Estes ignitors are a PITA

techrat

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OK, I'm searching for something superior. When working with black powder motors, the weak spot is the ignitors that come with the Estes motors. While it's nice that they include those little plastic buttons to hold the ignitor in place, they invariably fall out and/or wind up crushing the leads just inside the nozzle enough to short them out. I'm terrified of trying a cluster when I it takes 2 attempts just to launch a single BP motor. I may go back to masking tape and a little ball of recovery wadding, like back in the 1970's.

I'm following the recommendations -- insert ignitor, insert plug, bend leads in a "u" shape so the clips have more to grab. And still, many problems trying to get things to launch, although it may be the club's system is just bad, as I'm not the only person to experience the failures, everybody has the same problem. We probably need to clean those clips too.

But if anybody has suggestions to make the ignitors more reliable, I'm all ears. Are electric matches the way to go?
 

DigBaddy

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I have no suggestions. I have no issues with the Estes starters....both old white tip and new Startech. Had more issues with AT starters in 29 and 38mm reloads than anything else this year.

What kind of system are you using to light them?

I've heard dipping them in silver Testors paint (and letting them dry) is a nice booster for them.
 

neil_w

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The only problem I've ever had with an Estes igniter is with weak controller batteries, which is *not* normally a problem at a club launch.

Number of problems that I have *ever* had with the plastic plugs: zero. I'm not really sure what could be happening there.

That said I haven't used them for clusters, although now I've used up my supply of the old "black" igniters, which is what I was using... so for clustering I'm not sure what I'll do next.
 

bjphoenix

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Overall I've had pretty good luck with them. I had a couple of failures 2 weeks ago where the bridge wires broke upon installation. I've had a couple of the white ones fail throughout the year, I never checked to see why.
If you have enough current in your launch system then you can just go with nichrome, properly inserted it is reliable.
 

heada

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They're cheaper that Estes replacements and work 1000% better. Only issue is they sell in bundles of 10.

These work just as well and sell in bundles of 80. Slightly cheaper that way too. They'll fit in every 18mm and 24mm BP motor I've tried but I haven't tried the 13mm BP motors. Nozzles are slightly smaller on those so they may not fit.
 

NOLA_BAR

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I have not had any issues with Estes igniters, or with the plastic plugs. Just need to make sure you are using the correct plug for the motor. I do dip the igniter in pyrogen. I have done clusters up to 5 motors. I check each with a multimeter before using. I have not tried the new Startech versions.
 

mh9162013

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This is generally a problem when we host Scout groups at our club field, so I whipped up this short little tutorial to demonstrate proper Estes igniter installation:


This.


Unfortunately, I had to figure this out on my own, in particular the part of the video that starts at 1:19. I don't understand why so many videos, articles AND BLOODY INSTRUCTIONS FROM ESTES don't discuss this potential problem with the igniters. This issue back in the early 90s is the primary reason why I stopped building model rockets as a kid.

I'm not saying this is your issue, OP. But it was for me, and I'm glad I got it figure out and that @James Duffy posted the video showing this. I just can't understand why it's rarely mentioned by so many rocketeers...or Estes.
 

4regt4

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This.


Unfortunately, I had to figure this out on my own, in particular the part of the video that starts at 1:19. I don't understand why so many videos, articles AND BLOODY INSTRUCTIONS FROM ESTES don't discuss this potential problem with the igniters. This issue back in the early 90s is the primary reason why I stopped building model rockets as a kid.

I'm not saying this is your issue, OP. But it was for me, and I'm glad I got it figure out and that @James Duffy posted the video showing this. I just can't understand why it's rarely mentioned by so many rocketeers...or Estes.
Yup. What was shown at 1:19....

You have to spread her legs a bit to get it in. Been doing this longer than I can remember. With igniters as well.

Hans.
 

therling

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Estes has published two guides about igniters that do a pretty good job of showing how they work best. The package inserts that come with the motors can only provide rudimentary information.


For an even deeper delve into igniters, this publication goes further into the electrical properties of igniters.


It's written like it's for classroom use so if you know enough about Ohm's Law you can skip over to page 12 for an explanation about how to calculate how much power is needed.
 

cls

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I can easily believe the club launch system is no up to snuff.

The systems take a beating. Clips get burned and scroungy (green scotch Brite scrubby), wires get loose (check every terminal and connection), and batteries get discharged and lose cells. All of that adds up to low voltage and low current.

And, often the LCOs do not hold the button down for long enough.

With a new, clean, charged launch system, I can get 5 Estes igniters to light.

For a while, I carried my own relay and 12v battery controller, to the pad. The club system would close the relay, which connected my charged battery to my clean shiny wires and clean 5 way clip whip.

