Vintage Lighter Repair and Service: Wick/Flint Basics

A basic understanding of flint/wick lighters.

This article was prompted by an EBay customer who wanted a refund on the 1930s era brass/glass lighter they purchased because they didn’t believe it was in “working order” when they unwrapped it and it would not light. They hadn’t considered you had to put fuel in it.)

Flip-Top Petrol “Zippo” Type Lighters19502 General Electric Zippo

I’m writing this article from the standpoint of service on and repair of your basic flip-top Zippo/Ronsonol fuel(naphtha) petrol type lighters. I don’t have any complaint with Zippo, I love them. I am however, currently infatuated with Champ Austria, mainly because of the flip-up wind cage design. The same elementary mechanics are employed in most vintage lighter repair and service projects. If you can manage to work a screwdriver and possibly a drill, then you can perform these basic tasks all by your lonesome.

They all work off the same basic ideas. There are countless iterations from unfathomable numbers of manufacturers that were promoted by salesmen, sort of like vape batteries in the current medical cannabis market. Occasionally, a particular company tweaks an idea, adds an element or otherwise improves and builds upon the designs that came before it.

Pressurized butane fueled lighters can provide challenges that make it hard for me to recommend doing much work on them, especially if you’ve yet to master the simpler naphtha lighters. While piezo electric ignitors are common, butane lighters are sometimes sparked by the same flint systems as naphtha lighters. In that case, you’re not really putting yourself in any danger changing a flint.


Most naphtha lighters have an enclosed case or removable insert that holds the fluid. Any naphtha lighter that I have seen, this same apparatus is fit with a hole through which the wick is inserted. The method used to fuel the wick sometimes varies but you must have a wick in the hole or your fuel will run out.

Click to learn how to replace the wick in any vintage petrol lighter.

Another common element in naphtha lighters(the Scripto Vu-Lighter would be one exception) is the rayon balls or cotton filling that absorb and hold the fuel. I don’t think it makes any difference which you use, I’ve used cut up t-shirt material several times and it works just fine.

The key is to work the wick around the fuel chamber in a zig-zag fashion through the stuffing so you have proper dispersion from side to side and on all levels. It is perfectly fine, as the wick shortens, to pull it through a little at a time rather than completely reposition everything in the fuel compartment. That can hold off unless or until your lighter refuses to light or stay lit properly.


To say that corroded flint tubes are a problem with vintage lighters would be an understatement. It’s difficult to imagine how many collectible or otherwise desirable lighters have been thrown away over the yrs simply because the flint was corroded and obstructing the tube.

Click to learn how to replace the flint in old cigarette lighters.

In most cases, a drill of some sort will be required to clear the obstruction. Flint is relatively soft, so if you have plenty of time the job can be done with a hand tool but you are going to need a cutting bit. That would take a long time though.

To my right, where the whiskey used to be, there’s a 4.8 volt cordless electric drill and 1/4 inch hex shank drill bit set. If you don’t already have these, you can find them used for a few bucks on EBay or your local thrift store or new at Harbour Freight Tools, Wal-Mart,, etc. for less than $25.

Just find the bit that fits comfortably in the tube without bouncing around in there and start drilling with light pressure being applied toward the corroded flint. You should feel the flint give as you drill through it and will be able to judge your progress by the shaft of the bit.

Many of the Ronson lighters have curved flint tubes that make this operation a little more tricky. But the good new is many of those same lighters are fueled by butane so you may have already disqualified yourself from working on them anyway.


When fueling a naphtha lighter, use caution not to over fill it. As long as you don’t have any open flames around, over filling should not be that big a deal. Never attempt to ignite a lighter that you have over filled until you know for sure the outside surface has dried and vapors have dispersed.

You could potentially burn your house down by making one careless mistake, so be careful. I have enough pyromaniac in me to make me slightly dangerous. I purposely set fires all day every day. Granted, they tend to be confined to metal boxes no bigger than a couple square inches but a careless mistake could be catastrophic. Before I move on to the next phase of our discussion, I want to say a couple things related to pressurized butane fueled lighters, especially old ones.

Before attempting to strike a vintage butane lighter, test it to see if
it will hold fuel. If you attempt to fuel it and butane squirts all over the place, do not make any further attempt at sparking that lighter! Also before testing any butane lighter, take note of your surroundings. Go outside if you can or test it over the kitchen sink filled with water. Bottom Line: don’t put yourself in a position where you have a hand full of fire and no where to safely throw or extinguish it.

