Maintenance is one of those things that’s convenient to put out of mind. Consumer goods these days are built and priced to be thrown away when they break; it’s a sad reality. I’m anti-toss-it-and-get-a-new-one, and luckily there are a good number of products still around that can be still be serviced and kept in good working condition, backpacking stoves being a prime example. Many stoves can, and should, be cleaned and maintained for optimum performance. It’s a good idea to do so as you probably won’t want to suffer a stove breakdown on your adventures far from the burger barn. Today I’ll cover a quick how-to on cleaning the MSR WindPro (version 1) canister stove.
What’s there to go wrong, it’s a freakin stove!?!
You’d think, right? Unfortunately, they’re not immune to wear and tear that comes with age and use. In general, the less moving parts, the less likelihood of malfunction, or nuclear blast. For example, alcohol stoves have zero moving parts and have next to zero problems, whereas pressure fed liquid fuel stoves have pumps, valves, and sometimes other doohickies that need a little love every now and then.
The MSR WindPro is a fairly simple canister stove yet it has a couple of areas that should get some attention. I should preface this (is it still a preface when coming in the third paragraph??) by saying that MSR does not want you to do this maintenance, they want you to send the stove to them or take it to a certified representative. Ok, so on to the fun bits… the main issue I have had is the needle valve becoming fouled. It get’s a black gunky build up on it which is possibly some reside from the gas or byproduct of gas and o-ring material interaction. After either enough time or enough use it will start to restrict the gas flow of the stove. I’d say for someone using their stove a few nights a month for a year, it might take a year or two to notice a weak burner.
The other possible point of failure would be o-rings gone bad, causing fuel leakage at the valve. This will likely be a longer term replacement item as I have yet to change mine after several years of use. Also, I don’t believe they can be purchased as part of a stove maintenance kit since MSR doesn’t want you tinkering around with the WindPro. I measured mine to know what size they are and they can be purchased from various vendors, however I don’t want to reveal the size. If I happened to make a measuring mistake and someone follows my advice they might end up looking like Gus in the “Face Off” episode of Breaking Bad. Don’t sweat it as you probably won’t need to replace them for a looong time, and when you do, just drop MSR an email.
WindPro Takedown and Cleanup
Ok, let’s clean the valve. Tools needed:
- 1/16 inch punch
- C-Clamp or other type of clamp to secure the valve assembly
- A sturdy workbench. table, or desk that can take a clamp and some light hammering on
- SOS pad or ultrafine steel wool
- Possibly a 1/16 inch drill bit
First things first… ditch that fuel canister, we’re not going to do this work while connected to potential sources of explosion. Now, the brass needle valve screws into the aluminum housing (which you just disconnected from the fuel canister) and is held in place by a pin. This can be tapped out fairly easily, then the valve can be unscrewed. Now you’d have to find something to put between the table and the valve assembly to allow the pin to be tapped out the bottom, otherwise you’ll be tapping and wondering why it’s not going anywhere 🙂 A block of wood with a small hole in it will work great, or get creative. If your punch is like mine, it won’t be long enough to get the pin all the way out. After getting it as far as I could with the punch, I used a 1/16 drill bit with a tiny tap and it dropped right out. Now the valve can be unscrewed and removed.
I started cleaning the black gunk off the tip of the needled before I thought “hey, post this!” so it’s somewhat clean in the photo above, but you can still see some of the black stuff there. Try not to touch or wipe the o-rings, if you do they’ll need to be re-lubricated with petroleum jelly, or a little silicone lubricant. If you happen to have some lubricant on hand, just lube them up anyway when you’re done.
Mash the tip of the valve down into the SOS pad and twist back and forth. After a minute or two it should be sparkly clean. Before re-installing it take a look inside the housing with a flashlight. It should be clean in there, if any gunk is in there try a q-tip and some rubbing alcohol. When done, make sure there are no foreign fibers hanging around either on the brass valve or inside the aluminum housing. Looks good? Then put her back together! Tapping the pin back in is easier than getting it out and you probably will not have to use the clamp again. Don’t forget to push the rubber gasket back on.
A pretty quick and easy job with a few basic tools. Check the maintenance out on your stove and see what’s involved. You’ll probably find it’s not too difficult and there may even be a maintenance kit available from the manufacturer.
Now give yourself a pat on the back and grab a beer… or nerd out and go boil some water. Hike It. Like It.