Usually seeing that, the club equipment manager would get the hint and clean up their system.

OP is right to beware of the club system for clusters. But, volunteer to put in the time to R&R the club's system, make it work.
 

jadebox

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At Saturday's club launch we had about 100 flights. Most were using Estes motors and igniters. They were flown by individuals with a wide range of experience from first-timers to old-timers. We only had two or three rockets fail to launch on the first attempt.

This is typical for our launches, so I don't think there is any major issue with Estes's igniters ... when a 12v launch system using a car battery is used.

If there are issues when using the small launch controllers sold by Estes then that may be concerning since their launch and starter sets are often a person's introduction to model rocketry. I don't have much recent experience with the controllers so I can't speak to how well they work with the current igniters.
 

OverTheTop

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I have found them to be fragile in the past so I have worked out how to use them reasonably reliably and without breaking them, mostly. I have started experimenting, for about the past 10 or so flights, using ematches. I just sit the ematch in the nozzle as best I can, hold in place with a little masking tape and connect to the launcher. Have not had a misfire yet on the BP motors.
 

mh9162013

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Estes has published two guides about igniters that do a pretty good job of showing how they work best. The package inserts that come with the motors can only provide rudimentary information.


For an even deeper delve into igniters, this publication goes further into the electrical properties of igniters.


It's written like it's for classroom use so if you know enough about Ohm's Law you can skip over to page 12 for an explanation about how to calculate how much power is needed.
I just skimmed the first publication/article and I didn't see any mention of the issue that the @James Duffy addressed.

Either Estes is fine with losing potential customers or the problem I faced that the video addresses is really rare.
 

lakeroadster

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This.


Unfortunately, I had to figure this out on my own, in particular the part of the video that starts at 1:19. I don't understand why so many videos, articles AND BLOODY INSTRUCTIONS FROM ESTES don't discuss this potential problem with the igniters. This issue back in the early 90s is the primary reason why I stopped building model rockets as a kid.

I'm not saying this is your issue, OP. But it was for me, and I'm glad I got it figure out and that @James Duffy posted the video showing this. I just can't understand why it's rarely mentioned by so many rocketeers...or Estes.

I just pulled the instructions out of pack of Estes black powder BP motors to confirm that it does not mention the ignitor wire being shorted out. I haven't read those instructions since some time in the early 1970's.

Estes does mention it on page 3 of their pdf "Estes Igniters and their use" that @therling linked to above.

I just sent Estes an email. Maybe they will update the instructions... :dontknow:


Estes Shorted Ignitor.jpg
 
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techrat

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My club has their own "forum", so I will post there that maybe they need to clean their leads. I notice that in the Estes PDF files posted, here, all the ignitor leads are considerably longer than in real life, which makes the whole thing kind of frustrating, as there isn't a lot of room to work those leads. Our wires may be too heavy though -- I think the weight of the aligator clips and the wires they are attached to are what's pulling out the plugs/ignitors.

I might wire up a thin set of wires/microclips for myself that will attach to the club's equipment, that might improve my chances of a good launch every time. I'm also going to use a bit of masking tape over the plug to keep things in place, and maybe order a small container of pyrogen(?). I'd like to try the Testor's silver paint trick if that really works. (I'll perform a test). But yes, I'd also like to try some e-matches and see how well they perform versus standard ignitors.
 

bjphoenix

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In recent years I have had pretty good luck with Estes igniters. I think I had a couple of failures of the white ones, and 2 weeks ago I had 2 failures with the new ones. The new ones failed by breaking the bridge wire during installation of the plug, I don't know what the problem was with the white ones.
When I started rockets we used nichrome and a little ball of tissue. With a sufficient battery we didn't have any problems with nichrome but back in those days it was hard for kids to get a good portable cheap battery.
But back to the original post- they are still a PITA.
 

therling

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I notice that in the Estes PDF files posted, here, all the ignitor leads are considerably longer than in real life

It's possible that like many products over the years, the leads have shrunken as the desire to cut costs has increased, especially when production has been moved overseas where company oversight is less stringent. It may only be a fraction of an inch but given the number of igniters they sell every year it starts adding up.
 

techrat

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So, what I hear from here and other places is this: the older (black) ignitors were dipped in pyrogen and were generally BETTER.

The newer (white) ignitors are nichrome wire with a bit of some kind of compound to protect the wire, but it doesn't do much, just melts away as the wire heats up, and the wire sets off the motor, not the wire setting off the covering which sets off the motor.

Current solutions to this are: Testors silver metalic paint or clear nail polish or pyrogen. I will need to test each of these when I get time. I have the paint, but need to hit a store to find nail polish, and as for the pyrogen, that's likely a special order.
 

mh9162013

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So, what I hear from here and other places is this: the older (black) ignitors were dipped in pyrogen and were generally BETTER.

