How to Fix a Water Heater Pilot Light: Troubleshooting and Step-by-Step Guide

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Are you tired of dealing with a water heater that won’t deliver hot water consistently? One common issue that can disrupt your hot water supply is a malfunctioning pilot light. The pilot light is a small flame that ignites the gas burner in your water heater. When it goes out, you may be left with cold showers and frustration. But fear not! In this article, we will walk you through the process of fixing a water heater pilot light so you can regain that comforting warmth in your daily routine.

Understanding the Water Heater Pilot Light

Before we delve into the troubleshooting steps, it’s crucial to understand the basics of a water heater pilot light. The pilot light serves as a source of ignition for the gas burner in your water heater. It typically consists of a small gas valve, a thermocouple, and a pilot tube. When the pilot light is functioning correctly, it keeps the gas burner ready to heat water whenever needed.

Troubleshooting Common Pilot Light Issues

Now that we have a basic understanding of the water heater pilot light, let’s explore the most common issues that can lead to its malfunction.

  1. Gas Supply Issue: In some cases, the pilot light may go out due to a lack of gas supply. This can happen if the gas valve is closed or if there are issues with the gas line. Check the gas supply to ensure it is turned on and there are no leaks.

  2. Thermocouple Malfunction: The thermocouple is a safety device that detects whether the pilot light is lit. If it senses that the flame is out, it shuts off the gas supply to prevent a potential gas leak. A faulty thermocouple can cause the pilot light to go out even when the flame is burning. Inspect the thermocouple for any signs of damage or wear.

  3. Dirty Pilot Tube or Orifice: A pilot tube or orifice can become clogged with dirt, dust, or debris over time. This blocks the flow of gas to the pilot light, causing it to go out. Cleaning the pilot tube or orifice can often resolve this issue.

  4. Draft or Ventilation Problems: Sometimes, external factors like strong drafts or poor ventilation can extinguish the pilot light. Ensure that the area around your water heater is well-ventilated and free from any obstructions that may disrupt the flame.

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Step-by-Step Guide: How to Fix a Water Heater Pilot Light

Now that we know what can cause a pilot light to malfunction, let’s walk through the step-by-step process of fixing it. Remember to exercise caution and follow the manufacturer’s instructions when working with gas-powered appliances.

  1. Turn Off the Gas Supply: Locate the gas valve near the water heater and turn it to the “Off” position. This ensures your safety while working on the pilot light.

  2. Access the Pilot Assembly: Remove the access panel or cover on your water heater to expose the pilot assembly. This may require using a screwdriver or other tools, depending on the model of your water heater.

  3. Inspect the Pilot Light and Thermocouple: Carefully examine the pilot light flame. It should burn a steady blue flame, with no signs of flickering or wavering. Check the thermocouple for any damage or misalignment.

  4. Clean the Pilot Tube or Orifice: If the pilot light flame is weak or won’t ignite at all, the pilot tube or orifice may be clogged. Gently clean it with a small wire brush or compressed air to remove any debris.

  5. Check and Adjust the Thermocouple: Ensure that the thermocouple is positioned correctly and in contact with the pilot flame. If it is bent or misaligned, adjust it carefully to ensure proper contact.

  6. Relight the Pilot Light: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to relight the pilot light. This usually involves turning the gas valve to the “Pilot” position, pressing and holding the reset button, and using a match or a lighter to ignite the pilot flame. Once the flame is lit, continue holding the reset button for a minute or two before releasing it.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  • Q1: Can I fix the pilot light issue myself, or should I call a professional? It is generally safe to attempt fixing a pilot light issue yourself, as long as you follow safety guidelines and feel comfortable doing so. However, if you have any doubts or concerns, it’s always best to consult a professional plumber or HVAC technician.

  • Q2: Why does the pilot light keep going out after I relight it? If the pilot light repeatedly goes out after relighting, it may indicate a more significant problem, such as a faulty gas valve or an issue with the ventilation system. In such cases, it is advisable to seek professional assistance.

  • Q3: How often should I clean the pilot tube or orifice? It is recommended to clean the pilot tube or orifice at least once a year to prevent clogs and ensure optimal performance of your water heater.


A water heater pilot light issue can be a frustrating inconvenience, but with the right knowledge and troubleshooting steps, you can resolve it efficiently. By understanding the components of your pilot light system, identifying common issues, and following our step-by-step guide, you can fix a water heater pilot light and restore the steady flow of hot water in your home. Remember, if you’re uncertain or encounter complex problems, it’s always wise to consult a professional for assistance. So, don’t let a pesky pilot light keep you from enjoying warm showers and comfort – take action and regain control of your hot water supply today!

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