A Question to Ponder: Are You Useful?

There are a ton of old cigarette lighters out there just lying around in basements, attics, junk drawers, etc. that can still be very useful. Maybe not in their current state but with just a little attention from you, they could be given new life. When was the last time you were complimented on the plastic Bic someone bummed off of you? Pull out a Beattie Jet Lighter next time someone needs help lighting a pipe and I promise you, your lighter will be the topic of conversation. Or a Golden Wheel Mini lift-arm lighter, Scripto Vu…well, there are far too many to list here but I would love to discuss your favorite old lighters or hear any tales of nearly burning your house down in the comments below this post.

I would like to invite you to join our email list to the right on any page at We have a lot of ideas in store for the smell list as we move forward.

Please subscribe to the DependableFlame YouTube channel. I am committed to video documentation of every lighter I put back into service.

Author: Joseph

Be cautious when anyone tells you what you need or have to do...

68 thoughts on “Vintage Lighter Repair and Service: Wick/Flint Basics”

  1. Very interesting, and useful article on old lighters. I had many of the lighters you have pictured here. Wish I still had them. I’m sure some would be worth a pretty penny. I may have to start collecting these again as my interest is piqued after reading this blog. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Can you please help me. I received this lighter from my grandmother who passed away and it doesn’t work. There is no spark and I can’t figure out how to replace the flint. Could you possibly explain it to me.

      It is a tall table lighter with a round metal insert that is the lighter part that has the tank and stricter on top.
      It has a screw on the bottom for lighter fluid and another smaller screw that has a spring that comes out with it.
      But I can’t figure out how to replace the flint nor how to even get to it.
      Please help.
      I wanted to send pictures of it but no place to send them it in this message.

      Thank you.

  2. Fascinating article! It is amazing to see the different designs of these lighters and how they changed over time. I had no idea what the mechanics of a lighter were or how you would even go about repairing one. I would have never thought to find out. This is very useful.

    1. Thank you, Melissa. You’d be surprised how many useful tools there are out there that may be just a little different than what we’ve grown accustomed to but in many cases, are actually better suited to perform the task than their cheaper quality, disposable counterpart.

  3. I never would have thought that you could refill the old lighters. We have one that I always figured was just a dust collector. My husband loves it but it is dry and of no use. Maybe not anymore. Thanks

  4. I used to have so many cool butane and zippo lighters laying around that I’m pretty sure my friends agreed that I indeed had many. Maybe even to many in their eyes. Therefore, I’m sure they didn’t feel too bad as they found my lighter in there pants pocket when they got home.

    I can’t get too mad at them because I was the worse at pocketing lighters back in the day. It’s never intentional, just a bad habit.

    I’m going to start salvaging my old skoo lighters from all my junk drawers. I think I want to display them after I get them in working order. I don’t plan on taking them to party’s. Not until I buy another lighter leash. Have you heard about that product?

    1. Thank you, Drake. I appreciate the comment. I don’t know that I have owned a lighter leash but I have had similar gadgets designed to keep your lighter attached to you. Zippo used to make a lighter called Loss-Proof that incorporated a thick wire loop into the hinge mechanism that allowed attachment of a lanyard of sorts. They are pretty rare these days but come on handy if you can find one. You can find Loss Proof Zippos here:

  5. I was given a lighter made from an old 5 Peso coin. it needs a wick and flint. Also I can’t figure out how it opens to put the lighter fluid in.
    Can you help me?

  6. I am looking for someone to repair a vintage Intelite (Japan) butane light. Will yu point me in the right direction? Thank you in advance.

    1. Hello, John. Thanks for the question. I am not aware of anyone who repairs the fuel system on those Intelite lighters, nor do I recall seeing replacement valves for sale. If it will hold gas, then you should be able to clear the flint tube of any degraded flint and regain your spark but if it is leaking butane I’m not sure it can be repaired.

      1. Joseph I have my dads old penguin butane lighter. It is missing the flint screw. Where should I look for a small screw. Does it also take a spring.

