Reviving the Galley Spark

Troubleshooting stove-burner ignitors is fairly simple.

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Hylas 49

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Reviving the Galley Spark

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Any thoughts on how to get the “spark” back in the burners on our Force 10 stove? The ignition sparkers on all three burners are, at best, sporadic. I’ve gotten some basic info from the factory, but it hasn’t helped. The ignitor’s battery has been replaced, the ends cleaned, and what I thought might be the issue—stove grease—has been taken care of.

Rick & Bonnie Fricchione
Black Diamond, 2007 Hylas 49
Portsmouth, R.I.

Your stove is most likely the same model as the one we tapped as PS Best Choice in July 2007, the Force 10 American Standard three-burner (63351, www.force10.com). Unlike some older stoves, this model has an electric-spark ignition rather than a flint-style piezo system for lighting burners. There are a number of potential failure points in these designs, but troubleshooting and repairing them is fairly simple and inexpensive.

In the electric-spark system, a closed circuit is required for the electricity created by the AA-battery source to supply power to all attached spark plugs. When the burners’ push-to-start knobs are engaged, the circuit is completed by a spring-loaded contact system. From what you described, it sounds as if this may be where your problem lies.

To diagnose the system’s ailments, Force 10 Vice President Brad Clark suggests the following: Test the spark plugs by pushing in and holding control knob. (Do not turn it.) If the burners spark, you can rule out issues with the battery, spark box, and spark plugs.

Take off the control knobs and control panel so that you can access the valves’ micro switches, which are on the shaft of each burner; all of the burner switches are on a harness. Remove the micro switches by pulling off the clip, spring, and brass washer on each valve system. Once the switches are removed, open them up and lift up their push mechanisms, which have brass “+” shaped contacts. Be sure these are free of corrosion and clean them if needed; then put them back in place. Before re-attaching the spring on the valve shaft, slightly pull its ends apart to elongate it.

If the micro switches require more than a simple cleaning, you can order a replacement micro-switch harness from Force 10 (800/663-8515) for $30.

Although an electric-spark ignition system can last 10-plus years if it’s properly maintained—batteries changed, switch contacts cleaned, springs attended to—the long-term reliability of the spring-loaded micro switches has been debated for some time. In 2011, Force 10 replaced them with momentary switches. “The tradeoff with this new system is increased reliability and ease of use, but the loss of one handed starting,” Clark said.

The cheapest—and easiest—fix we’ve found for sparkless burners is a $3 grill lighter, which enables you to manually light the burners. These cheapo lighters won’t last forever either, so we suggest keeping a few on hand.

A more detailed troubleshooting guide on the Force 10 galley range appears with the online version of this story at www.practical-sailor.com.

Force 10 Troubleshooting
Reviving the Galley Spark
Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on sailboats and sailing gear for more than 45 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising. Its independent tests are carried out by experienced sailors and marine industry professionals dedicated to providing objective evaluation and reporting about boats, gear, and the skills techniques required to cross oceans. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser who has been director of Belvoir Media Group's marine division since 2005. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license, has logged tens of thousands of miles in three oceans, and has skippered everything from pilot boats to day charter cats. His weekly blog Inside Practical Sailor offers an inside look at current research and gear tests at Practical Sailor, while his award-winning column,"Rhumb Lines," tracks boating trends and reflects upon the sailing life. He sails a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Yankee 30 out of St. Petersburg, Florida.

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