick, causing it to appear hard. It can occur when the wick was not set to its proper height or the fuel was contaminated with water. It will need to be replaced.
  • Wick is not saturated: This prevents it from making heat correctly. You always want to let the wick soak in kerosene for an hour before its first use or after it has been dry burned. You can do this easily by lowering the wick into the fuel after it is installed in your unit.

Those are the basic wick problems. If you are not sure what is wrong with your wick after cleaning it and allowing it to soak, then you will need to find a replacement that works.

Keep in mind that if you can not figure out what is wrong with your heater, a professional can help. They likely have the experience needed to see what is causing the issue right away.

The Wrap Up

In short, there are quite a few problems that can occur with kerosene heaters. However, there are even more ways to fix them. If something is wrong, be sure to check the wick first. They often are the source of many issues.

Fixing your heater can save you money, but it can be a hassle. If no one at home is familiar with your heating unit, be sure to contact a pro who can fix it for you. If you have any questions, be sure to leave us a comment. We would love to help you!

References:

Kerosene heater images: Cleaning Your Wick on Youtube

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