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How to Service an Old Aga Cooking Range

Christopher Day is a UK-based vet with a deep interest in vegetarian diets and whole foods. He loves his AGA range.

You can clean your own AGA!

You can clean your own AGA!

Tired of Tradespersons Being Too Expensive and Not Always Doing a Good Job?

Anyone who has become accustomed to cooking on an AGA range likely never wishes 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 six months, now, before it requires a full service and cleans 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 the responsibility rests with the reader. Some of the terminologies for the parts may also be incorrect, as I am no trained expert.

Oil flow regulator: The cut-off lever is on the right hand side. 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. Turn off the oil supply and let the AGA cool down (at least overnight—it takes ages!)

1. Turn Off the Oil Supply at the Regulator

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.

The cylinder casting: First we have to lift out the cylinder casting. This was the old burner container for the solid fuel.

The cylinder casting: First we have to lift out the cylinder casting. This was the old burner container for the solid fuel.

2. Lift Out 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.

Weighing the cast steel cylinder. We weighed it - 55 kgs!

Weighing the cast steel cylinder. 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.

Blocked oil feed: The burner then has to be retrieved and cleaned

Blocked oil feed: 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 burner-vaporiser assembly ready to re-install.

The burner-vaporiser assembly ready to re-install.

3. Before Reassembling, the Right Simmering Plate Should Be Removed and the Flue Checked for Accumulations

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.

The oil feed pipe beneath the burner; it is a good precaution to remove and clean the oil feed pipe. This is located beneath the burner

The oil feed pipe beneath the burner; it is a good precaution to remove and clean the oil feed pipe. This is located beneath the burner

This bolt is simply unscrewed, cleaned through and replaced, ensuring no oil leaks.

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.

Levelling the burner-vaporiser with a spirit leveller from above.

Levelling the burner-vaporiser with a spirit leveller from above.

4. The Burner Must Then Be Replaced and Levelled

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 regulator.

The oil feed regulator.

5. 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 and 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 cylinder casting and sealing strip, ready for reassembly.

The cylinder casting and sealing strip, ready for reassembly.

6. 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.

Burner assembly located (viewed from front.)

Burner assembly located (viewed from front.)

This view is taken after replacement of the heavy cylinder.

Correct flame: The flame must burn properly.

Correct flame: 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.

Have You Worked on Your AGA Before?

Please tell us about it!

I'd love to read your comment or personal experiences

ChrisDay LM (author) on April 09, 2011:

@junecampbell: Masochisitc idiots like me you mean?

June Campbell from North Vancouver, BC, Canada on April 09, 2011:

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 (author) on April 08, 2011:

@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 (author) on April 08, 2011:

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

ChrisDay LM (author) on April 08, 2011:

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

ChrisDay LM (author) on April 08, 2011:

@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 on April 08, 2011:

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 on April 08, 2011:

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 on April 08, 2011:

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

anonymous on April 08, 2011:

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 :)