How to Service an old AGA cooking range
Tired of tradespersons being too expensive and not always doing a good job?
Anyone who has become accustomed to cooking on an AGA range would be very unlikely ever to wish to cook on anything else. It is such a versatile and user-friendly kitchen appliance. However, when it goes wrong, it goes wrong big time.
This lens applies only to an old (circa 1950) AGA cooker that used to be solid fuel fired but was converted to burn oil in the early-80s.
The oil-fired vaporiser-burner worked very well with older fuels but after the new European fuel oil specification came through (in the last few years), the oil-feed aperture of the vaporiser blocks with carbon, with monotonous regularity - a good 'burn' lasts for a maximum of 6 months, now, before it requires a full service and clean up.
Because tradespersons cannot always come when needed and because the servicing is so expensive and not always a successful job, I've taken to doing it myself. Here is the illustrated narrative of the latest service, which has been very successful.
The information is published in good faith, directly from personal experience of the servicing process but responsibility cannot be accepted if this should not work for you. Safety points have been highlighted in this lens but responsibility rests with the reader. Some of the terminology for the parts may also be incorrect, as I am no trained expert.
Turn off the oil supply and let the AGA cool down - (at least overnight - it takes ages)
Turn off the oil supply at the regulator (it's the lever on the right hand side and it needs to be lifted for 'off'). For the purposes of clarity, I have marked it with an orange spot.
First we have to lift out the cylinder casting - This was the old burner container for the solid fuel.
This is a very heavy piece of kit, demanding a long pull to lift it out. This can be back-breaking. Be careful to protect the enamel top of the cooker, because when this thing's out, you won't be setting it down gently!
Because of its massive density, it holds the heat well, for even cooking temperatures.
We weighed it - 55 kgs!
That's right, we weighed the monster at 55 kgs. It was resting on 2 kgs of magazines, to protect the scales, hence the higher reading on the dial.
Getting down and dirty - The burner then has to be retrieved and cleaned
This is the oil vaporiser, complete with wicks. The 'chimney' parts have been removed from above, the oil feed disconnected and the burner pulled out through the front 'door'. The plug of carbon visible in the centre of the 'well' has virtually cut off the oil supply.
The clean vaporiser - Ready to have the chimney parts replaced
The central well can now be clearly seen, with the aperture through which oil wells up into the reservoir. The wicks are replaced every second or third service, depending upon their condition on inspection.
It is a good precaution to remove and clean the oil feed pipe - Located beneath the burner
This is simply unscrewed, cleaned through and replaced, ensuring no oil leaks.
Before reassembling, the right simmering plate should be removed and the flue checked for accumulations - This is the 'cool plate' side
The view shows the clean chamber beneath the right hand plate, through which the exhaust gases travel en route to the main chimney
The burner must then be replaced and levelled - This is done from above, using a 'spirit level'
It is vital that the burner sits truly level, for efficacy and safety reasons. The assembled chimneys can now clearly be seen.
The oil feed must now be switched on and the regulator adjusted
The regulator must be adjusted to ensure the correct level of oil in the burner well, to prevent accidental overflow (which would be a serious fire risk). If the oil fails to come through, despite the regulator being set at the correct height, there is probably an airlock. These can be stubborn to release an d I have, on occasions, had to apply a hose to the burner well opening and suck, to bring the oil through. If you watch the burner well as the oil comes through, it acts as a double check on the levelness of the burner.
The rope seal must be carefully located around the seating
Here the white rope seal can be seen, carefully positioned so that the lip of the heavy cylinder will rest on it and prevent the products of combustion from entering the kitchen, causing bad smells and toxic fumes. We replace the rope seal every second or third service.
The burner-vaporiser in situ - Image taken through the front door
This view is taken after replacement of the heavy cylinder.
The flame must burn properly
There should be an incandescent red-purple upper region and a blue lower region, when the flame is burning correctly. Any flickering, yellow flame, smell or popping noises indicate a problem with the burn quality.
When 60 year-old cookers work this well, it is a testament to good manufacture.
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Meet the author
Chris Day is a UK-based veterinarian practising alternative natural holistic medicine (e.g. herbs, acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic). He has many interests outside that field, some of which are reflected in his lensography.
Alternative medicine has much to offer, often helping to control the situation where conventional medicine cannot. Such an approach includes holistic and integrated application of acupuncture, homeopathy, herbs and diet.
The author is independent of commercial interest or sponsorship and cannot endorse any products or advertising material attached to this lens.
For more information, visit AVMC's information website (over 600 pages).
Chris Day - holistic vet - runs the Alternative Veterinary Medicine Centre in Oxfordshire (AVMC) in Oxfordshire, UK.
- The website of the AVMC
over 600 pages of information and opinion on alternative medicine for animals.