Torpedo Heater Won’t Ignite: Why + How To Fix

The main reasons why your torpedo heater won’t ignite are:

  • There’s no fuel in the tank, or the fuel is contaminated.
  • The air pump pressure isn’t set correctly.
  • The air intake, fuel, or lint filters are dirty.
  • The igniter is corroded or has come loose.
  • The nozzle is dirty.

Apart from these common reasons, there are also other potential reasons that can keep your torpedo heater from igniting. I’ll discuss all these problems and their solutions in detail in this guide. So, let’s dive in!

Torpedo Heater Won’t Ignite: Why + How To Fix

You have to know about the basics of torpedo heater work to figure out why your heater may not ignite. The most critical torpedo heater parts that make it work are the fan, air pump, fuel pump, ignitor, and photocell. Now, let’s look at why your torpedo heater won’t light up and how you can fix it.

01. No Fuel In The Tank

Tornado heaters normally operate on two types of fuel. It’s either kerosene or propane in most cases. Kerosene is more common than propane. Anyways, you should know the type of fuel your heater requires.

Then, check if the tank has enough fuel to light the heater. It sounds like a very simple thing but you don’t want to overlook it before moving on to the more complicated things to check.

How To Fix:

Is there no fuel in your tank? You’re in luck if that’s the reason why your heater isn’t igniting. You can easily refill the fuel and get your heater to light up again. Make sure you use the right fuel for your torpedo heater. Follow the guidelines of your manufacturer to do it properly.

02. Fuel Is Contaminated

A more frequent cause of a torpedo heater not igniting is having poor-quality fuel. Leaving the fuel unused for long periods can make it go bad as well. The good news is that you can easily check it using a flashlight.

contaminated fuel inside the tank of torpedo heater

Take off the fuel cap of your heater and look inside the tank. Turn on the flashlight so that you have a clear vision of what’s going on in the fuel tank. You’ll see moisture at the bottom of the tank if the fuel has gone bad.

How To Fix:

The fuel going bad is also, thankfully, not a very difficult problem to solve. First, you have to dump the old fuel from the tank. Then, clean the tank and get as much dirt out of it as you can.

Then, you need to add fresh fuel and make sure that you add enough to get your heater going. Then, test if your heater is igniting. You can rest assured that there are no other issues if your heater works properly from there on. But if it still doesn’t ignite, you’d have to continue diagnosing the issue.

03. Incorrect Pump Pressure

Look at the date plate of your torpedo heater. In there, you’ll find the correct air pressure settings so that it can run properly. Not setting your heater at the right pressure can keep it from igniting.

If you suspect that it could be a potential issue, you can inspect it. All you need is a pressure gauge to check the pressure in your heater. Connect the gauge to the pressure testing port and try to ignite your heater.

gauge connected to testing port of torpedo heater

Check if the reading of the pressure gauge matches the one on your data plate. If it does match, then the air pressure in your heater is fine. In that case, your heater is not igniting due to another reason. However, if the pressure doesn’t match the one on your data plate, you need to fix it.

How To Fix:

You’d have to adjust the air pressure so that it is the correct pressure on your data plate. Thankfully, doing it is also an easy job. You’ll find a pressure-adjusting screw next to the testing port, which you just used.

Turn the screw clockwise if you want to increase the pressure. If you want to decrease it, you’d have to turn it counterclockwise. Rotate it until the pressure reading in the gauge matches with the date plate.

Once that’s done, test out your heater and see if it ignites properly. If yes, your problem should be solved by now. However, if the issue persists, keep following this guide to find out what’s causing the problem in your heater.

04. Dirty Fuel Or Air Intake Filter

Both the air intake and fuel filters are very important for the heater to work properly. They can get clogged with time. If that happens, the required air or fuel won’t go into the burning chamber.

dirty air filter of torpedo heater

There’s also a lint filter besides the air intake filter that can get clogged. You have to check each of these filters and see if there’s a buildup of dirt inside them. If you find them to be dirty upon inspection, you may have just found the culprit.

How To Fix:

Once you find the dirty filter, you have two options – to clean it or replace it. If the air filter or the lint filter are dirty, I recommend replacing them altogether. Cleaning them and drying them for use again is a lot of work. Replacing is easier and makes more sense.

If it’s the fuel filter, you can try cleaning it first and see if that does the trick. However, even for the fuel filter, I suggest that you replace it with a new one if you’re looking for a more long-term solution.

