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Restoring Your Water Heater's Pilot Light: A Simple Guide

Discovering that your water heater's pilot light has gone out is a situation no one welcomes. It typically happens due to fluctuations in gas pressure, and the immediate consequence is, of course, no hot water. In addition to restoring your hot showers, relighting the pilot light promptly is essential to prevent any accidental gas leaks in the event of a malfunctioning flame sensor. In this article, we'll walk you through the process of safely and efficiently reigniting your water heater's pilot light in just a few simple steps.


Step 1: Locate the Gas Shut-Off Valve


Before you begin, always consult your water heater's specific instructions, as they can vary by make and model. In general, though, start by finding the gas shut-off valve on the front lower part of the water heater, usually labeled "Off." Turn the knob to the "Off" position and wait for approximately five minutes to allow any residual gas to dissipate.


Step 2: Access the Pilot Light


Next, open the door or cover that provides access to the pilot light. This access point is typically located beneath the gas valve. Some water heaters have an open gap instead of a cover where you can see the pilot light burner.


Step 3: Prepare to Ignite the Pilot Light

  • Use a flashlight or a headlamp to locate the burner inside the water heater. You'll see two small gas tubes leading to it. Keep a close eye on this area as you proceed.

  • Turn the gas knob to the "Pilot" position and press it down. This action will initiate the flow of gas, preparing it for ignition. Some water heaters have a separate red button for pilot mode, which you'll need to press and hold.

  • While continuing to depress the gas knob or button, proceed to light the pilot. Depending on your water heater model, you may encounter a red or black igniting button, or you may need to manually ignite it using a long lighter.

Step 4: Maintain the Pilot Light


Once the flame ignites, continue to hold the gas knob or button down for a full minute. This ensures a stable pilot light. Afterward, release it slowly and verify that the pilot light remains lit.


Step 5: Activate the Main Burner


Turn the gas knob to the "On" position, and listen for the characteristic "whump" or whooshing sound indicating that the main burner has ignited.

Step 6: Secure and Enjoy


Finally, replace the cover or door to its original position, and you're all set to enjoy your hot shower once more.


Addressing Repeated Pilot Outages: The Thermocouple Solution


While a one-off extinguished pilot light is often due to natural gas pressure fluctuations, repeated occurrences indicate a more significant issue. The most common culprit in such cases is a dirty or bent thermocouple, sometimes referred to as a flame sensor.

What is a Thermocouple?


A thermocouple is a small copper wire and rod responsible for sensing the flame and automatically shutting off the gas when it detects a flame outage. If your pilot light continues to go out after following the relighting steps mentioned above, it's likely that your thermocouple needs attention.

To address this issue:

  • Shut off both the water heater gas valve and the main gas line near the heater.

  • Unscrew the three nuts that secure the thermocouple and the two gas tubes to the valve. You'll find the burner easy to slide out.

  • Vacuum out the burner ports and clean the tip of the thermocouple using a microfiber cloth and steel wool.

If these steps don't resolve the problem, you can easily obtain a replacement thermocouple at your local hardware store for under $15.


Restoring your water heater's pilot light is a manageable task, and with these steps, you can have your hot water supply back in no time. Remember to exercise caution and consult your specific water heater's instructions when performing any maintenance. By staying proactive in your approach, you can ensure a consistent and reliable hot water source for your home.


In the world of home maintenance, a little knowledge can go a long way. We hope this guide has been helpful in empowering you to tackle the issue of a pilot light outage in your water heater. Remember, safety should always come first, and if you ever have any questions or encounter trouble along the way, never hesitate to call Brother Plumber at 469.968.4487. Our team of experts is just a phone call away, ready to assist you in resolving any plumbing-related concerns. Your comfort and peace of mind are our top priorities, and we're here to help ensure your home's hot water supply remains consistent and trouble-free.

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