The newer (white) ignitors are nichrome wire with a bit of some kind of compound to protect the wire, but it doesn't do much, just melts away as the wire heats up, and the wire sets off the motor, not the wire setting off the covering which sets off the motor.

Current solutions to this are: Testors silver metalic paint or clear nail polish or pyrogen. I will need to test each of these when I get time. I have the paint, but need to hit a store to find nail polish, and as for the pyrogen, that's likely a special order.
I use both types of Estes igniters and both have been reliable for me.

People discuss using different pyrogens or coatings for the tips, but I never understood why. Ever since I figured out what I was doing wrong (re: wires shorting out when inserting the plug), I don't think I've ever had a single launch failure due to an inadequate igniter (we're talking about maybe 50 ignitions or so; no clustering).
 

neil_w

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So, what I hear from here and other places is this: the older (black) ignitors were dipped in pyrogen and were generally BETTER.
This is indisputably true. I'm sad I have used all mine up. :(
The newer (white) ignitors are nichrome wire with a bit of some kind of compound to protect the wire, but it doesn't do much, just melts away as the wire heats up, and the wire sets off the motor, not the wire setting off the covering which sets off the motor.
The clear encasement on the "solar" igniters that Estes sold for years was a corn starch-based, material, as you say just to protect the wire.

The newer "Startech" igniters have an opaque light grey coating that is "energetic"... not as powerful as the old pyrogens but should be more forgiving than the solars. The big question is how well they work for clustering. I haven't seen convincing evidence one way or another yet.
Current solutions to this are: Testors silver metalic paint or clear nail polish or pyrogen. I will need to test each of these when I get time. I have the paint, but need to hit a store to find nail polish, and as for the pyrogen, that's likely a special order.
Dipping in pyrogen is guaranteed to work great.

I have dipped all my Solar starters in Testor's silver. The jury is still out on this. On the one hand, the silver paint will absolutely burn, but in my one test using them in a Deuce's Wild I had only one motor ignite, so I can't vouch for their efficacy in clusters.



It's possible that like many products over the years, the leads have shrunken as the desire to cut costs has increased, especially when production has been moved overseas where company oversight is less stringent. It may only be a fraction of an inch but given the number of igniters they sell every year it starts adding up.
I take every opportunity to recommend this for dealing with the igniter leads. The extra curl at the ends is optional, the main thing is to fold the leads over the paper and then clip onto the paper.
ignitor_clip.png
 

Antares JS

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So, what I hear from here and other places is this: the older (black) ignitors were dipped in pyrogen and were generally BETTER.
Yes. You only need to bother with enhancement if your igniter is a white-tipped one. Though if you are still getting white-tipped igniters, those are old stock. Newer stock now include gray-tipped igniters that are pretty good, though like @neil_w said, the jury still seems to be out for their use in clusters.

Even then, however, the white tipped igniters work fine - IF you get the tip IN CONTACT with the propellant. These enhancements allow you to be a little more sloppy with your igniter placement, as you might need to if you're flying a Checkmate or a Mini Comanche 3 and trying to get the igniter and plug up past that aft motor block in the booster.

This is the pyrogen I use. Since I started using it five years ago (though it wasn't new and improved back then...), I can count the number of problems I have had with Estes igniters on one hand. I have lit six out of seven motors in a cluster with these, and the seventh one not going was my own fault. It's not exactly cheap, but one container is enough for hundreds, if not thousands of Estes igniters. Just make sure you have a can of acetone on hand to reconstitute it if/when it dries out.


As for your comment in the OP about the plugs falling out, I am flabbergasted by that. I have never, ever, not once, in 25 years of doing rockets, had problems with Estes plugs falling out and failing to hold the igniters in place. The only thing I can think of is that you may be using the wrong type of plug in the wrong type of motor. Each color of plug is a bit different to accomodate the different nozzle geometries of the different motors, so it's important to use the color of plug that the motors came with. If you try to use a magenta B6/C6 plug in an A8/B4 motor that has a wider nozzle, then yes, it's going to fall out. You need to use the yellow plugs with A8/B4.
 

NOLA_BAR

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For the nail polish to provide any enhancement, it must contain nitrocellulose. There was a brand called LA Colors from Doller Tree stores that had nitrocellulose listed in the ingredients. My opinion the enhancement was minimal.

I would advise to skip the silver paint/nail polish, and just get one of the pyrogens suggested such as QuickBurst QuickDip Kit. You can dip hundreds of igniters. Follow the procedures as suggest previously (James Duffy video is a good tutorial), and make sure you are using the correct plug for the motor.

Good luck!
 

cls

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Igniters have always been the worst thing about model rocketry.
 
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