water heater pilot light

How to Relight Your Water Heater’s Pilot Light

If there’s no hot water from your faucets or showers, check your water heater first. One common and easy-to-fix problem is the water heater pilot light going out.

Relighting the pilot light only takes a few minutes, whether your water heater has an electronic ignition or needs to be lit manually. Keep reading to find out how.

Can I Relight the Pilot Light Myself?

Yes, you can usually relight the water heater pilot light yourself. But if you think there is a gas leak, do not try to light it. Gas leaks can cause fires or explosions. If you smell gas (like rotten eggs) or hear a hissing noise, leave your home immediately and call the fire department or gas company for help.

If you’re worried about safety or having trouble relighting the pilot light, call a professional for assistance.

how to Reset Water Heater Pilot Light: Step-by-Step

What You’ll Need

  • Flashlight
  • Long barbecue lighter
  • Screwdriver

Step 1: Turn Off the Gas

Find the gas regulator knob with settings for ‘On,’ ‘Pilot,’ and ‘Off.’ This knob is usually on top of the gas control valve, a box with gas and electrical lines. Turn the knob to ‘Off’ and wait 10 minutes for any leftover gas to clear.

Step 2: Access the Pilot

The pilot light is at the bottom of the water heater, under the gas control valve, behind an access panel. Remove the panel by lifting it off or unscrewing it. Use a flashlight to find the pilot light, which has two small gas lines connected to it.

Step 3: Turn Regulator Knob to ‘Pilot’

Turn the regulator knob to ‘Pilot’ and press down to send gas to the pilot light.

Step 4: Light the Pilot

Manual Lighting: For older water heaters, hold a lit barbecue lighter to the pilot while pressing down the regulator knob. Keep the lighter there until the pilot lights, then remove it.

Electronic Lighting: For newer water heaters with electronic ignition, press down on the regulator knob while repeatedly pressing the igniter button. Continue until the indicator light shows the pilot is lit.

Step 5: Test

After lighting the pilot, hold down the regulator knob for 90 seconds to clear the air from the gas line and warm up the heat sensor. Slowly release the knob and make sure the pilot stays lit.

If the pilot goes out, wait 10 minutes and try again. If it still won’t stay lit, your water heater may need professional inspection and repair.

What is a Thermocouple?

In newer water heaters, a thermocouple is also called a flame sensor. If the pilot light keeps going out after you light it, the thermocouple might be bent, dirty, or broken.

If Bent: Turn off the gas, move the thermocouple closer to the burner, and try lighting the pilot again.

If Dirty: Turn off the gas valve on the water heater and the main gas line. Unscrew the three nuts holding the thermocouple and the two gas tubes to the valve. Slide out the burner. Vacuum the burner ports and clean the thermocouple tip with a microfiber cloth and steel wool.

If cleaning doesn’t work, you can buy a new thermocouple at a hardware store for under $15.

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