How to Relight Your Water Heater's Pilot Light

by Team HomeServe
Hand Turning Down Water Heater Thermostat

Lighting a Water Heater Pilot Light at a Glance

  • Step 1: Turn gas off
  • Step 2: Turn controls to “pilot mode”
  • Step 3: Press control button and light
  • Step 4: Reset water temperature
  • Step 5: Replace cover

If you suddenly find yourself without hot water, don’t panic. Your gas water heater’s pilot light may have gone out. Although this small blue flame should always stay lit, it can go out for a variety of reasons. The good news is that, in most cases, it’s fairly easy to relight.

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Here’s our step-by-step guide to relighting the pilot light on your gas water heater.

How Do I Know If My Pilot Light Is Out?

If you turn on a faucet and the water comes out cold no matter how long you let it run, your pilot light is probably out. To check, you’ll need to access the water heater.

The pilot light on most water heaters is located at the base of the unit, below the gas control valve. Open the access panel or door to the burner chamber and look inside. There, you’ll find the pilot light tube, which should have a steady blue flame. If you don't see the flame, the pilot light is out.

Can I Relight the Pilot Light by Myself?

In many cases, you can relight your water heater’s pilot light yourself. Before attempting to relight the pilot light, make sure there isn’t a gas leak. You can usually do that with a simple sniff. Most utility companies add a scent to natural gas so you can easily detect a leak in your home. Typically, the smell is similar to garlic or rotten eggs.

If you think you smell gas, don't try to relight the pilot light. Instead, all family members should leave the house immediately. Call your gas company for further guidance. You should also listen for unusual noises near your water heater. Hissing and blowing sounds may also indicate a gas leak.

If these warning signs aren’t present, it should be safe to try to relight your pilot light on your own.

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What Do You Do When the Pilot Light Goes Out?

If possible, you should relight the pilot light according to the manufacturer’s instructions for your unit. However, the process is fairly similar across different models of gas water heaters.

First, determine whether your water heater has an automatic or manual igniter. According to Mullen Plumbing, Heating and Cooling of West Virginia, you should be able to tell by looking at the control dial. If there’s an ignition button, you have an automatic igniter. No ignition button? Your pilot light will have to be relit manually.

How to Light a Pilot Light on a Water Heater Without an Automatic Igniter

  1. Remove the access cover and turn the gas control valve to the “off” position. Wait about 10 minutes for any accumulated gas to dissipate.
  2. Turn the control and water temperature knobs to the “pilot” position.
  3. Depress the control knob. While keeping it depressed, use a wand lighter or long match to reignite the pilot light. Once the pilot light is lit, you should see a steady flame. Continue to hold the knob down for a full minute to bleed accumulated air from the line. Release the knob.
  4. Using the control knob, set your water heater back to the desired temperature.
  5. Replace the access cover.

How to Light a Pilot Light on a Water Heater With an Automatic Igniter

  1. Remove the access cover. Turn the gas control valve to the “off” position. Wait 10 minutes for the gas to dissipate.
  2. Turn the control and water temperature knobs to "pilot mode.”
  3. Press the control button. While holding it down, repeatedly push the striker knob for about 90 seconds or until the pilot is lit. The striker knob is typically black or red. Hold the control knob down for a full minute to bleed air from the line, then release it.
  4. Using the control knob, set your water heater to the desired temperature.
  5. Securely replace the access cover.

If your pilot light went out due to a draft or another one-off issue, it should stay lit. If it doesn’t, wait 10 minutes before making a second attempt at lighting it yourself. If your water heater pilot light keeps going out, it may be a sign that your unit needs professional maintenance or repair.

Since we’re all home now more than ever, being prepared for unexpected home repairs with a plan from HomeServe is important. Having a plan in place gives you peace of mind knowing that you can simply call our 24/7 repair hotline for covered breakdowns. See what plans are available in your neighborhood.