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Vigilant Damper Stuck!

Post in 'Vermont Castings & CDW Dutchwest older Models' started by earlgp, Jan 11, 2011.

  1. earlgp

    earlgp New Member

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    Hey, Im new here... apologies if people ask this all the time but... I just bought a place that came with a 1977 VC Vigilant... and i cannot get the top damper to close. It's in the open position now and I have the feeling the previous owners just used the thing like an open fireplace. It wont budge... I have cleaned out around the whole damper, tried prying it up without any luck, didnt want to try to hard and break it... it looks a little red around the handle bar (took the handle of with the set screw) and think maybe its rusted shut? can this happen? also wht product is best used top free this thing up? or how should i go about opening her back up? PB Break? WD40? pry harder? also tried vice grips on the handle pole... no luck just started biting into the metal...


    thanks for any help...

    -earl-

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  2. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    What part cannot move.....in the open position, I thought it would simply be laying back against the little shelf behind it!

    I have never seen one frozen one way or the other, rather the usual problems are with the metal rod or the angle it goes against on the rear of that damper.

    I think you certainly should be able to determine if it is the bar or the damper...by looking closely and seeing which will not budge. Putting a lot of pressure on from the damper handle does not seem like a good idea......
  3. remkel

    remkel Minister of Fire

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    I am running the same stove and have never heard of a locked damper.

    I have heard of the damper warping and not wanting to stay in the closed position- perhaps there is a severe warp in it that will not allow it to close.

    Please keep me posted if you figure it out and i will keep racking my brain here.
  4. Battenkiller

    Battenkiller Minister of Fire

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    I've had mine stick in the closed position a few times. Each time, there was a raging hot fire in it, and each time, I was able to open it after the fire cooled. It happened once this season and I was able to jiggle the handle up and down and it freed itself. There was no evidence of warping on mine, and it only happened those times. I think a piece of bark or something might have gotten in there and glazed the two parts together temporarily.
  5. defiant3

    defiant3 Feeling the Heat

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    Hey Earl GP, have you tried working the damper when it's hot? Cause I bet with some PB blaster stuff, and gettin it good and hot she'll break free. Don't be afraid to give a few love taps on the end of the shaft while the handle is off too. Honestly if that doesn't do it, it probably needs to be torn apart, drilled ,ground, maybe dynamited.
  6. remkel

    remkel Minister of Fire

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    Battenkiller- forgot about that happening on mine- sometimes when I load a piece of bark or wood gets caught between the damper and the back plate. Makes it difficult to close, but eventually closes. This may also be a possibility for the stuck damper.

    Glad I have others that are running these oldies but goodies.
  7. defiant3

    defiant3 Feeling the Heat

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    Keep in mind, guys, that as Vigilants age they tend to get their firebacks warped up and even cracked. Remkel I know yours is. So since the damper sits right on top of the fireback, this allows less space for the damper to do its thing, and it's more likely that things like this may happen. Some Vig.s are easy to replace fireback, some not so easy, but if you come to love your old dog as many others do, it's often cost effective to keep em barkin'.
  8. Fsappo

    Fsappo New Member

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    Defiant3 is correct. A warped fireback can cock the damper shaft so it doesnt go thru the hole on the side of the stove straight. Also, if its sitting there unused long enough, it can rust into place. Back when I started working on these stoves (20 years ago) first thing Id do when seeing a stuck damper is look at the fireback (inner). If it looked pristine, I would put the stove up on a crate, take the legs off, ratchet the thing around its waiste and go thru taking the top off the stove. Come to think of it, I had a supply of new tie rods in stock so...well anyway. I could sometimes take the top off a VC stove and work a damper lose. As my repressed memories come back, I think I would just end up telling the customer the stove can use a rebuild and charge them to tear her down and put it back together with a new fireback kit. I just realized I was no help to the OP.
  9. remkel

    remkel Minister of Fire

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    Yup, got a crack in mine, but it has not affected the damper operation. Looking into the new two piece back and think I may have to do a tear down this summer.... it will give me something to do.
  10. earlgp

    earlgp New Member

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    no cracks i can see..... if i pry on the actual damper in the stove it will move a bit but the rod never spins.... i think its just rusted in place... so is it ok to throw some PB Break or liquid wrench or something like that on it to loosen it up? i tried tapping on the rod with the handle off but didnt want to give it a good wack because i dont know how fragile or brittle these things are? cant get much in to pry it up from the back with any strength though... took a day off from fiddling with it... maybe this weekend i will give it another try.
  11. Battenkiller

    Battenkiller Minister of Fire

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    I have the two-piece back in mine. I bought it from the original owner who said he used it regularly for well over 20 years. The original one-piece firebacks used to crack on a regular basis, and they were never cheap to replace. I was once going to buy a buddy's Defiant for the $300 he owed the repair shop, just to clear his debt. That was over 20 years ago.

