Identify Your Coleman
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Theory of Operation
Rebuild Single Mantle
Rebuild Double Mantle
Check Valve Removal
How to Light a Coleman Lantern
In the Owner's Manuals portion of Technical Assistance you can find a few different versions of how to light a lantern. They were written by professionals and cover the subject well. What you read here in only my opinion of how to do it easily. It is not the only way nor do I claim it to be the right way! It is only "my way."
This discussion does not cover propane lanterns but if you understand this chapter you'll be able to use one. It does not cover kerosene lanterns either but if you pre-heat their generator sufficiently they work pretty much the same. This covers gasoline lanterns, both double and single mantle versions. It covers Coleman products but if you have another brand you should be able to figure it out.
Let's first talk about some pre-firing topics...
I recommend that you use Coleman fuel for all of your camping appliances. It is not bogged down with the additives you find in automotive gasoline so it burns much cleaner. Pump gas produces a much stronger odor when burning-it also leaves a taste if you're using it in a stove. Coleman fuel will also extend the life of your generator because it does not have those additives.
But can you use the significantly cheaper gasoline that Joe puts in his Toyota? Yes, absolutely you can. If you rewind back to the '70s you will remember that cars used leaded fuel, but you could buy something called "white gas." White gas was gasoline without the lead additive. Which, of course, means that now all you can buy is white gas at the pump because it is all unleaded.
However, use Coleman fuel for the aforementioned reasons whenever possible. You will also want to use a good funnel that also functions as a filter. Doesn't take a much "crud" to plug-up a lantern.
I recommend you use Coleman mantles too. There are off-brand mantles, still being sold today, that use Thorium rather than Yttrium. Thorium is radioactive while Yttrium is not. All Coleman mantles sold today use Yttrium-they'll glow but you won't.
And finally lets touch on safety. Remember that you are playing with fire! Fill the lantern with clean fuel, use a funnel to avoid spillage and fill outdoors. Avoid getting the fuel on yourself and if you do wash it off immediately. Make sure you know what you're doing before you strike that match--don't strike it near an open container of fuel or where some has spilled. Ensure the filler cap is in good working order and on tight and the valve is shut off before pressurizing. DO NOT loosen or remove the filler cap while the lantern is in operation or when it is hot!!!!!! And finally, if you're unfamiliar with this process please do it outside! ALWAYS HAVE A FIRE EXTINGUISHER HANDY-ALWAYS.
I am going to assume that your lantern is in good working order. If you run into problems I recommend you bounce to the troubleshooting portion.
Step One: Burning the mantles.
Take your new mantles out of the bag (Fig 1). You'll note a string on the top. Hold the ends of the string in your fingers and bunch up the top of the mantle so that the top is completely closed (Fig 2). Then make 1/2 of a knot with the string ends, just like you do the first half of tying your shoes. Tighten the knot around the closed mantle top snug but not too tight because you're about to open it up (Fig 3).
Pry open the hole in the top of the mantle but keep the string ends tied in a knot (Fig 4). You'll see the concave middle of the burner cap-that is where the string goes around (Fig 5). Carefully place the mantle onto the lantern's burner cap. Once in place, pull your knot tight around the burner cap (Fig 6).
Make the second half of the knot and tighten. You want to clip the ends of the mantle string to within about 1/4" of the mantle so they don't flop around and puncture the burnt mantle during movement. (Fig 7). Using a match or lighter, apply flame to the entire bottom of the mantle (Fig 8). It is important that the entire mantle burns now. Watch it to turn to ash and get wrinkles. Once the mantle has completely burned up and has cooled down a bit it is ready for use.
Step Two: Filling. Make sure all of the lantern has cooled down, to include the mantles. Locate and remove the filler cap. Use a good filtering funnel and clean fuel. You do not have to fill up the lantern to the brim! About 1/2 full is plenty and you don't have to worry about over-filling. Once you have the fuel in, put the filler cap back on and snug it down tight.
Step Three: Pressurizing. Locate the pump plunger. If you have the lantern valve facing front towards you then the pump should be on the right-hand side of the fount. As imprinted on the top of the pump, twist the handle about a half turn or so counter-clockwise to unlock the check valve.
With two fingers and with your thumb over the hole, grab the pump and give it 25 strokes. You should feel increasing resistance to your down-strokes. When you have 25 strokes in it, press the plunger down again and turn it fully clock-wise until it stops.
Note: If you have a milspec, or military lantern like a Coleman 252A, reduce your pumps to 15-20. They operate off of lower pressure and too many pumps will cause you nothing but trouble.
Step Four: Lighting. First find the tip cleaner stem and rotate it about 3 times. On a single mantle lantern like a 242 or 200A the tip cleaner stem will be at the back of the lantern, directly behind the valve. On 2-mantle lanterns like the 220/228 series the stem is (supposed to be) located about 30 or so degrees to the left of the valve. If you have a new lantern or even an old 275, disregard this part as the tip cleaning process happens when you open the valve.
Air doesn't burn so don't bother lighting your match yet. Move you ear close to the lantern so you can hear what is going on. Very slowly start to open your valve. Open it to the point where you can hear air being released out of the burner assembly. At first it will be a smooth steady "shhhhhhhh." Once all the air clears and fuel makes it up through the lantern the audible difference will be obvious and it will start to "spit" fuel. When you hear this spitting (on some lanterns this it will happen almost immediately so be careful) shut off the valve.
Now you can light the match. Do so and place it up near the mantle. Be prepared for it to ignite because there may be enough fuel there already to light. Slowly open your valve. You'll hear the fuel coming out again and the mantles should ignite in flame (Fig 9). Once the generator starts warming up the flames will go away and the mantles will begin to glow...dimly and probably yellow at first (Fig 10). Once the generator gets hot the mantles will glow steadily, but still dim. Now you can open your valve up all the way. Then return to the pump plunger and give the lantern another 20 or so strokes, or enough to get the lantern to full-brightness (fig 11). Don't forget to lock the pump again.
Simple enough. Considering you'll probably be using the lantern outside in the black of night, it may be too bright for you. Modern lanterns purport to be "Adjustable." But actually the older ones with tip cleaner stems are much better at it. You can rotate that stem towards the "up" position to reduce fuel delivery to the mantle, thus reducing light. A 200A can produce enough light to almost completely blind the catfish master should he or she look away from the water and back to the truck. You can reduce the amount of light so you get something a little softer.
Remember that you must NEVER remove the fuel cap when the lantern is hot or still in operation! To shut down the lantern just turn the valve off. There will still be fuel inside that will come out-the lantern will not immediately go out. Actually it is neat to watch the flame wither away! And, according to one very wise man I know, it will take about 30 seconds for the light to completely die which is ample time for you to get back into your sleeping bag and get comfy again before "lights out!"
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Technical content provided primarily by Frank Bebb unless otherwise noted