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How to fix a Water Heater Pilot Light

Last updated on September 28th, 2021

We’ve all been there. You hop in the shower early in the morning and are rudely greeted by freezing cold water running down your back. After hopping out of the shower in shock you now need to figure out why you didn’t get the steaming hot shower your excepted. If you have a gas hot water tank it could very likely be that your pilot light has somehow turned off and now needs to be light again. This can be a relatively simple fix that can be performed at home without the help of a technician. By following the simple steps listed below you can get that water tank working up and ready for a much more enjoyable shower.

Pilot light safety checklist – Maybe put this first?

When fixing your pilot light you should always consider the following safety precautions.

  • Turn off gas if you will be cleaning parts of your water heater
  • Make sure components of your water heater are cool before touching
  • Don’t try a DIY repair if you smell gas
  • Call your local gas provider if you smell gas when your pilot light is out

How to fix the pilot light

  1. Check for gas – Your first and most important step is to check if you smell gas. If you smell gas you must contact your gas company to see if you have experienced a leak. Your gas company will instruct you on what you need to do to stay safe. If you smell gas DO NOT attempt to relight your pilot light. You should never attempt to fix a water heater gas leak on your own. Always keep the safety of you and your family in mind when considering relighting your pilot light.
  2. Attempt to relight the pilot light – if you do not smell gas it is safe to proceed with attempting to relight your pilot light on your own. There are many video resources on how to relight your water heater’s pilot light. iScaper1 has a good youtube video demonstrating how he lights his pilot light. You may wish to obtain a BBQ lighter to assist you in completing this task.
  • Ensure that your control knob is turned to the pilot lighting position
  • Remove the metal pilot light cover.
  • Push down on the control knob while turning on the lighter inside the water heater
  • Your pilot light should now be light

What if it won’t stay light?

If you have performed the task above and relight your water heater it should now function properly. If it does not work you may have an issue with either your thermocouple or the pilot tube. The thermocouple is a device that reads the temperature coming from the pilot light. When your pilot light is not lit the thermocouple will shut off the gas supply to your water heater.
Thankfully you may also be able to fix these issues on your own without the help of a technician. The following tips will help you troubleshoot your water heater pilot light issues.

  • Check your pilot tube – if your pilot tube has become dirty it may prevent your water heaters pilot light from functioning properly. If you have tried to relight your pilot light and it either will not light or will not stay light you may want to clean the pilot tube. This task can be done by using a needle to clean the tube. Always make sure that the gas is turned off and the pilot tube is cool before handling.
  • Check for a dirty thermocouple – like your pilot tube your thermocouple mat also become dirty. This can cause your thermocouple to stop being able to read the temperature and could cause your water heater to stop lighting. The thermocouple can be cleaned by gently rubbing it with fine sandpaper. Your gas will need to be turned off and the thermocouple will need to be cool before performing this task.
  • Check for a bent thermocouple – If your thermocouple has become bent it may not be close enough to the pilot light to read the temperature. When this happens your thermocouple will turn off the gas supply and will not allow for your water heater to be relight. This can easily be fixed by lightly bending the thermocouple closer to the pilot light. As always, make sure the thermocouple is cool before touching it directly.
  • Check for a damaged thermocouple – if you have tried the methods above and are still not having success with getting your pilot light relight it may be that your thermocouple has become damaged. If your thermocouple is damage you will need to contact a technician to have the device replaced.

When to get help

When considering using a DIY repair to fix your water heater pilot light problems it is important to consider safety as your number one priority. When you are attempting to troubleshoot issues with your water heater always make sure to first check that you do not smell gas. If you do smell gas, contact your local gas provider to receive instructions on what you should do next.
Simple DIY fixes can be performed when your pilot light has simply gone out and needs to be restarted. Although some may be comfortable performing these fixies on their own know that it is always ok to consult a technician before taking action to fix the problem. A technician will be able to help you no matter what the issue is.

There are many reasons why a water heater pilot light may not be working. Some of these reasons will require a technician. If you believe that the issues with your water heater is beyond the simple fixes above you should get in touch with a technician to help you troubleshoot and fix your issue. Link to contact page