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Share your tales of bothersome boiler repairs

A rise in the number of boiler-related emails in my inbox tells me it’s that time of year when people decide whether their boiler will survive another winter. But when your boiler breaks do you get a good repair service?

Our recent boiler brand reliability survey found that 48% of people with a boiler up to seven years old have experienced a fault. And two thirds of these faults stopping their heating or hot water from working.

Luckily not all faults lead to a visit from the repairer, but a third of the people we asked have had to get their boiler repaired since it was first installed.

What those figures don’t capture is the frustration of a boiler that breaks down repeatedly, with a fault that no one seems to be able to pin down. Which brings me to my own boiler…

The trials and tribulations of my boiler

One freezing cold morning, after a spell of unseasonably warm weather, I was woken up by a very bad tempered husband swearing about a lack of heating and hot water. The LCD display on the boiler told us there was a problem with the gas supply. We quickly discovered that this was nonsense, but couldn’t reset our boiler to get it working again.

The first repairman came out, took the casing off, pressed the reset button and it started working immediately. He couldn’t identify the problem, suggested we leave it to see if it happened again and asked for £109 in call-out fees.

The same thing happened a few weeks later when there was another sharp change in the weather. A few hours later I watched the repairman come in, take the casing off, press reset and the boiler sprung back into life. He then spent over an hour unplugging leads, cleaning sensors, running diagnostic tests and phoning the manufacturer to see if they could work out what was wrong.

To cut a long story short the fault eventually turned out to be a build up of debris in the ignition, which meant it couldn’t create a spark to ignite the gas. This made the boiler ‘diagnose’ a gas supply problem and switch itself off, where changes in the weather expanded and contracted the ignition’s metal pins, creating this intermittent fault.

All it took to solve the problem was one repairer who knew enough to come in, clean the pins and bend them apart slightly. Job done, no problems since. The one thing we didn’t need, and every single repairman mentioned, was a new printed circuit board, costing more than £100.

Do you need boiler breakdown cover?

My problem is that it took five separate repairmen, one service and tens of trips into the loft to reset the boiler to get this problem fixed. Without our boiler repair contract we’d have spent more than £500 on call out fees to get a couple of bits of metal unbent and cleaned.

Still, that’s not to say you need to invest in a boiler servicing contract or breakdown cover as not everyone’s as unlucky as me. We’ve found that the average cost of an annual boiler service is £70, while the cheapest annual service contract costs around £140 without call-out fees. It’s likely that your boiler won’t require any repairs when it comes up for its annual service, so you’d be £70 better off if you paid for a one-off service.

I’m curious to hear what boiler experiences you’ve had – have repairers got straight to the root of the problem and fixed your boiler without hassle? Or have you had to pay for expensive return trips to a boiler that keeps on giving up the ghost?

Comments
Guest
jonnie ferguson says:
23 April 2013

i have an old glowworm back boiler,i moved into my house over 20 years ago,i think it was put in in the late 70,s and it is still running fine,hard to believe but its true,it has never broken down,never cost me a penny in repairs,just servicing costs,the gas engineer always tells me to keep it till it expires,i never had breakdown cover because i dont need it,,as they were built too last,and that very little can go wrong with these old warriors.it heats up the radiators and hot water in a very short time,my gas bills are no higher than my combi boiler friends,all the nightmares folks seem too be having with the new combi boilers breakdowns etc.its a big money racket from the big suppliers,people are paying way over the odds,then you find out where all your money is going,eg british gas big fancy tv adverts and sponserships ,then you find out eon hasnt paid any tax,baxi have a new back boiler on the market,but i dont need a new boiler just yet

Guest
Trudi says:
22 November 2013

Baxi Neta Tech boiler that has had numerous callouts, is still less than two years old and under warrenty. Engineers come and it works briefly after they leave before stopping again (within hours) and never anyone available to repair it for days. Now waiting for my third repair (have requested Senior Engineer) in two weeks. As this is a Combi boiler we have no heating or hot water. Last engineer said boiler was rubbish, no longer made and it needs replacing, after research on the internet it would seem lots of other people agree.

Guest
gas brains says:
30 October 2014

take it off the wall,remove all the copper bits and skip it,dont you love this country.

Guest
gas brains says:
23 October 2014

my word is gas law,prescott signed this country up for condensing boilers,he is the one responsible introducing these machines that cannot be repaired,the manufacturers come out and just keep putting parts on till it works,this is a scam on a massive scale,do not fit a gas boiler,get storage heaters instead.or even better,get a gas fire in your lounge and a hot water cylinder with an immersion heater,yes we are back in the sixties,to put it bluntly these machines are welding every time they come on,and with so many fine electrical connections it does not stand a chance,so enjoy your wall hung welding,frisking you,set on the wall,its nt it for purpose,i am an engineer,i laugh when I go for an interview and tell these big firms that they are naïve to think they can fix these things,and they think they can do it,i have seen thousands of spare parts waiting to be fitted,hey never are.

Guest
Trevis Johns says:
3 December 2014

I made a mistake in having a new Vaillant boiler fitted in October 2014 at a cost of £2500. When fitted it failed to fire up and it took two trips from Vaillant’s own Engineer, four printed boards and one valve plus three days before Vaillant would agree that the boiler was faulty. I am 78 and my wife 84 we were left without hot water and heat for 3 days and the comment from Vaillant’s Engineer was that it was my fault as I should have had an Electic Shower fitted then I would have had hot water. The Service Engineer from Vaillant was a waist of space. My Plumber was very good and it was him that twisted the arm of Vaillant and managed to get them to give a replacement boiler at great cost to him. They refused to compensate me for my inconvenience and have only offered 1 extra year to the 7 year guarantee, at my age this of little use. I would suggest to anyone that wants service and reliability do not have a Vaillant boiler.

Guest
Paul White says:
15 December 2014

I’ve got a local firm (stl heating) to install my boiler (a Worcester Bosch) a few years ago and I’ve never had a spot of bother ever since. Sure I get it serviced every year – for the warranty, but that’s been ok too. If you live in the North West – might be worth getting them out.

Guest

20 years ago I had a Vaillant non-condensing combi boiler installed, and I have had to call out an engineer only 3 times since. The installer advised me to have a non-condensing boiler because in his experience, condensing boilers are more likely to break down, and when they do, it costs more to get them mended because they are more complex. Sadly, he is no longer available to service and mend my boiler, but parts are still available for my boiler, and I will keep it going as long as possible.
If anyone else has an old but trusty boiler like mine, I hope that they also resist sales pressure to buy a new boiler. Unless there is a big difference in running costs (in my case less than 5%) I’ll choose reliability over economy.
Besides, if you want to limit your carbon footprint, it is more effective to keep most old machines running, rather than to buy a new one.

Guest

Hi Tom – You have reminded me that I have had my Philips washing machine for exactly 34 years today. 🙂 The only parts I have replaced are one motor and one pump, both over 20 years ago. My Glow-worm boiler is at least a year older and has been wonderfully reliable. I want to be sure that I’m not going to suffer burst pipes because the boiler has packed in over Christmas when I’m away for a couple of weeks.

I’m hoping to move house soon and am relieved that I will inherit a non-condensing boiler that is 18 years old. The owners said that they had looked at the economics of having a condensing boiler put in but decided against it.

Part of the problem with condensing boilers is poor installation, using the wrong size condensate drains and external pipes that can freeze in winter.