Troubleshooting Guide – Pilot Light Not Igniting on Water Heater

When the pilot light on your water heater goes out, it can be a frustrating and inconvenient problem. There are several reasons why the pilot light might not stay lit, and understanding these reasons can help you troubleshoot the issue and get your hot water back up and running.

One common reason for a pilot light going out is a lack of gas flow. This could be due to a gas valve that is not fully open or a problem with the gas supply itself. Another possible cause is a dirty or clogged pilot orifice, which can prevent the gas from reaching the pilot light. Additionally, a faulty thermocouple can cause the pilot light to go out because it is not sensing the heat from the flame.

It is also important to consider environmental factors that can affect the pilot light. Strong drafts or gusts of wind can blow out the flame, so make sure that your water heater is properly protected from these elements. Similarly, if the water heater is located in a particularly cold area, such as a basement, the temperature may be too low for the pilot light to stay lit.

If you have tried these troubleshooting steps and the pilot light still won’t stay lit, it may be time to call a professional. A trained technician can diagnose the issue and make the necessary repairs to get your water heater working again. Remember, working with gas appliances can be dangerous, so it is always best to leave the repairs to the experts.

Common Reasons for a Pilot Light Failure

There are several common reasons why the pilot light on your water heater may fail to stay lit. Understanding these reasons can help you troubleshoot the problem and determine the necessary course of action. Here are some common causes of pilot light failure:

  • 1. Dirty or clogged pilot light orifice: Over time, the orifice that supplies gas to the pilot light can become dirty or clogged with debris. This can prevent the pilot light from receiving enough gas to stay lit.
  • 2. Thermocouple malfunction: The thermocouple is a safety device that detects whether the pilot light is lit. If the thermocouple is faulty or malfunctioning, it may not send the proper signal to keep the gas valve open, leading to pilot light failure.
  • 3. Gas supply issues: A lack of gas supply can also cause the pilot light to go out. This may be due to a problem with the gas line, such as a blockage or a closed valve.
  • 4. Drafts or strong winds: Strong drafts or winds can blow out the pilot light. If your water heater is located in an area with a lot of air movement, it may be prone to pilot light failure.
  • 5. Pilot light adjustment: Sometimes, the pilot light may simply need to be adjusted. If the flame is too weak or too strong, it may not stay lit.

If you are experiencing pilot light failure on your water heater, it is important to address the issue promptly to avoid further problems. If you are unsure of how to troubleshoot or fix the problem yourself, it is recommended to consult a professional plumber or technician who can safely diagnose and repair the issue.

Lack of Gas Supply

If your pilot light on your water heater won’t stay lit, one possible reason is a lack of gas supply. This could be caused by a number of factors, including:

  • A problem with the gas valve: The gas valve controls the flow of gas to the pilot light. If there is a problem with the valve, it may not be allowing enough gas to reach the pilot light, causing it to go out.
  • An issue with the gas line: If there is a blockage or a leak in the gas line leading to the water heater, it can prevent an adequate supply of gas from reaching the pilot light. This can result in the pilot light going out or not staying lit.
  • A problem with the gas regulator: The gas regulator is responsible for maintaining a constant and even flow of gas to the water heater. If there is a malfunction or a problem with the regulator, it can disrupt the gas supply and cause the pilot light to go out.

If you suspect a lack of gas supply is the cause of your pilot light issues, it is important to contact a qualified technician to inspect and repair the problem. They will have the expertise and equipment to diagnose and fix any issues with the gas supply to your water heater.

Clogged Pilot Tube

One common reason why the pilot light on a water heater won’t stay lit is due to a clogged pilot tube. The pilot tube is responsible for delivering a small amount of gas to the pilot light, which ignites the burner. If the pilot tube becomes clogged with debris or other substances, it will restrict the flow of gas and prevent the pilot light from staying lit.

To determine if the pilot tube is clogged, you can visually inspect it for any obstructions. Use a flashlight to shine light into the tube and look for any dirt, dust, or other debris that may be blocking the flow of gas. If you see any blockages, you can use a small wire or needle to carefully remove them. Be sure to turn off the gas supply before attempting to clean the pilot tube.

If cleaning the pilot tube doesn’t solve the issue, it’s possible that the tube may be damaged or corroded, requiring replacement. In this case, it’s best to contact a professional plumber or HVAC technician to inspect and repair the pilot tube.

Regular maintenance, such as cleaning the pilot tube and ensuring proper airflow, can help prevent clogs and ensure that the pilot light stays lit. If you’re unsure how to clean or troubleshoot the pilot tube, it’s always best to consult a professional to avoid any further damage or safety hazards.

Thermocouple Malfunction

A thermocouple is a safety device in a water heater that detects whether the pilot light is lit. It is designed to shut off the gas supply if the pilot light goes out, preventing a dangerous build-up of gas. If the pilot light on your water heater won’t stay lit, it could be due to a thermocouple malfunction.

