What to do if your boiler breaks down

Having a boiler break down can be a stressful experience. It’s bad enough when you’re single and living alone in the middle of summer, but when you have kids to worry about and it breaks down during the colder months, it can be a truly awful experience where every hour can feel like a lifetime. Not only that, but boiler repairs can be expensive.

Whilst it is generally advisable to call a professional engineer to fix up your boiler, this isn’t always necessary – some problems are very common and benign and can be easily fixed without professional help.

For more serious problems (i.e. those that are not listed here), always err on the side of caution and call somebody out to take a look at it. Of course, in order to avoid the sudden expense of a callout, it always pays to have boiler cover in place to give you peace of mind. Their plans can cost as little as £4.95 per month, so it can be worth checking them out.

With that said, here are some problems you can fix yourself.

Low Boiler Pressure

Low boiler pressure is the leading cause of boiler-related headaches and, naturally, is the primary reason boiler engineers are unnecessarily called out. Diagnosing low boiler pressure is pretty easy, too, by noticing the following:

  • Your boiler turns itself off;
  • Your radiators and heating making a banging or crashing sound; or
  • Your radiators upstairs, or those that are far away from the boiler, stop heating up.

Fixing this is usually a case of slightly tweaking the filling loop on your boiler. If you look at the pressure indicator on its control panel and can see that the needle has fallen below 1 bar, you can play around with your boiler’s valve to increase it between 1 to 1.5.

When you have re-pressurised your boiler, you may need to reset the system. This is not always the case, though, so check your boiler manufacturer’s guide or instruction manual.

Constant losses in pressure indicate that there is a leaking pipe in the system. If this is the case, it requires an engineer callout.

Condensate Pipe Frozen

As many of us know, the winter months and colder weather can be a boiler’s worst nightmare. Frozen condensate pipes are one of the biggest causes of boiler problems during the winter. However, it is a relatively easy fix. You may have a frozen condensate pipe if:

  • Your boiler will not turn on;
  • The temperature outside is very cold; or
  • Your boiler makes gurgling sounds.

To fix the issue, simply use hot water (not boiling water, though) and a warm compress such as a towel. Place the towel over the condensate pipe and slowly pour the hot water over it. You can also use other warm objects such as a hot water bottle.

The Pilot Light Has Gone Out

There are many reasons why a pilot light can go on a boiler. Luckily, it is very easy to fix. You will know that your pilot light has gone out if your boiler will not start up and/or there is no visible light on the front of your boiler.

By following your boiler manufacturer’s instructions, you should be able to easily reignite the pilot light and get the boiler up and running again.

Be aware, though, that you should not attempt to reignite the pilot light if you smell gas around your boiler or if you notice that the pilot light has a) left a sooty residue around its hole, or b) the pilot light has changed colour.

If this is the case, turn your boiler off and call an engineer out. If you smell gas, always call the gas emergency line on 0800 111 999.

The Boiler is Locking Out

Your boiler can sometimes lock itself out. You will know if this is the case if:

  • Your boiler displays an error code;
  • It won’t turn on; or
  • Your boiler’s red lock-out light keeps turning on.

Most of the time, simply resetting your boiler will sort this issue out. Your boiler’s reset button should be easy to find on the front control panel; however, it could be elsewhere, so if you are in doubt, consult its instruction manual.

If a soft reset does not work, try a hard reset by turning it off and on again. If this does not work, or if your boiler is constantly locking out, get everything checked by a certified engineer.

If in Doubt, Get Help

Whilst it is safe to carry out minor boiler repairs yourself, you should always call for professional help if you are ever unsure, you are in doubt, or if there is a bigger problem that you cannot fix.

Whilst calling out boiler engineers is an inconvenience (and often costs money if you aren’t covered), boilers can be very dangerous when something goes wrong and you should never chance it.


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