I love Coleman butane stoves for camping because they’re compact and the butane canisters are small, lightweight and fuel efficient. Although these stoves are usually very reliable, they can occasionally give problems when lighting.
Reasons your butane stove isn’t lighting include an empty or almost empty canister or the canister not being locked into place. It could also be that the can is upside down, it has expired, the weather is too cold, or the stove’s igniter is dirty or clogged.
Sometimes a misaligned igniter can be the cause or you’re using it in very windy conditions or you have a fuel leak.
The good news is that these issues are usually pretty easy to fix and you should be able to light your butane stove after a bit of troubleshooting.
1. Your Butane Canister Is Empty
This sounds pretty obvious but I must admit that I’ve tried to light a butane stove in the past and failed, only to realize that my butane canister was empty.
Your butane can is empty if it feels lighter than a full one (this is easy to detect if you use butane often) or if you shake it and you don’t hear any butane swishing around.
If you have a scale handy, you could also weigh it and check the tare (empty) weight on the label to see how much you have left. Empty butane cans usually weigh around 3.5oz.
2. The Can Isn’t Locked Into Place
For the butane to flow into the stove and ignite, the canister must be correctly locked into place.
After removing the canister’s cap, place it in the stove’s butane compartment, make sure the divet is aligned with the notch at the top of the can and press down the lever. Then, close the fuel compartment and lock it.
The video below gives a good demonstration of how to do this:
3. It’s Too Cold
Butane is efficient but only works well above 40℉/4℃, so if it’s really cold and you can’t light your stove, this could be the reason. At 28.4°F/-2°C butane becomes ineffective and freezes at -138.25ºC/-216.85ºF.
This is why it’s best to store butane canisters between 40℉/4℃ and 122°F/50°C.
This is why many people opt for propane or isobutane stoves (or even liquid fuel stoves) in colder conditions. However, you can adapt your butane stove to work with propane in cold conditions if you want to make use of the stove you already have.
If you have a multi-fuel stove, I’d suggest using white gas/Coleman fuel instead as it will work well in the cold. Alternatively, move to a warmer place if you can and try and light your stove.
Some people have even tucked their butane canisters under their jackets against their body in order to warm them up or keep them warm in cold conditions so they can work.
4. The Can Is Upside Down
If you have one of the mini butane stoves without the locking fuel compartment, the reason it might not be lighting is because the canister is upside down.
When upright, gravity forces the liquefied butane to sit at the bottom of the can with the gas on top. When working correctly, the butane gas moves through the pressure valve at the optimal rate.
However, if the can is upside down, the liquid butane will try to move through the valve, creating excess pressure. As it moves from the pressurized can into the stove, the liquid butane expands and one of the following could happen:
1. The gas won’t burn properly and your stove won’t light as it should.
2. A sudden flame surge and potential fire or explosion.
The video below shows a guy using a butane can upside down and it creates some pretty intense flares (2 minutes 45 seconds):
5. The Igniter Is Clogged, Dirty or Wet
Butane typically burns clean and doesn’t cause a lot of sotty build-up like some of the other stove fuels. However, you still need to clean your stove (notably the igniter) regularly to ensure that the fuel can flow through unimpeded.
I find that a little baking soda, white vinegar and a soft brush does a good job of getting rid of the gunk on my stove’s igniter.
If the igniter is wet then this can also affect whether or not your butane stove will light.
If you can't fix your igniter then try using a lighter like these BIC long stem lighters from Amazon to light your butane stove. If the stove effectively lights you know the igniter is the problem, if it fails to light even with a lighter or match then you likely have a different issue.
6. The Igniter Is Out of Alignment
If your igniter is out of alignment, it won’t be able to receive the butane as it should and will have trouble firing up.
Fixing this issue is quite simple:
1. Make sure that your stove has cooled down before working on it.
2. Locate the igniter (the small protruding piece near the burner) and find the little notch or indentation on the burner where it’s meant to align.
3. If the notch is not aligned with the igniter, gently rotate the burner until it’s back in alignment.
Here’s a great video showing how it’s done:
7. Your Butane Canister Has Expired
Although butane itself never expires, the can in which it’s housed does. Butane canisters can last 8-10 years but over time the valve, seal and metal can deteriorate.
This can cause the butane to leak out (which could explain why your stove isn’t lighting).
8. You’re Using The Stove In Very Windy Conditions
If you’re using your butane stove outside and it’s very windy, the wind could be continuously blowing out the flame on the burner, even if you’re running the stove on high.
You can fix this by using the wind guards on your stove (if it has these) or shielding the stove in another way:
- Ask a few people to stand around the stove while you’re using it.
- Place a few tall and sturdy objects around the stove (e.g. large water bottles, bags, etc.)
- Grab yourself one of these 10-plate folding stove wind shields from Amazon
Otherwise, you may want to use the stove in your tent or indoors. Luckily, butane emits less carbon monoxide than other popular fuels like propane and is safe to use indoors as long as the space is well-ventilated.
Folding stove windscreen that is large enough to be used for both gas knapsack stoves and wood-burning stoves. Can be installed in a variety of different ways to offer wind protection plus bottom vents allow airflow circulation.
9. You’ve Got a Fuel Leak
The older your butane canister, the more likely it is to have a leak (as mentioned above, they’re usually good for 8-10 years).
If you notice any of the following, there’s a good chance your butane canister is leaking:
- Rust anywhere on the can
- Holes or tears
- Misshapen valve or seal
When you use a worn-out can and your stove doesn’t light, it usually just means that it’s empty. However, it’s dangerous to use leaking cans that still have a little butane in them because they can cause a fire or an explosion in extreme circumstances.