of kerosene appliances involves care of the wick, the
wick raising assembly, plus the main body of the
In regular use,
tar will accumulate on the top of the wick and inhibit
the burning efficiency. You will notice a decreased flame
height, and you can feel an obvious resistance or drag as
the wick is moved up and down. That signals it is time to
burn the wick dry and restore its efficiency. If you are
burning a heater for 12 hours a day, it could require the
wick to be burned dry weekly. If you try to run the
appliance on a low heat setting, the wick will become
carboned very quickly.
To burn the wick
dry, turn off the heater, let it cool, then take it to
the garage or designated draft free burn-out area.
Siphon all the fuel from the tank. Next, remove the
catalytic converter unit. Raise the wick to its maximum
height. Then go around the top edge of the wick squeezing
it between thumb and forefinger. You will feel a
"crunching" as you fracture the tar particles. This only
takes a minute, so go around and pinch the wick again.
The smaller the tar particles the more complete they will
burn up. If you have arthritic fingers, you can use
paddle bladed pliers with smooth faces (Ace
Hardware, "B-1", for example.) to pinch the wick.
The fractured tar balls will burn completely.
appliance, raise the wick to maximum height, and light
it. Let it burn completely out. First the fuel in the
wick burns, then the tar, and in a couple of hours the
wick is again in pristine condition. Now the appliance
will burn at maximum efficiency for a hundred hours or
more until the wick again needs to be burned
If the tar ball buildup is
so severe that the wick cannot be withdrawn, use the
paddle bladed pliers and crunch the wick flat. If someone
has installed the wick too high and burned it too long
that way, it is possible to have a tar buildup
inside the wick, looking like a black ring
about 1" below the top of the wick. In that case, remove
the wick, then use the paddle bladed pliers to crunch the
wick flat. That will regain some capillary action, and
then the wick can be washed with alcohol, reinstalled and
burned dry, then wetted with kerosene and burned dry
again. Often that will salvage a damaged wick so the
appliance can be used until a new wick can be
If you use a kerosene
heater as your main heat source, the wick should be
replaced annually. You're saving enough on your
winter heating bill to justify a new wick.
Be sure to wait for a half hour after refueling the
appliance before using it, so the wick may again become
saturated with kerosene.
raising (and lowering) assembly:
I have seen fiberglass
wicks with so much tar buildup on top that they cannot be
withdrawn into the wick raising assembly, ratchets and
levers so dirty they could not be moved, even wicks
rusted to the center support column! All of those
are the fault of the user, not the heater or
stove. The wick raising assembly can be carefully scraped
and then cleaned with an old toothbrush and kerosene and
wiped dry once a year, and that will keep it working for
years. If there is rust present on the central post
assembly because someone stored the unit wet, with fuel
in the tank, and water condensed and was able to get to
the carbon steel post, then wire brush the rusted area,
then sand it smooth with 150 grit emery paper.
Stoves with multiple
cotton wicks also need to have the wick raising assembly
cleaned and oiled prior to storage. Remove the fuel, burn
the wicks dry, then raise and trim them to the correct
height. Then remove the entire wick raising assembly
(usually 3 wing nuts -- this is NOT complicated!), raise
the wicks to separate the tubes which are now visible
from the bottom side, and lubricate the tubes with either
WD-40 or Napa brand Chain & Cable Lube (my
favorite). Use a toothbrush and auto polish to
clean and polish around the outside of the tubes, then
reassemble the stove.
The area around the wick
gap (below) often gets tar or carbon deposits, which can
be cleaned off easily with a griddle
Virtually all kerosene
heaters and stoves are made of steel, either painted or
enameled for a pleasant appearance and rust prevention.
When the appliance is being prepared for storage, it
should be burned dry, then completely disassembled. The
body of the unit, including the stainless steel
reflectors on radiant heaters and stainless steel
grillwork on convection heaters, should be cleaned and
polished with a good grade of auto polish/cleaner: my
favorite is "Meguiar's Cleaner/Wax," which the maker
claims is America's top selling cleaner/wax. It's cheap,
and it works. Don't forget to polish the
inside of the metal cabinets!
FIXING A LOOSE CARRY HANDLE ON A CONVECTION
Many, if not most
convection heaters have a carry handle in the shape of a
"U" which attaches to the heater by simply slipping into
holes on each side of the tower assembly. The problem is
that one side of the carry handle can slip out and the
heater can be dropped. This problem is almost
universal...and extremely easy to fix. Remove the
top safety grill, then the top plate on the heater.
Now you can look down into the heater and see the ends of
the carry handle protruding through the metal sides of
the heater. Slide a 5/16" washer over each end,
then a 1/4" "Kwik-Clip" over each end and slide it back
as far as you can, and the carry handle will not be able
to come loose again. Some carry handles are less
than 1/4" diameter chromed rod and would require a
smaller "Kwik-Clip," and they are available in just about
any small diameter.
The photo at left shows 1/4" "Kwik-Clips"
and 5/16" washers. The "Kwik-Clips" are part
#08236 00661 at True Value Hardware stores, and
cost all of 15 cents each. The 5/16"
washers are 5 cents each. For 40 cents you
can solve an aggravating problem!
The unit is now cleaned
and polished, the mechanical wick raising assembly
cleaned and lubed, and the appliance body polished and
thus protected against stains and rust. The fuel tank is
empty, so water vapor will not condense in it and cause
rusting. You removed the igniter batteries when you
removed the cabinet body, so leave them out now. And you
have examined the wick(s), and if replacement is needed,
now is the time to at least order the proper wick. Now the unit
may be safely stored -- covered! -- in a dry area, and
you can be certain it will be ready for use just as soon
as you need it again.
all really important?
Yes. I have had to
practically rebuild convection heaters from scratch for
friends because they were simply put into a damp
outbuilding after the last use. They were rusty and a
real mess, and there is no excuse for it! A few
years ago I was given a Toyotomi RC-87A radiant heater
for free. It had been put away wet -- in a barn
loft, under hay bales. It was rusty and dented, the
electrical starter system so corroded it could not be
fixed, with mouse nests in the wick raising assembly
area. I was able to make it work again, but it wasn't
worth the effort...a $200 heater ruined for lack of a
half hour of maintenance work!
If you follow the
guidelines above for regular maintenance before storing
your kerosene appliances, they will keep in pristine
condition and be ready for use within 20 minutes of when
you need them -- just fill with fuel and install the