How To Fix A Towel Radiator That Isn’t Working

When it comes to the start of winter, or even late autumn, it’s time to get the house to a comfortable temperature so the radiators need to come on for longer.  That’s when you find that one radiator; especially the towel radiator isn’t heating up like the rest of the house.  Here we will look at what could cause this and how to fix it.

The main reasons for a towel radiator not heating up are there might be an air lock in the system, or it could be one of the radiator valves might be closed, either because it was accidentally turned, screwed down, or has jammed shut. 

towel radiator not working

A standard towel radiator is designed like a normal radiator for a central heating system and should come on and off when the boiler starts and stops. Check that the valve is fully open to let the maximum hot water flow into it. If the valve is even slightly shut, the radiator will not heat up fully.

Also, if it is on an upper floor than where the boiler is installed, if the system is short of water due to leaks, the flow of water may not reach this higher point.

Reasons for a towel radiator not working:

  • Radiator valves shut
  • Blockage in pipe
  • System short of water, not reaching the towel radiator
  • Sediment blockage in radiator

How to fix a towel radiator that isn’t working

Depending on what the cause of the issue is, you could try the following fixes:

Check one or both valves are fully open

Check that the valves at each end are not excessively screwed shut.  Most towel radiators will have the same type of valves so try turning them off and back on, noting how many turns it took each time.

Unblock the vent

The vent on the towel radiator could be blocked.  You can try to shut both flow and return valves on the rail and remove the vent pin, then stick a pin or needle in the vent hole (check with the manufacturer’s instructions where this is) and try venting again.

Turn off the valves at each end of the radiator

Then bleed air. If you have tightly closed both valves, no water should come out.  Open the valve at one end only, and try bleeding again. If water comes out forcefully, that pipe is not blocked. Close that one again, and open the other. That will tell you if one of them is partially or fully blocked

Check system pressure

If the system is short of water due to leaks or the pressure isn’t correct, the hot water may not be able to even reach the towel radiator so the obvious action would be to top the system up with more water through the feed valve, but still making sure not to go over the safe limit on the pressure gauge.

Flush the radiator

Any sediment or sludge in the towel radiator or its pipework can cause it to stop working properly.  Rather than power flushing the whole system, it may be easier to just flush this one out by removing it and hosing it.  To do this, fit the bleed plug and the blanking plug, turn the radiator upside down and flush through where the valves will be fitted, using a hose pipe.

radiator draining

Try chemical cleaner for the radiator

If there is some water flowing through and the radiator gets partially warm and if it is a sediment blockage, if you try to add a chemical cleaner, it may be able to flow past the sediment and possibly soften it. If the pipe is completely blocked with sediment and you get no flow at all, the chemical can’t flow down the pipe to get at the blockage and the blocked pipe may have to be cut out.


These are some suggestions as to the possible cause and fixes for a towel radiator not working.  If you are unsure or not confident enough to try and fix it yourself, it’s best to call in a professional to get the job done.

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*The information in this article should be used for general guidance only and not as financial or health advice.  Full details are on the link in the footer to our disclaimer page.  Always discuss your requirements with a competent and suitably qualified professional before undertaking any work.

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