If you have a gas water heater, the pilot light has to stay lit or your water heater won't be able to heat water. However, if your light constantly goes out, you may wonder what the issue is. Here are three common reasons why a gas water heater pilot light goes out repeatedly and what can be done to solve the problem.
The Thermocouple is Dirty
One of the most common reasons why a gas water heater won't stay lit is because the thermocouple is dirty. The thermocouple is the part in the water heater responsible for turning the gas off if it detects the pilot light is not lit. This is to prevent gas leaks from occurring. However, when your water heater won't stay lit, it's typically because the thermocouple is shutting the gas off because of a problem with it. One issue it may have is being dirty.
When the thermocouple is dirty, it may not be able to properly detect the heat that indicates whether the pilot light is lit. Wiping the tip of a cooled thermocouple down with emery cloth sandpaper can help to remove dirt and caked on dust. After wiping it down, wipe it down with a lint-free cloth to remove any remaining lint. If you are unsure where your thermocouple is, look where your pilot light is. You may see a small tip near the pilot light that is connected to something that looks like copper tubing or wiring. This tube or wire extends into the water heater's thermostat. The tip and tube are your thermocouple.
Light the pilot light and see if it solves the problem. If it hasn't fixed the problem, proceed to the next step.
The Thermocouple is Bent
Another reason why your pilot light keeps going out on your water heater is because the tip of the thermocouple is bent. If the tip is bent, it may not be close enough to the pilot light to detect heat properly. It may think your pilot light has shut off, and in turn shuts off the gas, when in reality, the flame was lit the whole time.
If the tip of the thermocouple is bent, then you need to attempt to gently bend it back into place after it has cooled. If you bend it too much, you can cause permanent damage. If you bend it too far and notice a permanent kink or fold in the thermocouple, or it won't bend easily, it may need to be replaced, rather than simply bending it back into place.
The Thermocouple Needs to be Replaced
The last reason why your hot water heater's pilot light goes out is because the thermocouple needs to be replaced. A thermocouple may need to be replaced for a number of reasons. It may have been bent while being cleaned or manipulated, it may be old and unable to detect heat properly, it may be rusty, or it may simply be old and have reached the end of its lifespan.
A pilot light that won't stay lit is one sign that something isn't right with the thermocouple. If you have attempted to clean and manipulate a bent thermocouple, and your pilot light still won't stay lit, it may be time to call in a professional. A professional water heater repair company or plumber can use a digital multimeter to test the amps on a thermocouple. If the reading is too low, they can then replace the thermocouple, getting your water heater back in working order. This is not something you should attempt to do on your own, unless you have experience working with gas appliances. If you incorrectly test or install this part, you can encounter gas leaks.
Having no hot water when you go to shower or wash your hands can be frustrating. And finding that the pilot light going out is the cause of this issue can get old. Luckily, if the thermocouple is dirty or bent, and it is causing your pilot light to go out, you can solve the problem easily and quickly. If that isn't the problem, a professional water heater repairman from a company like StateWide Mechanical II Inc. can replace the thermocouple, helping you to reliably get hot water.
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