  7. I have found an old lighter I would like to get repaired and use. It appears to use butane because I see an insert area. The inscription is hard to read. It seems to have a stylized eagle on the top and then says “refree(?) tiger. Below that it says “windproof lighter’.

    Last line says “made in WZ-1022”

    Any advice?

    1. Hello, TR and I appreciate the question. Have you tried to fuel the lighter and if so, did it leak? Does the lighter produce a spark when you strike it? From the information you’ve given, I’m guessing your lighter is ignited with a piezo-electric spark. That piezo system can not be repaired if it fails.

  8. joseph
    tried to e-mail you but it didn’t go thru…so I have 2 cig lighters that are maybe 50+yrs old….my mothers…I want to get them working so pls let me know how to proceed with this job with you…both need flints…both have wicks but would like to replace them also….pls give me an estimate costs etc….one is a zippo other looks a little like the lighter on your site…thnks, stewart….you can email me as shown below

    1. Hello, Stewart, thanks for the question. I’m not sure what would cause your email to bounce back but I’m receiving email at: I don’t charge to fix lighters or clean out flint tubes, replace wicks, etc. via mail but I can probably save you the postage and guide you through the process via email. Just snap a couple pics with your phone(top, open if there’s a lid and the base of the lighter) and email them to me. If you can’t get the email to go through, text them to the number at the bottom of the article.

  9. Dear Sir,
    Thank you for writing a very knowledgeble site.
    So interesting.
    I was given a Frank M. Whiting HyGlo tablelighter from 1938.
    How do you dismantle it to change the wick , flint and cotton?
    It is completely stuck together. Do I unscrew the silver
    collar down by the glass foot clockwise, or is the little central holder for the wick and flint supposed to be pulled or screwn out counter-clockwise? I have tried for a long time, vainly. Could old silver polish have glued it together – should I immerse it?
    What do you do to get it lit?
    I would be very grateful to learn the secret somehow.
    Best regards,

    1. Hello Sea and thank you for the question. I believe both the cap and insert(which contains the wick, fuel and flint wheel) should come out or off with slight pressure in either the clockwise or counter-clockwise direction. It is very possible that some old polish or other agent has seized and bonded parts which should slip through.

  10. Hi Joseph,
    I’ve brought home many lighters from garage and estate sales over the years. Today it was a vintage chrome Bowers with the sliding wind shield and integral wick cap with strike mechanism (no flint).
    It took some study to observe that installing a new flint requires pulling a small plunger out of the flint tube bottom to open a small port the flint drops into.
    The lighter is fueled with Zippo fuel and a Zippo flint, it sparks well, the wick looks ok, but it won’t light on its own. It seems the flint spark doesn’t get close enough to the wick, but I don’t see how that could be possible. Any ideas?

    1. Thank you for the question, Rex. I apologize for the delay. I can think of a few issues that could be causing you problem. 1. It’s possible there is not enough fuel in the lighter to reach up to the wick. 2. It could be you have plenty of fuel but the fuel is so dense that is choking out all available oxygen. 3. Sometimes a wick will be contaminated by oil or other substances that hinder their ability to ignite. I hope this helps.

  11. Hi Joseph,
    Great site! I collect’s gas & oil things and recently bought a Clark lift arm with a Standard Oil logo on eBay (Platinum plated, Pat’d 1926). My first lighter… great shape but the flint screw is stuck tight. I’ve read up on clearing out the flint tube but need advice on what might get the screw out without snapping off the head (and being really screwed). Thought about a torch but afraid I’d mess up the plating. Thanks for any ideas!

    1. Hello, Tim. Sorry to hear of your conundrum, it is one that I have faced a time or two. My best advice would be first: try a screwdriver that fits snugly(the tighter the better with screwdriver tip fully seated in the slot) as this is your best option to not damage the lighter. If the first method does not work then: you should be able to use a pair of pliers, those Clark lighters are cutout on the sides of the base for the fill screw. Be very careful, you might want to try to place some thin cardboard between the jaws of the pliers and the knurling on the fill screw(I’ve not always been that patient), not to mar up the lighter or screw.

    1. Hello, Lauren and thank you for the question. Most modern wicks are made of cotton with copper wire woven through it. In the past there were many materials used, including asbestos. You can order wicks for vintage lighters here.

