The WhisperLite stove by MSR has been one of the most popular backpacking stoves on the market since its inception for a reason. It’s relatively light, packable, and easy to use, but more important than any of these, for me, is that fact that the WhisperLite is virtually bombproof. Always reliable in the backcountry when you need it most— no matter how much soot, sand, or dirt you expose it to— the WhisperLite is easy to clean and repair. Have a WhisperLite, but not sure what to do when you see that pitiful orange flame? Follow these easy steps and your WhisperLite will be singing blue and hot for a long time to come.
Part One: Dealing with the Two Most Likely Issues with Your Stove
If your stove isn’t functioning properly, most likely, the problem is either in the fuel line or the shaker jet. It’s easy for grit and grime to get into your stove’s mechanics when you’re out in the backcountry— making sure that the fuel line and shaker jet are clean often provides the easy solution to making your stove function properly again.
First, assemble your tools. In order to clean your stove and get it back into top shape, you’ll need some white gas from your fuel bottle, a bandana, a screwdriver (you’ll get to use this in Part Two), and the stove tool that should have come included with your WhisperLite (if you don’t have one of these, you can usually by-pass its function just using your hands).
First, clean your fuel line. The fuel line is located inside the gold colored sheath that you connect to your fuel bottle. The silver tip of the fuel line will be just visible poking out of the end of the gold colored sheath. Put the end of the fuel line into one of the three small holes in the stove tool and twist the tool in order to get a good grip on the line.
From here, you’ll be able to pull the fuel line completely out of the gold sheath so that it’s separate from the rest of your stove system.
In order to clean the line, carefully pour some of your white gas from the fuel bottle onto your bandana. Next, wipe down the fuel line using the fuel coated part of the bandana, making sure that any soot, sand, dirt, etc. is removed. After the fuel line is clean, return it to inside the gold colored sheath, using the exact process you used to get it out, in reverse (because the line gets kinked from spending long periods of time in the same position inside the stove, it can be a bit tricky to get it all the way back in— it’s okay, just use a bit of elbow grease, you won’t damage the line by pushing hard).
The next most common problem has to do with the stove’s shaker jet. Getting the shaker jet out and making sure there are no obstructions takes some minor stove deconstruction.
First, remove the stove’s fuel cup (also called primer pan), located on the bottom of the stove. This is the part of the stove that fills up with fuel while you’re priming the stove (hence the name fuel cup). It should unscrew easily from the bottom of the stove— just turn counter-clockwise.
Once the fuel cup is removed, you’re going to want to clean it so that it’s free from any dirt.
Just like before, pour a little white gas out onto your bandana and wipe off the fuel cup until it’s completely clean. Put the fuel cup aside somewhere it won’t get dirty.
Removing the fuel cap will expose the area in which the fuel enters the stove itself— this part of the stove houses the shaker jet.
Go ahead and pull it out, holding onto the fuel line (you could pull this part of the stove out from where it winds through the leg of the stove so that it detaches from the rest of the stove completely, but there’s no need, and it can be a hassle to get it back in).
From here, you’ll see the jet, which has flat sides and a small hole at its apex, and the attached rounded, smooth part of the mechanism, which connects to the fuel line cable.
Your stove tool has a hexagonal hole that is made to fit over the jet— you can use it to unscrew the jet from the fuel line system.
Here you can see that jet part-way unscrewed from the fuel line system.
Once you detach the jet, you’ll see the shaker (otherwise known as the needle weight) inside. Be careful to unscrew the jet while its facing upwards so that the shaker doesn’t fall out— it’s really small and could be hard to find.
The jet and needle weight separated.
I like to pour some white gas out into the fuel cup to make a little bath for the needle weight and jet. You can also wipe them each off with the bandana and some white gas, making sure that they’re completely clean.
If you hold up the shaker, you’ll see the tiny needle at its end. Make sure the needle isn’t bent (and be careful not to bend it yourself), because a badly bent or broken needle can cause your stove to stop working entirely. Along with the fuel line being clogged, having a clogged jet hole is the other most common issue with your WhisperLite. Take the needle weight and carefully insert the needle into the jet hole from the outside. Then, hold the jet up to the sun, close one eye, and look through it to make sure that it is completely clear from any grime— you should be able to clearly see the edges of the circle and the sky beyond.
Part Two: The Deep Clean
If you tried the steps from Part One and your stove still isn’t functioning properly, you can take your WhisperLite completely apart and clean every element in order to get it up and running. The first step (leaving off from the end of Part One) is to remove the stove’s legs. Once the jet and fuel cable have been removed, the legs will slide right off; however, the three separate legs are attached to the stove in a particular order, and it can be confusing to put them back on if you don’t distinguish the order in which you took them off. In order to make this process easy on yourself, just use a pen or pencil.
Slide all three legs directly onto your pen so that they remain in the right order while you’re cleaning the rest of the stove. It’s easy to tell how the legs are oriented on the stove once you go to put them back on, because the flat wires will face towards the stove, while the pointed wires will rest on the ground.
Once you remove the legs, the underside of the stove will be exposed. If you’ve been using your stove for a while without cleaning it, you’ll be able to see how much soot has built up on the metal surface.
Once again, pour a bit of white gas out onto your bandana and use it to clean the bottom of the stove. You can see how much soot came off during my cleaning!
Afterwards, you should be able to see a big difference just by the looking at your stove.
In order to clean the final elements of the stove, you’ll need to unscrew the burner cap. If you look at the top of the stove, you’ll see the large screw in the middle.
Using your screwdriver (I use the one included on my multi-tool for repairs mid-trip), unscrew the burner cap from the rest of the system. This will break the stove down into four remaining pieces: the burner cap, the flame rings, the circular burner pan, and the gold colored cylinder that holds the shaker jet.
Using the white gas and bandana, clean each piece as you go along, starting with the gold cylindrical piece.
You’ll be able to remove the burner cap and clean it both inside and out.
Next clean the flame rings— they should easily separate from one another so that you can clean each one individually. Check each ring for any breaks or bends as you clean.
The WhisperLite’s burner system, clean and ready to go!
Finally, repeat the dis-assembly steps in reverse in order to put your stove back together. The hardest part here is always reattaching the legs, but if you kept them in the right order, then it’s just a matter of sliding them on and spreading them out so that they easily order into the groves on the circular burner pan.
And there you have it! With these steps, I took this particular stove from not even lighting to hot blue flames. These repairs are easy to do in the backcountry or at home before your next big trip— and as a bonus, you’ll be a hero when you can fix the stove for your hungry hiking buddies at dinner time.