    I should buy extra parts now while I still can get them. I got a feeling I'm running my stove a little more athletically that the previous owner did. :coolsmirk:
  12. Battenkiller

    Battenkiller Minister of Fire

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    I'd oil it up and then start a fire in it. If things are gonna getting moving at all, that should get them started.
  13. remkel

    remkel Minister of Fire

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    Sounds like a plan to me, but I would go light on the oil...just enough to lube it up a bit.
    Good luck with this and like I said before, keep us posted. We "old" stove users need to keep each other up to date.
  14. Battenkiller

    Battenkiller Minister of Fire

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    Which means I'd be remiss if I didn't ask you if you've heard about this place:

    http://www.woodmanspartsplus.com/
  15. remkel

    remkel Minister of Fire

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    Had not heard of it, but THANKS! Fireback is a lot cheaper here than the price I was getting locally. Is the two piece a PITA to put in, or does it go together quite easily? At 380, I might just have to make a road trip.
  16. Battenkiller

    Battenkiller Minister of Fire

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    Yikes! That's the whole kit price, isn't it? Do you need everything in it? Still worth it if you do, it's a great stove.
  17. remkel

    remkel Minister of Fire

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    Nope, just the fireback. I am assuming the new two piece will fit in the place of the single piece? Have not done a lot of research on it and was wondering why I would have to change out both side panels to install a fireback.
  18. BrowningBAR

    BrowningBAR Minister of Fire

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    Damn. For $380 I would just shop around for another Vigilant. I got mine for $400 three and a half years ago.
  19. Battenkiller

    Battenkiller Minister of Fire

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    Not sure, I haven't done one. I'm sure "Franks" who posted above can help walk you through it, as well as several other members. I have the rebuild manual in PDF form if you want or need it. Send me a PM with your e-mail if you do and I'll get it right off to you.
  20. defiant3

    defiant3 Feeling the Heat

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    Fortunately the kit comes with instructions. To convert from 1 pc. to 2, you need to do a complete teardown, and rebuild using the new sides included in the kit. The way that the new fireback pieces ar einstalled in the stove require that they kind of slide in and engage and the old sides don't have grooves that allow for this. It is possible to grind out certain areas of the old sides to accomodate the new pieces, but that's not in any manual, and frankly there's enough to think about on this project, just hold yer nose, pay the bucks, make it that much easier. Actually not having the old sides to clean up does move the whole thing along a little quickah'.
  21. Battenkiller

    Battenkiller Minister of Fire

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    I was afraid of something like that. No, I wouldn't try to retrofit the old sides onto the new fireback, the kit sounds like the only way to go.

    I waited for years to find a Vigilant in great shape like mine was, and now I want to keep my stove forever. I only paid $300 for mine, and it came with 3/4 cord of 3 year old hardwood. Still, I think $380 ain't bad to get a basically brand-new stove when you are done rebuilding it. If not for the EPA, a top-quality stove like this would still be sold, and would probably go for well over $2K. I only hope that I will still be able to find the parts at any price when mine starts to go.

    Defiant3, mine has the 2-piece fireback and it appears to be in great shape. The damper meets evenly all across the top and there are no signs of warping or oxidation damage anywhere (except the left andiron, which is trashed after all these years). The stove still seems pretty air-tight - no smoke from an incense stick gets pulled into the stove anywhere except for through the air intakes. Any idea of how long the 2-piece fireback will last? I have to burn mine pretty hard to get enough heat from the basement installation. Should I get the fireback pieces now and put off the rebuild until they burn out, or do you think I'd get any benefit from doing a simple tear-down/rebuild now just to redo the seams and such? Either way, I think I'm gonna invest in the fireback and other pieces now while they are still available.
  22. remkel

    remkel Minister of Fire

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    Sold for 380! I will just get the whole kit and tear it down. Heck, always looking for a good project to keep me in the basement!
  23. defiant3

    defiant3 Feeling the Heat

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    O.K. so Battenkiller, I don't know how long yer gonna get out of your fireback, but jiust to be clear , YOU won't need the whole kit. When the thing goes south on you,all you need are the upper & lowwer fireback pieces, part # 130-4135 and 130-4120. No teardown needed. You're so lucky lucky lucky! Burn, baby, burn.
  24. Battenkiller

    Battenkiller Minister of Fire

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    Most excellent! I'm going down right now to open the draft a bit. :coolsmile:
  25. remkel

    remkel Minister of Fire

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    Heck, once I noticed the crack, I said "Hell, let's see what this thing can do!" Have not seen any change in the crack yet.....and there have been several times the wife "forgot" that she had loaded the stove and, how can I put this, pushed the upper temperature limits of the stove.

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