Kettle Light On But Not Boiling? (this might be why)

Most of us have a morning ritual, get up, fill the kettle and while it’s boiling, put a tea bag or spoonful of coffee in the cup. Once the kettle boils, pour the hot water into the cup and get on with your day. Maybe while the kettle is on you walk away and get on with something else.

That’s it, we take it for granted that the kettle will boil the water. If, for some reason it doesn’t boil, that can be enough to start a bad day. But don’t despair, in this article we’ll explain why the kettle light is on but it won’t boil, any possible fixes and when it’s time to buy a new kettle.

Please note: this is a guide to common reasons why kettle’s lights stop working, if you were looking for the latest information about buying a new kettle, please click here.

How Does An Electric Kettle Work?

To fully understand what’s going on with your kettle you need to understand how an electric kettle works. Most modern electric kettles are cordless, which means there are no electrical cables attached to the actual kettle at all. The power cord is attached to the base unit which the kettle sits on top of via a central positive/negative connector.

Once the power is on and the switch on the kettle is in the on position, power runs from the mains, through the base unit which connects to the base of the kettle. Inside the base of the kettle there is a heater connected to the heating element, a thermostat connected to a cut off switch and a LED indicator.

Once the kettle is placed on the base the electrical circuit is completed and the kettle will heat up. That’s pretty much it, apart from inside the kettle itself there is a tube that runs from the top of the handle, down to the base which via a steam build up, throws the thermostatically controlled switch to cut the power. So far so good, that’s how a fully functioning electric kettle operates.

Why Is The Kettle Light On But The Kettle Doesn’t Boil?

Now we have an idea of exactly how the kettle should work, we can investigate why it isn’t working. Firstly, the LED light isn’t directly connected to the heating element so all the LED does is show there is power getting to the kettle. The problem can logically only be in one of three areas, either the heating element has failed, the thermal fuse has blown or the heater itself has stopped working.

The Very First Thing To Check

Before we jump to the worst case scenarios, check the cable is connected correctly and you’re not using an extension cord. Then ensure the kettle is sited on a level surface. If neither of these are the problem, it’s time to get serious, and ask yourself…

What Would Be The Likely Cause Of The Kettle Not Boiling?

The two main causes of cordless electric kettles failing to boil are damage to the kettle due to dropping it, or water penetration of the base shorting the power out. Either of which is enough to prevent the kettle from heating water without necessarily blowing the LED connector.

What Damage Could Be Caused By Dropping The Kettle?

There are a number of problems that could occur if you accidentally dropped the kettle, including;

  • Slight crack or leak from the base
    Even a minute crack or split in one of the seams of the base or sides of the kettle could allow water to seep out, run down into the base unit and damage the internal electrical circuitry.
  • Disconnection of internal wiring
    If any of the electrical wires becomes unattached, the kettle will not operate.
  • Heater damage
    It is relatively easy to damage the actual heater on a kettle, it’s encased in plastic and can suffer a crack etc.

Depending on the age of the kettle, the plastic kettle shell can become brittle over time which could lead to it developing a small leak just big enough to cause an internal problem with the electrics in the base.

Possible Reasons For The Kettle To Not Boil (With The Light Still On)

Electric Kettle

There are a few simple reasons the kettle might not boil even if the light is on, it could be you’re using an extension cord. Extension cords don’t always have enough substance to allow all of the mains power to travel through their cable. This could mean your kettle isn’t receiving the correct amount of power.

Damaged Power Cord

If the power cord that supplies the kettle is not in perfect condition, your kettle could be receiving an interrupted power supply.

Heating Element

The heating element like any other electrical component will wear out over time, especially if you’ve dropped or bumped your kettle in any way. If the heating element is damaged it needs replacing by a professional.


If the kettle develops a leak it is unlikely to boil. There are sealants available that claim to seal any leaks in kettles but you’ll have to be lucky to find one that lasts long term. Most don’t do the job very well at all.

SEE ALSO: Why Does My Kettle Leak? (quick & easy fixes)

Lid Not Fitting Correctly

For the kettle to function as it should, the lid needs to fit correctly. If the lid doesn’t fit due to being bent out of shape, or some other damage, including calcium build up around the rim. The kettle will not boil water. Some kettles have sensors that will not allow the heating element to heat up if the lid is not fitted correctly.

It’s possible to remove calcium build up using a descaler or a solution of white vinegar and water. If the lid is out of shape or broken, cracked etc the kettle will not boil unless you replace it.

Calcium Build Up

It’s not just the lid that can suffer from calcium build up, the element or just the bottom of the kettle can get coated in scale. Scale is a build up of calcium that is present in water, hard water in particular, and with more than 60% of the UK having hard water there’s a fair chance this could be your kettle’s problem.

If there is a calcium build up the water will take far longer to boil. So a regular descale is advisable  to keep the kettle scale free and boiling faster. Scale can also affect the automatic shut off tube that runs down the handle and operates the thermostatically controlled switch.

How To Fix A Kettle That Doesn’t Boil

If the problem is caused by a calcium build up, descale the kettle. Be sure to include the lid rim, steam tube (inside the handle, accessible from inside the kettle) and base/heating element. If it’s not caused by scale…

It’s possible to access the internal workings of the kettle and repair/replace any damaged or broken pieces but unless you are a qualified electrician you could cause yourself or your property serious and life threatening damage. You basically have two options here, three if the kettle is still under warranty.

  1. Contact the manufacturer to get it repaired/ replaced under warranty
  2. Take it to an electrical engineer skilled in fixing kettles
  3. Buy a new kettle

If the kettle is still under warranty it’s worth contacting the manufacturer to get it sorted. If not, find a decent repair man locally and get a quote for repair. If it’s a relatively new kettle (but over it’s warranty age) decide whether it’s worth spending to get it repaired or whether to cut your losses and buy a new kettle.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my kettle light on but not boiling?

If your kettle light is on but it doesn’t boil, it could be as simple as the kettle base is not sited on a level surface.

What causes a kettle to stop boiling?

The way an electric kettle senses that the water is boiling is via a tube inside the handle that allows steam from the kettle run down to the switch underneath the heating element. When the steam reaches the switch, it activates and effectively cuts the power to the kettle. To learn more about this issue, read our article here.

Why isn’t my electric kettle working?

If the kettle is switched on but isn’t working, and the water doesn’t boil, it could be a wire is loose or damaged within the kettle. Insufficient power due to using an extension cord, could also be the problem.

One comment on “Kettle Light On But Not Boiling? (this might be why)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *