Kerosene heaters are now very safe for most household heating situations. You can do basic maintenance and kerosene heater repair yourself. This Fix-It Guide on kerosene heater repair tells how a kerosene heater works, what often goes wrong, how to identify the problem, and what parts and tools you will need for kerosene heater repair. It then gives simple step-by-step instructions for how to eliminate the impurities in kerosene, how to burn off a carbonized wick, how to replace a kerosene heater wick, and how to replace an igniter.
Check local laws concerning kerosene heaters. They have been banned in some areas and use is restricted in other areas. Be sure that your heater is legal in your area.
How Does a Kerosene Heater Work?
A kerosene heater is a portable heating unit fueled by kerosene. Kerosene in the fuel tank or sump is absorbed by the wick skirt. At the wick’s top, the kerosene is ignited for primary combustion by a battery-powered ignition plug. The kerosene continues to vaporize and burn in primary combustion. The burner controls the rate and volume of fresh air drawn through the base of the heater. It also re-burns vapors in the burner’s baffled chambers or chimneys, which is secondary combustion. Modern kerosene heaters are radiant (with reflector) or convection (air flow-through) types.
What Can Go Wrong with a Kerosene Heater?
The wick may need replacing or reconditioning. The heater may not light. The flame may flicker or die. The flame may smoke or smell. The wick may burn too quickly. The wick adjuster may stick.
How Can I Identify a Kerosene Heater Problem?
- If the heater won’t light, fill an empty fuel tank, eliminate impurities in the system (see below), check the igniter batteries, adjust the wick until the igniter contacts the top of the wick, and replace a faulty igniter (see below).
- If the flame flickers or dies, remove any water in the system (see below), burn clean a wick covered with carbon or tar (see below), or trim away the dirty part of the wick.
- If the flame smokes or causes odor, lower the wick to reduce the flame, move the heater out of direct drafts, make sure the chimney is level, burn the wick clean of carbon or tar (see below), trim away the dirty part of the wick, or clean the system of impure kerosene (see below).
- If the wick burns too quickly, clean the system of impure kerosene (see below).
- If the wick adjuster sticks, clean the system of impure kerosene (see below) and burn the wick clean of carbon or tar (see below), or trim away the dirty part of the wick.
- If the wick has worn out or become damaged, you can easily replace it with a series of quick and simple steps (see below).
What Do I Need for Kerosene Heater Repair?
You can find common replacement parts for kerosene heaters at fireplace stores, larger hardware stores, and directly from the manufacturer. The tools you will need to fix a kerosene heater include these:
- Drill and bit
- Old toothbrush
- Vacuum cleaner
your owner’s manual handy and refer to it often because kerosene heater
models differ and the owner’s manual has the specific information on
maintaining and repairing your heater.
What Are the Steps to Kerosene Heater Repair?
Eliminate impurities in kerosene:
- Remove the wick and dry it on absorbent paper.
- Drain the cartridge tank and the burner tank, wiping up any spilled kerosene.
- Reinstall the wick.
- Fill the tank with clean, pure K-1 low-sulfur kerosene or as recommended by the manufacturer. Recycle dirty fuel by calling your local hazardous waste recycler for instructions.
Burn off a kerosene heater’s carbonized wick to restore softness:
- Remove all the fuel from the tank or wait until the tank is empty.
- Turn the wick to its highest position. Light it with a match if you cannot light it automatically. Be sure the chimney is properly centered.
- Allow the wick to burn until the fire is completely out and no carbon remains on the wick.
- Remove any remaining ash with an old toothbrush.
- Vacuum away any residue or soot from the burner area.
Replace the kerosene heater wick on most kerosene heaters:
- Drain or burn off all the fuel in the tank and allow the heater to cool completely.
- Follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for activating the automatic shutoff. For many models simply hit the heater body with your hand.
- Remove the batteries.
- Open the front grille and remove the chimney.
- Remove the safety shutoff reset lever by pulling it straight out of the cabinet.
- Remove the cabinet.
- Slide the electrical wire connectors off the battery case.
- Remove the screws at the side of the extinguisher assembly and lift it out.
- Remove the wick adjuster mechanism by loosening the wing nuts until you can turn the retainers that hold it in place.
- Fold the wick and slide it out.
- To install the new wick, turn the wick adjuster counterclockwise as far as it will go.
- Fold the new wick and slide it into the adjuster. The red line on the outside of the wick should match the bottom edge of the adjuster.
- Turn the wick adjuster clockwise as far as it will go.
- Check the height of the wick, then press it against the teeth inside the adjuster to obtain a firm grip.
- Slide the rubber packing over the wick and allow the tails of the wick to drop down.
- Replace the wick and adjuster mechanism in the fuel tank, making sure the wick fits evenly in place.
- Position the adjuster knob to the front of the heater and tighten the wing nuts onto the retainers. Turn the knob clockwise and counterclockwise a few times to make sure the mechanism is functioning smoothly.
- Recheck the height of the wick. If it has changed, readjust it.
- Trim any ragged edges that appear at the top of the wick.
- Replace the cabinet on the fuel tank and reattach.
- Push the automatic shutoff reset lever into its slot. It will snap into place. Slide the lever fully to the left to reset the auto shutoff mechanism.
- Replace the chimney and snap the grille shut.
- Replace the batteries.
- Make sure the top of the wick is even and level.
- Wait about 20 minutes before lighting the heater to allow the fuel to saturate the wick. Don’t cut, pull, or soil the new wick.
Replace a kerosene heater igniter:
- Remove batteries from the case to avoid danger of shock or accidental ignition. Test the batteries because they can cause poor ignition or lack of ignition.
- Let the heater cool completely.
- Remove the guard and burner to gain access to the ignition mechanism.
- Push down the ignition knob.
- Remove the ignition coil by pushing in and turn it counterclockwise.
- Install the new ignition coil.
- Reinstall the burner, guard, and batteries.
Use only the fuel recommended by the manufacturer of your kerosene heater. Some models identify the fuel on the side of the heater. If not, check the owner’s manual or contact the manufacturer and identify the model number.