# Engines not firing

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#### steph746

##### Member
Hi,

First post here. It's been a while since I've launched rockets, but did a lot when I was little. I'm trying now with my kids and was successful on a couple of our first attempts, but recently the engines do not ignite. I'm trying with engines and igniters that have been sitting around for a while and also new ones. With the new engines, I'm using igniters that came with the engines and I also purchased a new pack of igniters and tried some of those.

I've also tried two different launch pad controllers. I connect the clips to the igniter, the igniter is in place in the engine with the plug. The light comes on the controller as well.

Am I missing some step? I assume the most important part would be the igniter and to make sure that it's inserted in the engine so it is touching the side? It seems like having the plug takes care of this.

Thanks in advance for any assistance you might be able to provide.

-Stephan

#### neil_w

##### Hunkered down and slowly going crazy
TRF Supporter
What kind of launch controllers are you using? If they're the kind that uses 9V batteries, you need high a high quality, *fresh* battery, *and* you need to hold the button for several seconds. If it's the kind with 4 AA, same considerations apply, but those are more forgiving.

The igniter should be touching the *bottom* of the hole in the motor, not the side. That is, push the igniter in until it hits the propellant, and then insert the plug.

PS Welcome to the forum!

#### steph746

##### Member
Thanks very much for your reply. The older launch controller (Orange)!uses a 9volt and the newer one (red) uses 4 AA. I thought they were pretty new, but I will get fresh batteries. I thought they were good because the light came on fairly brightly when inserting the key.

Is there a “trick” to inserting the igniter? The tip should be all the way in and touching the middle and bottom of the engine?

#### BEC

##### Well-Known Member
Thanks very much for your reply. The older launch controller (Orange)!uses a 9volt and the newer one (red) uses 4 AA. I thought they were pretty new, but I will get fresh batteries. I thought they were good because the light came on fairly brightly when inserting the key.

Is there a “trick” to inserting the igniter? The tip should be all the way in and touching the middle and bottom of the engine?
That is the only trick. The 9V Astron II controller, in particular, struggles unless you have a Duracell alkaline or similar quality battery in it. Likewise Duracells or similar really are necessary in the 4-AA-cell controller (Electron Beam).

I put the igniter in, push it in with the plug and THEN bend the leads over, not the other way around, so as to be sure the igniter tip is touching the propellant.

##### Roger Smith
Also, make sure the leads on the igniter are not touching. It is easy to twist or squeeze the igniter in a way that causes the leads to touch just before the tip causing a short circuit.

#### jrap330

##### Retired Engineer, NAR # 76940
Push Igniter all way in. Put in igniter plug. Bend igniters leads to a "U" so clips grab both leads. Again make sure clips don't touch or when you bent leads, you don't cross igniter wires leads (short). Happen to me yesterday. Estes uses cheap, thin metal for battery contacts....so try bending the contact a little (1 AA battery). I used to put used igniter wire behind the contact to "beef' it up. I tore an old Estes controller apart because batteries leak. I used to think it was cheap metal but actually the metal is super thin..I could easily flex, bend it. So after awhile the metal gets "compacted, too much. You still get get a light but it is weak or going on and off. Also, igniter clips are thin, after a few launches you have to squeeze them, so they mate, nice and flat, using fingers is OK. And of course good set of batteries, appears the new igniters are more difficult than old pyrogen coated ones.IF anyone at Estes is listening, replace contacts with thicker grade or go to spring contacts.

#### BABAR

##### Builds Rockets for NASA
TRF Supporter
Ditch the plugs.
Use a piece wadding that you can roll up into a ball just a bit larger than the nozzle diameter.
Gently spread the igniter wire so you don’t break the connecting wire.
Find something to sit on so your not balanced on your knees while trying to do this, BTW. My range box is a tool box, so I sit on that.
Hold the rocket between your knees nose down (put a LOOOOOOONG piece of masking tape with an overhanging folded over edge to hold nose cone in place while you work, the length is there so you won’t FORGET to take the tape off when you launch. Been there, done that, no T-Shirt but wasn’t pretty.)
Insert igniter into nozzle, making sure it doesn’t twist or otherwise allow wires to contact in the nozzle. Should heel a firm “bump” when you hit the propellant.
Use a round toothpick or a retractable lead pencil or other object to push the wadding into the nozzle, pushing it in should KEEP the wires apart. If you use a toothpick and it gets stuck (doesn’t happen often, but not rare either) break off the pointy part sticking out so you don’t stab yourself and just leave the rest of the pick In. it is doing the job.
Push it in hard. If you do it right, you should be able to gently hold the weight of the rocket (at least for A-C motors) by the igniter wires without it coming out.

