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When confronted with icy showers, most homeowners assume that the pilot light on their water heater has gone out. We understand the frustration when the pilot light won't stay lit no matter how many times you try to light it. In such cases, how can you get your pilot light to stay lit so that you can get back into your morning routine?
Reasons Your Water Heater Pilot Light Won't Stay Lit
When your water heater's pilot light won't stay lit, the appliance's thermocouple is the likely culprit. This tiny part can hinder the pilot light for several reasons.
The Thermocouple Has a Bent Rod
Your water heater's thermocouple acts as a safety mechanism by using a temperature sensor to prevent explosions or natural gas leaks. The thermostat inside your water heater is designed to trigger the gas valve to open when the water in the storage tank gets too cold; however, the thermocouple will prevent the gas valve from opening if the pilot light is not lit. The thermocouple is attached to the gas valve on one end while the other end sits in the pilot flame.
If the rod of the thermocouple is bent, the end that is supposed to sit in the pilot flame may be dislocated, preventing the pilot light from heating the thermocouple. In this case, the thermocouple will prevent the gas valve from opening and you will be unable to light your pilot light. Often this issue can be resolved by simply bending the thermocouple rod back into place.
The Thermocouple's Rod Is Dirty
Because the thermocouple is designed to sit in the pilot light's flame, soot can build up on the rod over time. This build-up can decrease the sensitivity of the temperature sensor, preventing the thermocouple from allowing the gas valve to open. If you notice that the thermocouple is dirty, simply turn the gas off and allow the rod to cool. Once cool, you can use a fine sandpaper or a wire brush to gently clean the soot build-up off of the rod.
As with any appliance, sometimes parts simply fail. If your thermocouple rod is not bent or dirty, the thermocouple itself may be damaged. In this case, you will likely need to either repair or replace the thermocouple.
What Happens If the Water Heater Pilot Light Won't Stay Lit After Replacing the Thermocouple?
If replacing the thermocouple fails to resolve the issue, cleaning the pilot burner and orifice may allow the pilot light to stay lit. First, be certain to turn off the gas. Remove the pilot assembly and clean the pilot burner and orifice using fine-grit sandpaper or a small wire brush before reassembling.
If cleaning the pilot burner and orifice yourself doesn't work, the next step is to call in an experienced water heater service professional to pinpoint the issue and replace the faulty part. The key to finding the right contractor for your repair job is locating a company that has a track record of experience in water heater repair and maintenance; an experienced professional should be able to provide you with a free repair estimate in advance.