Common Central Heating Problems: Causes and Quick Fixes

While some heating issues can be helped with a little DIY, a majority of problems require expert advice from a trained engineer. However, as most technicians charge by the hour, if you are able to diagnose the issue before you book a service, you could save the engineer time and reduce the cost of your repair.

Check out our troubleshooting guide to find out what the most common central heating problems are, how to diagnose them and what steps you should take before you call an engineer. 


Common boiler warning

Radiator Issues

Uneven heating in radiators is one of the most common central heating problems. Luckily, it is also one of the easiest to fix:

Radiators Are Cold at the Top or Have Cold Patches


Cold spots or a cold area at the top of the radiator is often caused by trapped air, rust or debris.


Quick Fix:

You can easily remove the air from your radiators by bleeding them. If this does not help, you will need to hire a qualified engineer to power flush your system.

Radiators are cold at top


Radiators Are Hot Upstairs, but Cold Downstairs


This is most likely caused by a problem with your central heating pump and can often happen when your heating has been switched off for a few months (e.g. over summer).


Quick Fix:

  • Locate the pump (this is usually situated near the boiler) and gently tap it with a mallet or hammer to kick-start it.
  • Check that the spindle is turning. To do this, you will need to remove the cover. If it isn’t turning, you may be able to start the pump with the manual handle or by inserting a screw driver into the shaft.
  • Try increasing the pressure setting on the pump.
  • If the problems continue, you may need to remove the pump and flush it with clean water (do not immerse in water) and then repeat the steps above.
downstairs radiators are cold


Radiators Are Hot Downstairs but Cold Upstairs


This could be caused by a blockage in the ball valve, or if there is a lack of water in the feed or expansion cistern.


Quick Fix:

Check the ball valve and expansion cistern for blockages, and bleed the radiator to remove any air that could be causing issues. If the problem continues, you should consult a trained engineer.

Upstairs radiators are cold


Radiators Do Not Work


This could be caused by a variety of problems.


Quick Fix:

  • Check that the thermostat is set higher than the existing temperature, as many heating systems will not switch on until the outside temperature is lower than the setting.
  • Make sure that any thermostatic radiator valves are switched on.
  • Check that your central heating timer is set to the correct time, and that there are no pre-set timing options that would prevent your heating from switching on.
  • Check that the boiler is working and switched on. You can do this by checking the pilot light. If there is a problem with your boiler, check our common boiler problems page for troubleshooting tips.
Radiators are broken



Noisy Central Heating

Noisy central heating systems are common, however, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what is causing this issue. The best way to identify the problem is to listen-out for specific sounds:

Banging or Hammering


This is most commonly caused when there is air or debris trapped in your heating system.


Quick Fix:

The easiest way to fix this problem is to bleed your radiators. If the noise continues, hire a trained engineer to flush your system and remove any rust, sludge or lime scale.

Noisy central heating




If you hear a ticking or creaking sound when the heating goes on or off, this may be due to the pipes being tightly fitted to floors or walls.


Quick Fix:

You will need to loosen the fittings around the pipes to give them more room (e.g. drill bigger holes in floor joists).

creaking central heating




This is most commonly caused by a vibration in the pump, as a result of the movement that is caused when the pump is not fitted to the mounting fixings properly.


Quick Fix:

You may find that the noise stops if you turn the pump down, however, if it does not, you will need to tighten the bolts connected to the pump.

central heating humming



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Still Experiencing Problems? Talk to an Expert!


If you've tried our troubleshooting tips and are still having issues, the best thing to do is to book an emergency repair with a qualified engineer.

Fill out our quick quotes form to view instant, online prices from trusted, OFTEC or Gas Safe qualified engineers in your local area today.


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