Towel Radiator Not Working? Try This

We’ve covered standard radiators quite a bit on DreamyHome in recent time (it is winter, after all). But if you own a towel radiator, chances are a lot of what we’ve suggested for troubleshooting doesn’t work for you. If your towel radiator is not working, we’ve got a few tricks up our sleeves to try before throwing in the towel (pun absolutely intended).

If your towel radiator is not working, the most likely causes are a blocked or faulty valve, a pocket of trapped air, improper installation, or a blockage somewhere along the line.

There’s a good bit of ground to cover today, so let’s get right into it, shall we?

Fixing a Towel Radiator Not Working

Now there’s a good bit that can go wrong with any radiator, regardless of the type. The sad truth is that when you’ve got a boiler, thermostat(s), plumbing, and a radiator all working in tandem, something is bound to fail eventually. The nice thing is that it’s relatively easy to troubleshoot at home. Anything you’re not able to figure out, you likely weren’t going to be able to fix on your own anyway.

Because radiators rely on plumbing to deliver water, there’s a strong chance that if the following things don’t work, you’ll need a plumber. Unless that is, you want to become a DIY plumber…. but I’m going to assume you don’t.

Trapped Air (Bleeding the Radiator)

Now we’ve covered this a lot, but we’ll get it once more for good measure. If you have no bleed valve on your radiator, click here. Otherwise, I’m going to give a brief walkthrough and see if we can’t get this sorted.

First things first, you’re going to need a towel and bowl. Water will be coming out of your radiator, and it’s better to be prepared. Now, to bleed a radiator:

  1. Crank the heat in your house to max for ~10 mintues. Once this is done, turn off your radiator(s) that we’re working on and allow them to cool. This will take roughly 1 hour.
  2. Once cool, locate your radiator’s bleed valve. It’s normally located at the bottom on the side, as shown in the picture above.
  3. Using your bleed key (special tool that fits right into the valve), open the valve slightly. You’ll hear a hissing sound – that’s good.
    1. Remember, lefty loosey, righty tightey.
    2. If you don’t have a bleed key, a wrench, screwdriver, or pliers will work (depending on the valve).
  4. Continue to do this until the hissing stops or water comes out. This usually takes roughly 30 seconds.
  5. Close the bleed valve, restart your radiator, and allow it to run for ~an hour. If it works, great! If not, move down the list.

Now in case you weren’t sure what exactly this does, it frees air that’s trapped in the radiator. Not only is this a normal and common problem, but bleeding is actually considered maintenance. Congratulations! You just performed professional-grade radiator maintenance. (Now you have to remember to do this every year when you start using your radiators.)

Blocked or Faulty Valve

Now this one is a bit harder to troubleshoot without removing the valves and replacing them.

A sure sign that there’s an issue with a valve is if one is leaking! If you notice that there’s water coming from your radiator, dry it off with a towel. Once you have, grab some tissue paper and carefully wipe down the whole thing. Once you notice moisture on the tissue, you’ve located the leak! The most common places for a leak in radiators are the valves and seams.

If you notice a leak in your radiator valves, it’s best to call a professional for help. Depending on the type of boiler system you have, it may get rather difficult. You also run the risk of damaging your boiler or radiator if you forget a step or two – that’s no good.

Beyond that, you can adjust the valves and see if they’ve been stuck open or closed – another sure sign they need replacement. Play with different combinations – both partially open, one open and the other closed. If this fixes the issue, it’s likely that you have a blocked or faulty valve.

Blocked Plumbing

Now this one is a pain. Beyond removing your radiator and checking the plumbing with professional equipment, the best thing you can do is make educated guesses. And the worst part is that it’s rather difficult to clean out plumbing without a specialised cleaner. You can’t just make a DIY cleaner, as it needs to be safe for your plumbing, radiator, and boiler.

In short, if you suspect that a blockage is the culprit of your issues, you’ll want a cleaner. Something like Hyper Flush works well. and just needs to be poured into the radiator. It can be left for up to 14 days and then flushed from the system. This will (theoretically) clear any blockage and have everything up and running again.

Improper Installation

The last possibility is that your radiator was installed improperly. This is not a super likely possibility, but it’s worth mentioning. If the radiator in question is a new addition to your home (especially if you installed it yourself), it may be worth doing some homework.

Certain radiators need to be installed in a particular manner. Some require vertical installation, while others require horizontal installation. Others still require specialised adaptors and parts to ensure everything works well. If you think this was the issue, look up a video guide for your specific radiator’s installation. Ensure you did it properly, and if so – it’s time to call a professional.

I know that’s the conclusion that most of these have come to, but it’s for a good reason. Not only will messing with your radiator not improve the situation unless you know what you’re doing, but you’re not a pro. A plumber will be able to easily pinpoint the issue and can get it sorted much more quickly than you could. I’ve always felt that playing it safe was the best option with my home heating. After all, you pay for every bit of it, and if a radiator stops working, you’re still paying!

Final Thoughts

If your towel radiator is not working, there are a few things to check before calling a professional. Unfortunately, there’s not much that you can do “easily” beyond bleeding your radiator and checking for leaks. Anything else will require a good amount of troubleshooting and blind testing, which you likely don’t know how to do properly!

Whether it’s a blockage in your home heating piping, a faulty or blocked valve, or improper installation, a pro will spot it. And not only will they spot it faster than you, they’ll have specialised tools to fix it.

Related Topics To Read Next

No Water In Radiator? Here’s Why

Leaking Towel Rail or Radiator? Try This

Radiator Won’t Turn Off? Here’s Why

Leaking Radiator Bleed Valve? Here’s Why

No Bleed Valve on Radiator? Here’s What to Do

Copper Pipe in Concrete – Yes or No?

Radiator Crackling & Other Noises

How Much Water In a Radiator?

Radiator Rattling? Here’s Why

Broken Thermostat or User Error? Let’s Find Out

Hot Water Tank not Heating? Here’s Why

Vaillant Boiler Temperature Settings

Sabre Boiler Red Light On – Why?

Honeywell ST9400C Problems & Fixes

Turn Off hot Water Supply: How To

Boiler Clicking & Other Noises

About the Author Harry Thompson

Involved in home renovations throughout his life, Harry is an expert in everything to do with home and garden DIY. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking and tending to his garden.