#### Spitfire222

##### Well-Known Member
I also recently got back into rocketry, and finally got a chance to do some launches. All of the motors ignited perfectly, and I attribute it to:

1. Dropping in the igniter so you hear and feel that it has touched the propellant, then putting in the plug before bending the leads over

and (probably more importantly)

2. I purchased the Porta Pad II without the Electron Beam launcher. Instead, I got the Pro Series II launcher, and put in a 3s LiPo battery. I decided I didn't want to mess with AAs or 9V batteries. The LiPo will hold a charge for a long time and many launches. It ignites standard 18mm motors instantly when you press the launch button.

If it's within your budget, I recommend trying out the Pro Series launcher with a LiPo; it's been working flawlessly for me so far.

#### jrap330

##### Retired Engineer, NAR # 76940
I hope you got a good deal on Porta pad II because unless you buy the beginners set the pad and controller are overprice. Buy the set and it is almost like getting controller and pad for free, at least from Walmart or on-sale. Can you tell me which LiPo you brought and which charger you brought and from where because I check on chargers from the site someone gave...expensive.

#### jrap330

##### Retired Engineer, NAR # 76940
Balance charger....you just look and see what 9v-16v power supply you had lying around with the right size connector. I have numerous power supplies left over from cells phones.

#### Greg Furtman

##### Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Hi,

First post here. It's been a while since I've launched rockets, but did a lot when I was little. I'm trying now with my kids and was successful on a couple of our first attempts, but recently the engines do not ignite. I'm trying with engines and igniters that have been sitting around for a while and also new ones. With the new engines, I'm using igniters that came with the engines and I also purchased a new pack of igniters and tried some of those.

I've also tried two different launch pad controllers. I connect the clips to the igniter, the igniter is in place in the engine with the plug. The light comes on the controller as well.

Am I missing some step? I assume the most important part would be the igniter and to make sure that it's inserted in the engine so it is touching the side? It seems like having the plug takes care of this.

Thanks in advance for any assistance you might be able to provide.

-Stephan
@steph746 I went to a 12v system that uses a small 7AH lead-acid battery like those used in a computer UPS. Plenty of instantaneous current. Also, if you check around the forum, Estes newer ignitors are somewhat iffy. Many people, myself included, enhance their ignitors by coating them with Fabri-Tac fabric cement and then dipping them into Black Powder (BP). Fabri-Tac is nitrocellulose based & burns well. I have not had one single ignitor failure since I started enhancing them.

#### jrap330

##### Retired Engineer, NAR # 76940
Yeah, not sure how difficult it would be to get BP in New Jersey, which is why I hope the igniters will be improved., I still have my "old motors from 15 years ago with those old igniters with pyrogen.. But yeah 12 volts with able current should do the job.

#### Greg Furtman

##### Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Yeah, not sure how difficult it would be to get BP in New Jersey, which is why I hope the igniters will be improved., I still have my "old motors from 15 years ago with those old igniters with pyrogen.. But yeah 12 volts with able current should do the job.
Check and see if there are any gun shops or sporting goods shops that cater to black powder shooters/hunters. If anyone would have it they would.

#### Handeman

##### Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Yeah, not sure how difficult it would be to get BP in New Jersey, which is why I hope the igniters will be improved., I still have my "old motors from 15 years ago with those old igniters with pyrogen.. But yeah 12 volts with able current should do the job.
I remember back in the day, the Estes igniters we used were just a piece of nichrome. It might have had a blue coating on the middle of it, I don't quite remember. You had to make sure it touched the BP and didn't short, and you used a small piece of wadding to hold it in, but it worked fine. I had the launch pad that was a red box that held 4 or 8 D-Cell batteries and the rod and blast plate above it.

I couldn't afford all those D-Cells so since we lived at the end of a dead end street with a large field next to us, I launched from the end of the street. About the time I turned 13 my Mom started letting me move her car onto the street so I could use the car battery with my launcher. Those nichrome wires worked great with that.

I know I built a launch controller to use with the car battery, but I don't really remember it. I do know I built a pad that had three wooden legs that were held in place with carriage bolts and wing nuts. The rod and blast plate was fixed, but you could angle it by adjusting the angle of the legs. I even stained and varnished that thing. I was proud of that launch pad!

#### KenECoyote

##### Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
I did a LOT of lp launches one year and all of the above suggestions are great! Just a couple of points to add...

The old black pyrogen igniters were my main secret weapon. I'd buy old Estes engines off Ebay just for those igniters. I'd say they're like twice as good as the new stuff and at one point I was paying as much as \$1 for each...for me it was worth not bothering with the failed ignition, especially at club launches (what a pain!). Batteries in the Estes controllers didn't even have to be that fresh for me with these. I'll probably start dipping next as my supply runs out.

If you've checked the usual stuff mentioned and are still having issue, just test an igniter by itself and see if it lights up well...heck, if you're cheap, test one already ignited to see how bright it glows (you can do this as a test before a launch). Just like any system, if the system's not working right, check each part separately.

Best luck and happy launches!