05. Power Supply Issues

Depending on the model of the heater you’re using, there will be certain requirements for the power supply. Look at your owner’s manual and you’ll find the instructions about them.

power supply issues of torpedo heater

Besides, the power supply can go bad and keep the heater from igniting. Especially, if there was a thunderstorm that caused a blackout recently.

How To Fix:

If there are issues with the power supply itself, replace it with a new one. Make sure that the new one matches the requirements given by the manufacturer. Once you do that, operating your heater should be smooth sailing from there.

06. Not Setting The Thermostat High Enough

In most torpedo heaters, you’d have to set the thermostat even before you plug it in and turn it on. It has to be set at least higher than the room temperature for the heater to kick in and ignite the igniter.

thermostat setting of torpedo heater

So, a rookie mistake that can keep the heater from turning on is not setting the thermostat high enough from the start. If you forgot to set it higher than the room temperature, there’s a strong chance that the heater won’t turn on.

How To Fix:

I don’t think you can find an easier problem that prevents your heater from igniting. If not setting the thermostat is the culprit, you can adjust it to a higher temperature. Hopefully, doing that will ignite the torpedo heater and you’ll have no further problem operating it.

07. Faulty Igniter

Torpedo heaters have an igniter or are equipped with a spark plug that acts as the igniter. Like any other igniter, its main job is to produce sparks so that a flame can be created and maintained.

If the igniter or spark plug in your heater doesn’t generate sparks, it means that the igniter is faulty. The igniter or the spark plug itself can get corroded. In that case, it won’t generate a spark.

faulty igniter coil of torpedo heater

However, there’s also the possibility that the wire to the igniter has come loose. There’s also the chance the igniter coil may have gone bad and caused this issue. It’s a bit more serious than the ones I’ve talked about so far. The torpedo heater igniter test is really easy.

To check if you have a faulty ignitor, you’d have to see if it’s producing sparks. Remove the outer cover of the heater by undoing the screws on the side. Then, try to turn your heater on and check if it’s producing any sparks.

If you don’t see any sparks, you have a faulty igniter. If the igniter does produce a spark, then make sure that it’s in the right position. If it’s sitting too far from the burning chamber, the heater won’t ignite. Make sure that it’s spraying kerosene into the burning chamber as well.

How To Fix:

When you have a bad igniter, the only solution is to replace it. If you don’t have the technical knowledge to do it, you should hire a qualified technician. They’ll be able to replace it and also check your heater for other potential issues.

Having said that, replacing the igniter isn’t a hard job at all. You just have to get the right ignition coil and route it to the igniter. Remove the wiring connections, feed the wires through the hole, and put the new igniter in place of the old one.

Then, you can test the igniter again and see if it sparks. If it does, you have done a great job with the installation. Adjust the position of the igniter if needed so that it sits at the right distance from the burning chamber. Now, your heater should run and light up if there are no further issues.

08. Defective Photocell

The photocell is a very important part in torpedo heaters. Once the heater has a flame, the job of the photocell is to sense it. Think of the photocell as a small solar panel in your heater that detects light.

photocell of torpedo heater

When the photocell senses light, your heater will normally. But if it doesn’t sense the light, it’ll shut down the operation of the heater. It’s a safety mechanism built into these heaters to prevent fire hazards.

If there’s no flame, then kerosene would continue to build up in the burning chamber and that can cause an accident. So, you should also understand how important it is and never attempt to do a torpedo heater photocell bypass.

Now, the photocell not detecting a flame when it’s actually present is largely due to two reasons. Either the sensor in the photocell is covered with dirt for which it can’t sense the flame or it has gone bad. If your torpedo heater shuts off after several minutes, that’s a tell-tale sign that the photocell is at fault.

How To Fix:

Remove the front cover of your torpedo heater and inspect the condition of the photocell. If it’s filled with dirt, you can clean it with sandpaper and that should be enough for it to sense light.

However, if that doesn’t work and your heater doesn’t ignite or continues to shut down after a while, you should replace the photocell. This part is generally expensive and easy to replace. Here, you can follow these steps to replace the photocell in your torpedo heater:

  1. Remove the screws on the side of the heater to remove the outer cover.
  2. Disconnect the switch wires from the power switch and take out the cover.
  3. Remove the connections of the photocell with the main control board.
  4. Take out the old photocell and put the new one in its place.
  5. Attach the wiring connection to the new photocell and secure it in its position.
  6. Reinsert the switch wires to the power switch and put the outer cover back in its place.

