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How to Prime an Oil Burning Furnace

By Dale Yalanovsky

Although an oil burning furnace is mainly self-contained, if the tank runs dry or a line needs to be changed, you'll have to prime the furnace before it can be lit again. Lighting the furnace also means finding and using the reset button. The reset button, which is located on a control box and will be red, goes hand in hand with the priming sequence. So before any attempt is made to actually prime the fuel pump, locate the reset button now for best results later.

Locate the oil pump on your furnace. The pump will be located either directly under or adjacent to the actual burner.

Find the bleeder port. It will be a small knob shaped item with a hole in the middle surrounded by a hexagonal nut. On some models the nut will cover the hole, but in all other aspects it will look the same. If you are at all familiar with a car's brake bleeding port, they will look very similar.

Position your bucket beneath the bleeder port.

Turn the hexagonal nut in a counter-clockwise rotation for about two turns. Oil may begin to slightly drip.

Keep the bucket in place and press the red reset button on the furnace. This will activate the pump and in a few seconds, oil should be squirting from the bleeder port.

Release the reset button and quickly tighten down the bleeder nut, turning it in a clockwise direction.

Push the reset button again and hold it in place until the furnace ignites. If there is no ignition after one minute, release the button and bleed the port again.

Bleed the port a maximum of three times. If there is still no ignition after pressing and holding the reset button, it's time to call in a professional.


Things You Will Need

  • Small, adjustable wrench
  • Bucket


  • If any fuel oil has made its way out of the bucket, both kitty litter and dried coffee grounds work well for soaking up the mess.

About the Author


Dale Yalanovsky has been writing professionally since 1978. He has been published in "Woman's Day," "New Home Journal" and on many do-it-yourself websites. He specializes in do-it-yourself projects, household and auto maintenance and property management. Yalanovsky also writes a bimonthly column that provides home improvement advice.