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Water heater pilot won’t stay lit – 6 reasons. How to Fix?



Nothing irritates someone, like rushing to take a hot bath in your bathroom to find that your shower head is giving you cold water. There are many reasons which could lead to this, and therefore you need to scrutinize the water heater and ensure it’s operating effectively. For instance, you need to check signs like if the water heater pilot won’t stay lit and troubleshoot the problem.

However, there is an instance where your gas heater won’t stay lit, which could lead to more problems than only taking a cold bath. You need to troubleshoot and check your water shower. If the water heater pilot stays lit after several trials, you need to contact a professional technician to help solve the problem.

The reason why your water heater keeps turning off

Water heater pilot won't stay lit

There are many reasons why your water heater keeps turning off, and therefore you need to identify the reasons and ensure that you troubleshoot the problem. Here are the top reasons your pilot won’t stay on and the various method which you can adopt to fix the issue:

  • Dirty pilot tube

If dirt and debris can collect a pilot tube in them, then there are great chances that it’s going to lead to blockage of the flow of the gas. Due to this, the pilot does not get enough fuel to stay lit. It would also make the pilot fail to ignite, and therefore it would you to fix the issue and continue to enjoy the hot water. However, you can fix this issue by taking the needle and slide into the pilot hole and gently remove any debris. It would help if you repeated the same try a couple of times depending on the tube’s debris. You need to proceed and light up the pilot and see if it works properly.

  • Obstructed thermocouple

Most of the old water heaters use the thermocouple as the primary operating organ. However, there is a thermocouple that may end being obstructed. Therefore, it could be difficult to read the electrical current used to indicate whether the pilot light is on and off. The thermocouple has been designed to turn off the gas supply anytime it detects the unlit pilot for all the safety precautions. If your thermocouple is not functioning properly, you need to troubleshoot and identify the problem and develop the right solution. For instance, most of the obstructions are caused by dirt, and you can clean them using sandpaper. You need to fix this problem, but you should ensure the gas is off. It would ensure that your component is working properly and ensure there is an appropriate replacement.

  • Damaged Thermocouple

It is another major scenario that could happen, and you need to replace the pilot. For instance, the damage is likely to be in the form of the sensor being bent away from the pilot light, or others may need a longer functional. You can fix this problem by examining the thermocouple and ensure at the end should lightly touch the flame when the pilots lit. There is some thermocouple that shows no signs of damages and is very clean, and therefore you need to test a multimeter. For example, if the reading is above 20MV, then the thermocouple is relatively good, and if it falls below that, you need to clear the sign and ensure there is a replacement.

  • Main Control Valve

problems with water

If it is faulty in the central control, this could lead to the pilot failing to light off. It’s a sporadic case, but if the main control valve has a problem, then the hot water tank won’t stay lit. The valve is likely to have seldom, and therefore you need to develop a solution for the control valve. You need to ensure that you replace it with several others from the toolset. If the control valve gets faults, you need to consult with the technician, and he will be able to repair it. You should also consider changing the control valve altogether, and this would help cut all the costs related to the valve.

  • Curved Thermocouple

Apart from the common dirt and other grime, a thermocouple can be bent, which could lead to a point where it’s no longer functional. For instance, there are cases where the thermocouple may bend too far away from the pilot, leading the pilot to fail to heat. All that you need to do when you found yourself in this situation is to ensure all the precaution and safety measures have been adhered to and then ensure the issue has been fixed accordingly. Normally the flame should always flame when lightly touch the thermocouple or close enough to heat the device. In addition to that, you should ensure that you have a wrapping around the sensor.

  • Flex Tube issues

If the water heater does not stay lit even after troubleshooting approaches, then you need to check for all the flex tube issues, too, to ensure they are functional. The flex tubing is the tube that connects to the gas controller and ensures a steady gas stream. However, if the tube is kinked, it will likely prevent any smooth operation or gas flow. You need to ensure there is a good flow of the gas for the pilot to heat.

 Final thought

cat drinking water

A gas heater has been termed one of the oldest ways of heating the water despite being used by many people for a long time. The most frustrating thing is that there are times when the water heater pilot light won’t stay lit, and therefore it could need you to troubleshoot the problem and fix it. Once you have identified the problem, you need to ensure that a professional technician has fixed the issues. In the days to come, there are major changes that need to be done to ensure all the issues which are related to the water heater have been resolved.

Water heater pilot won’t stay lit FAQ.


Why does my pilot light keep going out?

In this case, you likely have a broken thermocouple in your gas furnace; if not, then the indicator itself has died.

How do you know if you have a bad thermocouple?

You have a bad thermocouple if the flame lights and goes out.

Why does my gas heater keep shutting off?

In this case, it could be due to low airflow. I need to clean it.

How long does a thermocouple last?

Usually, it can work for a few years but less than a furnace.

Should pilot light always be on a water heater?

Yes, it should be if you don’t see it, probably something wrong.

Thank you for reading!



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