How to Troubleshoot Oil Heaters


Self-contained oil heaters are some of the most efficient and safest ways to heat a space or room. If they stop working correctly, there are a number of things an average person can do to potentially solve the problem. Before you call an expensive repair person, check out some simple issues.

Things You'll Need

  • Circuit tester 4-in-one screwdriver
  • Test your wall socket using the circuit tester. Many times, something as simple as a circuit breaker has tripped. To find out if the wall socket is working, insert the circuit tester. It will light up (on most models) if the circuit is good. If the tester reveals a problem, reset your breakers before you're able to use the socket again.

  • Check the heating element and the fan. These are the two working components of an oil heater. If there is heat but no circulation, the fan is the culprit. If you can hear a fan running but there's no heat, the element is bad. If it is not evident by sound, there are other ways to check these components.

  • Check the fan. To check the fan, unplug the unit. You'll need to remove a panel on the side of the oil heater to access the fan. Using a 4-in-1 screwdriver, remove either the standard head screws or the Phillips head screws to gain access to the fan. Check the fan blades to make sure they turn freely. A string or a huge amount of dust might be clogging the blades and stopping the fan. If you find material wrapped around the blades or the shaft, clean it out and replace the panel. Once you're done, plug the unit back in and see if the fan will run. If it does, you solved your problem.

  • Check the heating element. As before, unplug the unit. Remove a panel below the main portion of the element to access the heating element. Check to see if it's loose and intact. Make sure it is attached securely and, leaving the access panel off, plug the unit back in. Turn on the radiator and see if there's any heat coming from the element. If not, chances are it has burned out.

  • Determine your next move. Most hardware or department stores are able to get replacement parts. As long as it's something mechanical like a fan or an element, it may be worth repairing. But if you've just done the specified checks, found everything is fine and still are not getting any heat, that means the circuit board in the control panel has burned out. It will almost certainly be more cost-effective to buy another oil heater than attempt to repair the one you have.

Tips & Warnings

  • Never place your hands inside the heater while it's hot or plugged in.

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