That’s all you have to do to replace the photocell. You can easily do it on your own if you get the right replacement part. They’re widely available and I don’t think you’d run into any issues during the replacement procedure.

09. Malfunctioning Fan

The fan in your torpedo heater should be working properly to supply enough air to the burning chamber. Thankfully, it’s really easy to tell whether the fan is working or not.

malfunctioning fan of torpedo heater

You just have to listen to the sound of the fan. If your torpedo heater fan is not working, you won’t hear any noise coming from the fan. Otherwise, it makes a pretty loud noise and you’ll be able to listen to it easily.

In some models of forced air heaters, the error code E1 or E2 also comes up when there’s a faulty fan. If you see this error code and don’t hear the fan coming on, that means you have a bad fan.

How To Fix:

The fan motor being defective is often the main reason why the fan doesn’t turn. Unfortunately, replacing just the fan motor is trickier and that’s why you should just replace the fan altogether.

It’s also an easy job and you can do it on your own. Remove the wiring connections of the fan and unscrew it to take it out. Then, put the new fan in place of the old one and you’re all done.

10. Dirty Nozzle

There are different nozzles in your heater that have to be working properly to ignite the heater. Especially, the fuel nozzle, as it has to supply fuel to the burning chamber.

It’s common for these nozzles to get dirty with time. But that’s usually not a problem until the dirt is too much. That’s because these heaters operate on the basis of the venturi effect.

So, they can suck the fuel right in until the build-up of dirt is simply too much. You can do a visual inspection to reveal whether the nozzle is actually dirty. Use a flashlight to get a clear look at it and see if it needs any cleaning.

How To Fix:

You have to get the dirt out of the nozzles that are clogged up. Luckily for you, torpedo heater nozzle cleaning is a simple job. You can blow some compressed air through it and that should be enough to remove the dirt from it.

However, before you can do that, you’d have to disconnect the fuel and air hoses from it. Only then would you be able to remove the nozzle from its adapter and blow air through it.

After doing that, you can put it back in place and secure it in its place. Hopefully, cleaning the nozzle will do the trick for you and you’ll have no further issues in igniting and operating your heater.

11. Cracked Hose

The two hoses that are important for the heater to work properly are the air and fuel hoses. I’ve recently done a job where the hose was damaged and that caused the issue. Here’s a picture of the defective hose:

If the hoses are defective like that, the air or fuel can leak from there. In that case, they won’t go to the burning chamber. So, the optimum ratio of air and fuel won’t be achieved. Hence, the heater won’t ignite.

How To Fix:

You’d have to replace the hose to fix this issue. This can be a complicated job for a layman. But if you know your way around your torpedo heater, you can do it by yourself.

Depending on your expertise, hire a qualified technician or do this replacement job on your own. Hopefully, your heater will ignite and run properly without any issues after replacing the cracked hose.


How do you restart your torpedo water heater?

Turn the power switch of your torpedo heater “OFF” and unplug it from the power cord. Then, wait for 10 seconds, plug the power line back in, and turn the heater on again.

Why is mixing water with kerosene so bad?

When kerosene is mixed with water, it creates the possibility that rust will form inside the tank of the heater. So, you should always make sure that the tank is completely free from water when you add fuel to it.

How often should you replace the different air filters in your torpedo heater?

It depends on the use of the torpedo heater, but it’s recommended that you continuously replace the air output and lint filters after every 500 hours of operation.

How often should I clean the photocell in my torpedo heater?

The extent to which you use your heater determines how often you’d have to clean the photocell. But at the very least, I’d say that you should clean it once every year. If you can do it more often, by all means, go ahead.


Now, you know the main reasons why your torpedo heater won’t ignite and how you can solve all the common problems related to it. It’s important that you remain patient when making the diagnosis.

That’s because you want to find the actual reason that’s causing the issue and implement the right fixes. Doing so will make sure that you’ll solve your problem earlier. I also have a forced air kerosene heater troubleshooting guide and you can check it out if you’re facing other issues with your heater.

About David

David is a man who loves doing research and finding out the best solution to any type of heating appliance issues like heaters and fireplaces. Whenever he finds the perfect solutions to any issues of heating appliances after doing in-depth research, he loves to share them with his readers. In fact, his aim is to help his readers to fix the issues with their heating appliances easily.More about us .

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