Oil Burner Troubleshooting List

Updated February 21, 2017

Oil burning appliances like furnaces create a fire fuelled by a finely controlled spray of oil. Just like a gasoline powered engine in any car, if the fuel delivery system becomes clogged or if the ignition is not working properly, your furnace will be unable to heat your home. Troubleshooting your own oil burner will help you ensure that a professional technician is not making unnecessary repairs.

Clean the Nozzle

Nozzles in oil burners spray out a fine mist of oil that is regulated to keep the combustion process even without flaring or dying off due to lack of fuel. When dirt, water or debris in the oil clogs this nozzle, your furnace may not ignite or it may operate erratically, states G&S Mechanical Services. Filters are located inside of these nozzles to trap particles. If you haven't had your oil burner serviced in many years and it is now failing to operate, there is a good chance that the nozzle filter is completely blocked and is not letting any oil through.

Listen to the Motors

Oil burning furnaces require electric motors to power the blowers, fans and other mechanical and electrical components inside. Loud grinding, rattling or other high pitched noises that occur while the furnace is starting or running may indicate damaged parts inside the electric motor, according to Inspectapedia. Fan belts and bearings inside the electric motor become very noisy as they wear out. When they begin making noises that are audible over the normal roaring sound of the combustion chamber in an oil burner, they should be repaired or replaced promptly to prevent larger problems from developing.

Check the Ignition

Two small electrodes are located on either side of the oil nozzle inside your oil burner, notes Inspectapedia, and they create a spark when the furnace first starts up to begin the combustion process. When this ignition system is misaligned and the two electrodes are moved farther apart or closer together by accident, they may fail to create the necessary spark. Soot and other debris build-up may cause the spark to run down the porcelain insulators instead, preventing proper start-up as well. Replacing or realigning the electrodes to the furnace's factory specifications may fix the problem. The porcelain insulators should regularly be cleaned or replaced to prevent interference with the ignition sequence.

Watch Out for Explosions

Loud bangs or explosion noises, coupled with puffs of soot coming out of your heating vents, may indicate dangerous explosions in your oil burner as it starts up, according to G&S Mechanical Services. These explosions are caused by leaks of oil that accumulate in the furnace while it is off. When the oil burner starts up, all of the excess oil ignites and explodes. Pressing the reset button on your furnace repeatedly can also lead to a build-up of oil. Professional repair is needed to correct this problem before it permanently damages the oil burner or your home's ductwork.

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Jessica Kolifrath is a competent copywriter who has been writing professionally since 2008. She is based in the Atlanta area but travels around the Southeastern United States regularly. She currently holds an associate degree in psychology and is pursuing a bachelor's degree in the field.