I get questions on a daily basis asking for instructions on how to properly replace the wick in a particular, specific petrol lighter. While I have published a great number of instructional repair videos to our YouTube channel where I demonstrate this project on a specific lighter, I haven’t had time yet to get to them all. There are simple principles that can be followed, however, which will lead you step by step through the intuitive process and teach you how to change the wick in a petrol lighter.
Pull Wadding Out Of The Big Hole
Removing the old wick and absorbent wadding are going to be your first step regardless of any unique nuances inherent in the specific lighter you are working on. Your focus at this point should be the removal of both wick and wadding from the tank and the basic principles will not change regardless of the shape, layout or appearance of your lighter.
Inferences can be made to follow along with a video demonstrating this process on a different looking lighter by understanding that every petrol lighter has a wick, a chimney the wick is installed in and some form of opening(typically at the bottom) to fill the lighter tank with fuel. For instance, the fuel hole in the bottom of a Ronson Standard may look very different from the bottom of a Zippo insert but they are functionally the same.
It may be quite simple to pull the rayon wadding out the bottom of a Zippo insert and much more difficult to coax the wadding out of the fuel hole of a Ronson but they are the same function in regard to the overall project of replacing the wick and wadding and the path to remove these material expendables is always going to be out the same opening they are fueled through.
Picks, needle-nose pliers, tweezers or other custom made utensils will most likely be needed to work all the wadding up to and out of the fuel hole in any closed tank lighter. This may be much more difficult to accomplish on a closed tank petrol lighter like most Ronsons, Evans, etc. than it is on an open bottomed Zippo insert but the principle is consistent: all the wadding must come out through the fuel opening.
Feed Wick Down The Chimney And Fish It Out That Same Big Hole In The Bottom
When it comes to installing a new wick in any petrol lighter, again the insert style, Zippo type lighters are much more open and conducive to easy wick replacement than closed tank examples. The principle is consistent however, as the wick must be placed in the chimney of each, regardless of their differing appearances.
The copper braided, Zippo type wicks can be stabbed into a Zippo or other insert style lighter with relative ease from either the top or the bottom by simply twisting the braided wick down tight and possibly cutting the inserted end into a tapered shape that will slide in more smoothly. It doesn’t require much effort to find the bottom end of the wick in the open bottomed mechanism insert style lighters.
I typically use an Imco wire lead wick or an old stock Ronson wick with a wire lassoed around the end of it to feed down the chimney of most closed tank petrol lighters. Either of these methods will work with varying degrees of difficulty depending on the impediments present in a given lighter tank.
The wick will usually enter the chimney of a closed tank lighter more easily than you will be able to fish the wire out of the fuel hole. The hole is a relatively small opening through which to locate and grasp the terminal end of the wick and picks, tweezers and needle-nose pliers will again come in handy here but some experimentation and wit may be necessary to coax the wick out through the small hole in the tank.
Repack The Lighter With Wadding Through The Same Big Hole
Once you have the new wick in place in the chimney then it is time to pack your lighter with new wadding. This is going to be accomplished by feeding the wadding back through the same fuel hole that you removed the old wadding through while taking care to intersperse the wick in with the wadding as evenly as possible from top to bottom and in a zigzag or “S” shaped pattern.
Again, this will be pretty simple in the insert style, Zippo type lighters but a little more difficult and involved in the closed tank variety. The key is to reinstall ample wadding material to hold the liquid fuel without packing the tank too tight to allow for sufficient fueling.
Any absorbent material can be used for wadding and I have often used common household cotton balls(and still do for the insert style lighters) but currently rely on the organic cotton coil which can be purchased from Amazon which can be worked into more slender, longer strands that will slide into the small fuel opening of a closed tank lighter more easily and hopefully come out still intact should you ever need to remove it again.
Trim Wick And Fuel Lighter
With the new wick in place and wadding packed densely in the tank, interspersed with it, you are now ready to trim your wick to the proper height inside the ignition area and fuel the lighter up for use. The length to which the wick is trimmed will in large part be determined by the space allowed by the snuffer but there may be some leeway at the discretion of the operator.
Once cut to the desired length just under the threshold of the windscreen, I like to “bloom out” the top of my wick by taking a screwdriver, knife or other implement and spreading out the individual fibers at the top of the wick into a wider profile by which to catch and ignite the showering sparks. I have always found a tightly wound wick to be more prone to vapor lock than one that had been puffed up a bit.
To fuel a petrol lighter to the proper level, the wadding should hold the fuel inside the tank when held upside down even without the fuel screw being replaced. In other words, a properly fueled petrol lighter will not just leak or drip fuel indiscriminately. If fuel leaks or drips out the bottom or the chimney area with or without being lit, that lighter is definitely overfilled with fuel.
Enjoy Your Freshly Wicked And Wadded Petrol Lighter
Now that you have your freshly wadded and wicked lighter fueled to the proper level it should light up with no problem assuming that the sparking mechanism is in proper order and is not hindered by any old, degraded flint. If the lighter has insufficient or no spark then there may still be some maintenance required to get it working properly but we have published several articles here at DependableFlame.com and videos on our YouTube channel to help you clear the tube of old flint and repair your sparking mechanism if that is required.
I would invite you to show off your freshly lighting vintage petrol lighter by posting video or pictures to the DependableFlame.com Facebook page or group so that other cigarette lighter enthusiasts like yourself can admire it along with you. I for one would be glad to see it and would also encourage as many lighter lovers as possible to create and post videos to YouTube as we can never get enough vintage petrol lighter content for the cigarette lighter hobby to enjoy.
Please leave any comments or questions at the bottom of this or any other article at DependableFlame.com and be sure to look for our weekly YouTube live stream Vintage Coffee And Lighters Live! where we discuss various aspects of using and collecting vintage petrol lighters.
Until next time…✌️