The thermocouple is a small metal rod that is in direct contact with the pilot light flame. It generates a small electric current when heated by the flame, which keeps the gas valve open and allows the pilot light to stay lit. However, over time, the thermocouple can wear out or become dirty, causing it to malfunction.

To determine if the thermocouple is the issue, start by checking its position. Make sure it is properly aligned and in close proximity to the pilot light flame. If it is misaligned, adjust it so that it is directly in the path of the flame.

If the thermocouple is properly positioned and the pilot light still won’t stay lit, it may be necessary to clean or replace the thermocouple. Begin by gently cleaning the thermocouple with a soft cloth to remove any debris or soot that may have built up. If cleaning the thermocouple does not resolve the issue, it likely needs to be replaced.

Replacing the thermocouple requires shutting off the gas supply to the water heater and removing the old thermocouple. Take note of how the thermocouple is connected before removing it so that the new one can be installed correctly. Install the new thermocouple and reposition it in the flame path. Finally, relight the pilot light and test if it stays lit.

If you are uncomfortable performing these steps or if the problem persists after attempted repairs, it is recommended to contact a qualified plumber or HVAC technician to diagnose and fix the issue. A professional will have the necessary tools and expertise to resolve any thermocouple malfunction or other underlying problems with your water heater.

Remember, ensuring the proper functioning of the thermocouple is crucial for the safe operation of your water heater. If the pilot light continues to go out despite thermocouple adjustments or replacements, it is important to resolve the issue promptly to avoid any potential safety hazards.

Faulty Pilot Light Igniter

Another common issue that can cause the pilot light on your water heater to not stay lit is a faulty pilot light igniter. The igniter is responsible for creating a spark that ignites the gas coming from the pilot light. If the igniter is malfunctioning or not working at all, the spark necessary to light the pilot light may not be present.

To determine if the pilot light igniter is the problem, you can visually inspect it for any signs of damage or wear. Look for any broken wires or connections, as well as any buildup of dirt or debris. If the igniter appears to be in good condition, you can also use a multimeter to test its continuity. A reading of infinite resistance indicates a faulty igniter that needs to be replaced.

If you have determined that the pilot light igniter is faulty, it is recommended to consult the manufacturer’s instructions or contact a professional plumber. They will be able to guide you on the correct procedure for replacing the igniter, as well as ensure it is done safely and correctly.

Possible CausesSolutions
Faulty pilot light igniterInspect for damage or wear. Test continuity with a multimeter. Replace if necessary.

Dirty or Damaged Burner

If your pilot light will not stay lit on your water heater, one possible cause could be a dirty or damaged burner. Over time, debris and dirt can accumulate on the burner, causing it to become clogged. This can prevent the pilot light from receiving enough oxygen to stay lit. Additionally, if the burner is damaged or worn out, it may not be able to produce a stable flame.

To determine if the burner is dirty or damaged, you will need to inspect it. Begin by turning off the gas supply to the water heater and allowing it to cool down completely. Once it is cool, you can access the burner by removing the access panel located on the front of the water heater.

Next, visually inspect the burner for any signs of dirt, debris, or damage. If you notice any dirt or debris, gently clean the burner using a soft brush or cloth. Be careful not to apply too much force, as this can further damage the burner. If the burner appears to be damaged, it may need to be replaced.

After cleaning or replacing the burner, carefully relight the pilot light following the manufacturer’s instructions. If the pilot light still does not stay lit, there may be another underlying issue with the water heater that requires professional attention.

Tripped Safety Switch

If the pilot light on your water heater won’t stay lit, it is possible that the safety switch has been tripped. The safety switch is an important feature that automatically shuts off the gas supply to the pilot light if it senses any danger or malfunction.

To check if the safety switch has been tripped, locate it near the pilot light assembly. It is usually a small red or black button. If the button is popped out or in a different position than usual, it may indicate that the safety switch has been tripped.

To reset the safety switch, first, make sure that the gas supply to the water heater is turned off. This can usually be done by turning the gas valve on the supply line to the “off” position. Once the gas supply is turned off, press and hold the safety switch button for a few seconds until it clicks back into place.

After resetting the safety switch, turn the gas supply back on and try relighting the pilot light. If the pilot light stays lit, then the issue may have been resolved. However, if the pilot light still won’t stay lit, it is best to call a professional plumber or a water heater repair technician to inspect and diagnose the problem.

Remember, the safety switch is a crucial component of your water heater that helps prevent any potential hazards. If you are unsure or uncomfortable with handling the safety switch or any other water heater issues, it is always recommended to seek professional help.

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Ryan Pietrzak

Ryan Pietrzak, a licensed plumber with 12+ years of experience, is the trusted expert behind Plumbing.Academy. With a wealth of practical knowledge, Ryan guides you through plumbing challenges, making informed decisions easier. His reputable advice, rooted in real-world expertise, empowers both DIY enthusiasts and seasoned plumbers.