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How to Service an old AGA cooking range

Updated on June 15, 2011

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)

Oil flow regulator - the cut-off lever is on the right hand side
Oil flow regulator - the cut-off lever is on the right hand side

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.

The cylinder casting
The cylinder casting

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!

Weighing the cast steel cylinder
Weighing the cast steel cylinder

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

Blocked oil feed
Blocked oil feed

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 burner-vaporiser assembly ready to re-install
The burner-vaporiser assembly ready to re-install

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

The oil feed pipe beneath the burner
The oil feed pipe 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

Chamber beneath the simmering plate
Chamber beneath the simmering plate

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'

Levelling the burner-vaporiser
Levelling the burner-vaporiser

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 oil feed regulator
The oil feed regulator

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

The cylinder casting and sealing strip, ready for reassembly
The cylinder casting and sealing strip, ready for reassembly

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

burner assembly located (viewed from front)
burner assembly located (viewed from front)

This view is taken after replacement of the heavy cylinder.

The flame must burn properly

Correct flame
Correct flame

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.

Have you ever done technical and heavy-duty DIY tasks?

Please tell us about them

Yes, I'll turn my hand to anything!

Yes, I'll turn my hand to anything!

Submit a Comment

  • sousababy 6 years ago

    Yes, I had to learn machine shop when I studied prosthetics. I even learned how to change a 'chuck' and knurl tools I made. I have a fairly decent butt weld too.

No - I wouldn't touch that sort of work with a bargepole!

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The cooker reassembled and working!
The cooker reassembled and working!

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.

I'd love to read your comment or personal experiences

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    • ChrisDay LM profile image
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      ChrisDay LM 6 years ago

      @junecampbell: Masochisitc idiots like me you mean?

    • junecampbell profile image

      June Campbell 6 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada

      Curiosity got the better of me and I had to check this out. I will not be servicing this or any other range any time soon. However, I have no doubt that your lens will be most beneficial for those who do this sort of thing. :-)

    • ChrisDay LM profile image
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      ChrisDay LM 6 years ago

      @sousababy: Ah yes, poor folk with heavy work every day, just for survival - but of course, so long as it's within limits, the body does become accustomed to regular actions and they become less difficult with repetition.

      It's also true that women can work out cunning ways to get something done, to compensate for the lesser 'brute strength' of the female form (comparing average male and average female, if such creatures exist!).

    • ChrisDay LM profile image
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      ChrisDay LM 6 years ago

      @sousababy: Sounds good - remind me to give you a wide berth if you're clutching a wrench!

    • ChrisDay LM profile image
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      ChrisDay LM 6 years ago

      @LouisaDembul: Yes, consider yourself lucky! Thanks for dropping by my lens.

    • ChrisDay LM profile image
      Author

      ChrisDay LM 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks for first-footing my 'How to . . ' lens. It's very good of you to take a look and to bother with comment when it is clearly of no value to you to do so. You're a great friend!

    • sousababy profile image

      sousababy 6 years ago

      Guess machine chucks are heavy too (bend with the knees, use the spine and hips to carry the weight). Did you know that women in some tribes (I forget the name of which, off hand) can balance water pails by a piece of wood draped over their shoulders and carry two heavy containers of water for miles (and the men, for whatever reason) cannot seem to do this as effectively? Not sure if it is an anatomy thing or a core strength thing . . but hey, you'd be surprised at how strong women can be.

    • sousababy profile image

      sousababy 6 years ago

      Tell ya the truth, I was born in the 60's and have never had to deal with this. Guess the hardest thing I did was install a fancy bolt lock on a steel door which took me hours. In order to make a hole large enough, I had to bend and fatigue the metal until it broke. Having studied metallurgy helped me immensely in understanding these properties. (A man, no less, told me it'd never work). I even made my own 'punches' since I knew all about heat treating to strengthen tools.

    • LouisaDembul profile image

      LouisaDembul 6 years ago

      This looks like hard work, indeed! Am very happy we heat our house with gas!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      So great info with awesome pictures.. Chris. I've never known about AGA cooking range before. Ah.. 55 kg. of its weight.. It's so heavy. I was thrilled. This new lens of yours is so useful and helpful for any AGA cooking range users. Very deeply appreciated for everything you've presented here to help others. You should deserve to get another purple star or LOTD from your hard work here. Have wonderful times .. Chris :)