  12. Hello,I have 30’s? I believe,Brass,SLIDE TYPE or trench lighter Made By Bowers. The the pin/ball which pulls down the spring for flint changing is broken. They have separated. Do you know where I can send it for repair? Thank You

    1. Hello, Patrick and thank you for the question. Bowers hasn’t manufactured lighters in many years, so it wouldn’t do you any good to send it back to them. In fact, I’m beginning to wonder if the company has ceased operations altogether. For many years, there was a history page on the company’s website chronicling their contributions to the world of vintage cigarette lighters. All the links I can find or have saved for the page appear to be dead or redirected.
      Finding replacement parts on Ebay would probably be your best bet. You may have to wait and bid smart to get the lighter you need with the appropriate working parts at the right price but there are enough of these Bowers lighters listed in various conditions that you should have little trouble locating an example with the pin/ball intact as you desire.

      1. Hi, I was wondering if the older adjustable flame bic lighters from the 80’s, used a different type of butane. I noticed the inside is different than the current bics, the older ones have a tube coming down from the valve. When I try to make them refillable by adding a butane valve, the gas squirts out from the jet/valve area on the top. I do not have this issue with the current bics. Thanks for your time.

  13. Good morning Joe,
    Do you repair old lighters? They certainly aren’t vintage but they are lighters from the 80-90s that have sentimental value. I have 4 or 5 and I believe they are all Colibri lighters. If you do not do repairs, could you refer me to someone that does.

    1. Thanks for the question, Paul. I do repair old lighters and ’80s-’90s are plenty old so long as they are quality and run on petrol. If it runs on butane(which I’m guessing your lighters do, being Colibri from that era) I might be able to answer questions or provide some help if your problem is with the spark but doubtful if the fuel valves are leaking. There are some links here that might aid you in finding repair sources and supplies for butane fueled lighters.

      You can email anytime with questions, I specialize in petrol lighters but will respond to all lighter questions. Lighter repair articles are also available to answer many common questions.

  14. Hi, I have a 1930/40s Desk top lighter , made I think of pewter type material . I don’t think the full striking mechanism is in place. If you give me your email address I can send pics. Basically I’d like it to be back to working order! Thanks

  15. Hi,
    I need the flint for a Park Lighter made in Murfreesboro TN. Everything else works but there is no flint. What material should it be? how long should it be? I tried pencil carbon, no luck.. THANKS.

  16. Really useful info! I’ve been collecting and repairing old lighters ever since I was a kid. Everything I’ve acquired experience wise, came from trial and error over the years. One thing I’ve stumbled on was to use a larger gauge piece of stripped copper wire chucked in a cordless drill to clear out fouled flint tubes. The copper is soft and flexible enough to not damage the tubes and generally it zips out that oxidized flint pretty quick! Another trick I’ve used for vintage style wicks was to tightly wrap a piece of thread about an inch down the length of it to really stiffen it up to start threading it into the lighter body. Some styles of lighter seem impossible to get that wick back in so with this method, you can leave the thread attached to no ill effect and twist the wick through the top. You have a geat web page here and I’ll be checking out your youtube channel, thanks for the great work!

    1. Thank you Ben, I appreciate the tips and the nice comments about the web page. I’ve got new videos posting to YouTube every day now during the week, so check it out. A lot of good stuff over there. I’m always learning, man, so chime in anytime.✌️

    1. Thank you for the question, Russ. I am not aware of a repair service for those Orvis lighters. Unfortunately, that is a piezoelectric ignition system with butane fuel, two subsets I only dabble in.✌️

  17. Hello, I sent you an email regarding my Beattie jet lighter. Looks like it is missing the tip to the jet, really bummed about that. But It is such a nice lighter, I thought perhaps you could fix it. Any way, Like I said, I sent an email earlier today before I found this site. I would gladly send the lighter to you and pay shipping if you think you could get it working for a reasonable price. Thanks in advance.

    1. Thank you for the questions, Colin. Can you snap photos or a video of the lighter and email them to me? I would like to see what you mean by “missing the tip to the jet.” While the jet, itself can not be repaired, you could likely buy a lighter or lighters for parts and switch inserts.✌️

  18. I have a swiss swank lighter with a clock. it seems inpossible to install a new wick.
    there is s screw type on top lighter that unscrews. the opening is very small?
    is ther a special wick for this lighter?