#### Antares JS

##### Well-Known Member
Estes had to take the pyrogen off their igniters due to a change in postal regulations. You can tell the difference by black tip (old) vs. white tip (new). After a series of frustrating failures, I now dip all of my white-tipped Estes igniters in this and just use a regular AA battery controller. There's enough to dip hundreds of igniters in one batch and I have not had a single launch failure since I started using it. You can only only get it shipped to you in the US though.

#### Buzzard

##### Well-Known Member
There are some of the Estes controllers that require you to really press down on the safety key and launch button. Could this be part of the issue? I use my own controller or a club launch system, but have heard of issues with Estes controllers.

#### neil_w

##### Hunkered down and slowly going crazy
TRF Supporter
LiPos are great, but the Estes PSII controller with 6 Alkaline C batteries should give you a lot of successful launches.

#### BABAR

##### Builds Rockets for NASA
TRF Supporter
I'd buy old Estes engines off Ebay just for those igniters.
When Quest stopped making their igniter and old motors, I found one supplier that was out of everything but C6-0 motors that came with igniters. I bought out their whole remaining stock of 36 motors and igniters, was cheaper than they had previously charged for igniters alone, and since I like staging AND since the old quest motors could launch with Estes starters, gave me a stash for cluster ignitions.

#### neil_w

##### Hunkered down and slowly going crazy
TRF Supporter
I've just about run out of my (admittedly small) stock of old black igniters.

I am extremely hopeful that the new Estes exothermic starters make it to market sometime soon (not that I have any launches planned. )

#### UhClem

##### Well-Known Member
Estes had to take the pyrogen off their igniters due to a change in postal regulations.
What change? From what I can see, the exception in Pub 52 (341.22 -mailable explosives) hasn't changed in the slightest. Estes igniters were classified as UN0454 which are mailable.

#### OverTheTop

##### Well-Known Member
FYI you can also use one of the eMatches that are readily available for rocketry. They don't go through the nozzle (won't fit) but if you sit them in the nozzle and fix them with a little tape they work quite well. My past few LPR launches have been like that.

#### Antares JS

##### Well-Known Member
What change? From what I can see, the exception in Pub 52 (341.22 -mailable explosives) hasn't changed in the slightest. Estes igniters were classified as UN0454 which are mailable.
Now that you mention it, maybe it's wrong, it's just what I heard was the reason for switching from the black tips to the white tips.

#### electricmatch

##### Active Member
I've just about run out of my (admittedly small) stock of old black igniters.

I am extremely hopeful that the new Estes exothermic starters make it to market sometime soon (not that I have any launches planned. )

#### 5x7

##### Well-Known Member
Now that you mention it, maybe it's wrong, it's just what I heard was the reason for switching from the black tips to the white tips.
That switched to the non-pyrogen (white) tips so starters shipped alone could be mailed by air and by any carrier.

#### Buzzard

##### Well-Known Member
Just wondering if the original poster has resolved the issue with fresh batteries, igniter insertion technique, or any of our other thoughts and suggestions. Steph746?

#### BEC

##### Well-Known Member
I remember back in the day, the Estes igniters we used were just a piece of nichrome. It might have had a blue coating on the middle of it, I don't quite remember. You had to make sure it touched the BP and didn't short, and you used a small piece of wadding to hold it in, but it worked fine. I had the launch pad that was a red box that held 4 or 8 D-Cell batteries and the rod and blast plate above it.
View attachment 418573
I couldn't afford all those D-Cells so since we lived at the end of a dead end street with a large field next to us, I launched from the end of the street. About the time I turned 13 my Mom started letting me move her car onto the street so I could use the car battery with my launcher. Those nichrome wires worked great with that.

I know I built a launch controller to use with the car battery, but I don't really remember it. I do know I built a pad that had three wooden legs that were held in place with carriage bolts and wing nuts. The rod and blast plate was fixed, but you could angle it by adjusting the angle of the legs. I even stained and varnished that thing. I was proud of that launch pad!
The red box is an Electro-Launch. The one pictured is the first version, which was only in one Estes catalog - 1966. I got one off of eBay a few years ago and use it from time to time. Four Duracell Ds work pretty well even with the current "starters". I also got one of the later version with the lower case that nested in the top one. (see, for example, page 37 here: https://estesrockets.com/wp-content/uploads/Catalogs/Estes_1967_Catalog.pdf) But I remember both the bare nichrome wire (which we wrapped around the Electro-Launch's key to make a coil) and then the wire with the flattened section that had the blue coating over it.

The launch controller to use with a car battery was probably the FS-5 Launch Control System, and the wooden tripod pad was called Tilt-A-Pad. Both are shown on page 39 of the same 1967 catalog linked just above.

I still have my Tilt-A-Pad from when I was a kid....it's one of the few rocketry-related things that I have from back then.

The OP seems to have wandered off. He has only been in one other thread, in which he reported "finally" getting to launch an Alpha III and then losing it to a RET, and looking for replacement suggestions. That was a week after he posted the question here.