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This lantern is designed to run on gasoline, but will work best with white gas, also generically known as "coleman fuel" in many areas. White gas is in fact a more pure form of gasoline, without many of the fine particulates and impure distillates found in automotive gasoline.
Most hardware stores and sporting goods stores carry Coleman or other brands of white gas.
It's likely that it was left away with fuel in it. This causes gel to form which blocks the fuel getting through. The blockage could be anywhere between the tank and the mantles. The order I would check in are;
The feed tube assembly
It's possible to get these parts from coleman or coleman suppliers. To find which needs replacing you'd need access to another similar lantern and try replacing one at a time. Otherwise it's going to be trial and error or just replace all.
Re-assemble the knob in the high range of the warm position, about 180 degrees from the "OFF" position. Install the long prong of the spring inwards (away from you as you look at the knob). That prong has to go in between the metal stop bar (again, about 180 degrees from "OFF") and a ridge on the inner knob. You should be able to reinstall everything while the spring is loose in this position. The only time you'll feel spring tension is if you rotate the knob counterclockwise towards "HOT". You won't feel any spring tension as you rotate the know clockwise back towards "OFF".
I figured it out after a fresh start in about 5 minutes.
fill the tank about 2/3 full. put the cap on tight, pump the air pump about 50 to 75 times to pressurize the fuel tank, you may have to turn the pump knob in a few turns to get a good pressure feel when you are pumping, then push the pump down all the way and turn the knob in until it gets snug. then you turn the gas knob on until you hear a hissing noise. turn it off and stick a large lit match in thru one of the holes in the steel plate below the lens and hold it close to one of the mantles then turn the gas on again and it should light up. let it run for a minute or so until the mantles light up brightly and then turn it on the rest of the way. I've done this hundreds of times. hope this helps and good luck. Jeepfxr
Kerosene lanterns require a little more than just lighting the mantles. Go to Coleman's website and find the directions (for free) for KEROSENE lanterns. The generator on the lantern needs to be preheated with alcohol before it will actually light. Make sure lantern is a Kerosene lantern and not a white gas (Coleman fuel) type, there is a difference even though they look similar.
If you are talking about the old type that runs on Coleman fuel, start by putting some oil in the hole beside the pump knob to make sure that the gasket is lubricated. Fill with fuel and pump it up, keeping your thumb over the hole in the end of the pump knob. When you have pumped up enough pressure, turn on and light the main burner, then secondary burner if necessary.
I had a similar situation with a friends generator. After sitting around unused for a few years it would not generate because the residual magnitism was weak. I plugged a light into it and by using the throttle arm I breifly ran up the RPM and the light came on. DO NOT MAINTAIN THE HIGH RPM FOR MORE THAN A FEW SECONDS.