    1. I’ve found several photos of Swank clock lighters online and I don’t see any reason this blind method for installing wicks will not work. It can be very cluttered inside the tank and there may be hurdles you need to avoid in order to get that wire fished through there. If you continue having trouble, you could mail it in and let me wick it for you.✌️

  19. I have a newly acquired Imperial Whirlwind. For some reason the twist to fill plate on the bottom is stuck. I know there is a spring in the plate, but it will not budge. I have several of these 50s lighters with the twist to fill bottom and this is the first one I found that was stuck.
    Any advice you could pass along would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Thank you for the question, Peter. Unfortunately, I don’t have any personal experience with the twist to fill bottom on the Ronson Whirlwind Imperial lighter that would allow me to diagnose your problem. I will, however, keep a keen eye peeled so as to familiarize myself with this mechanism at the earliest opportunity I’m afforded.

  20. Hi Joseph, thanks for the article.
    I have recently started a hobby restoring old lighters. My first one I found is a ronson cadet (I believe) and the o-ring that sits in the fluid seal needs to be replaced. I have scraped off most but do you know of a chemical that will help get the rest off? Also is the button is extremely sticky, I have looked inside the hole where the spring sits and it looks like it is filled with flint. I have gotten most of it out but again, is there a chemical that will get rid of it without degrading the metal?
    Kind regards.

    1. Hello, Con and thank you for the question. I do not use any chemicals either in repairing or cleaning these old lighters. I know no shortcut through petrified flint other than patience, awkward tools and a drill. As for cleaning, I simply wipe them off. I don’t want to do anything that would either damage the metal or erase evidence of its age.

  21. Hello,
    I came across a Joe Camel “Lights” lighter. I assume it is a butane one. My question is: How do I refill the lighter, before I start pulling and tugging at it to open it.
    Cheers and stay safe

  22. I have a 1910-1930ish era petrol lighter and the striker needs to be replaced. I cannot for the life of me find any info online on how to replace this piece or where I can buy one. Every site is about zippo lighters.
    This is image is a good idea of what I’m working with (although a lot less fancy and the post the striker sits on is inside the body of the lighter and is removeable from the lighter)

    do you know how to replace something like this? Where can I buy spare strikers?

    1. From your photo, the lighter appears to be trench art or at least that style. To my knowledge, there was not much standardization as they were typically working with whatever materials they had on hand.✌️

  23. Hello and Greeting Sir!

    I have an old 1960’s era Scripto Butane lighter from my dad when he was in the Navy. It doesn’t have a typical fill “port” or screw in the bottom and I cannot determine how it is to be filled. It does have the striker and flint that removes from the top which unscrews to hold the flint yet I can’t seem to disassemble it enough to tell how to refill it with butane. The body doesn’t simply pull out like the old Zippo’s and I don’t want to ruin it. Can you help?

  24. Hello,

    I am looking for scripto vu replacement parts. My lighter is post 1962.

    Striker wheel and assembly
    Base screw and gasket

  25. I have an old penguin lighter looks and works like a zippy do you know if it has a asbestos wick and is that dangerous to use

    1. Thanks for the question Kirk. I do not know if that old lighter has an asbestos wick but it is always a good idea to switch the wick to a new one if you plan to inhale what you’re combusting.

  26. I have a vintage cigarette lighter fluid/flint, It is at least 50 years old. I cannot read the maker on the bottom…it is so small, even with a magnifying glass. It is shiny black trimmed in gold colored metal. I am missing a tiny screw and I don’t really know what is put in that chamber. The bottom has 2 very small openings which are straight head screws and between the 2 small is a larger opening with straight head screw, I am missing 1 one the small screws. I have determined that the small hole with the screw inplace is where you adjust the flame. I need the tiny screw for the other opening. Which of the other two holes is for fluid and the other for fluid? I have search for over an hour trying to find help. I hope you can!! Thank you so much!!!

    1. From the way you describe the flame adjustment it sounds like you are talking about a butane fueled lighter which I do not repair. If you would like to send some photos of the bottom of the lighter and top with the snuffer open I can confirm what kind of lighter you are dealing with.

  27. Hi there my spark wheel doesn’t rotate when I’ve got a flint in. Could it be the flint is too hard? It’s like the teeth of the little gears can’t get enough grip. It’s a penguin super lighter if that helps thank you.

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