3 ways to troubleshoot a pilot light - HMS National, Inc.

3 ways to troubleshoot a pilot light

September 22, 2014

You may not realize how many pilot lights you have in your house! These little flames are responsible for keeping your water heater, furnace and gas stove running. Pilot lights may seem tricky, but there are only a few reasons why they fail. Use these three easy steps to troubleshoot a pilot light and decide whether you need to call a repairman. 

1. Check the flame size
The first thing to do when you suspect your pilot light isn't working is to locate the flame. You can actually tell a lot by just looking at it. Some telltale signs that there's a problem are if the flame has gone out, is faltering or is too small. You can try relighting the pilot and adjusting the dial that controls flame size. However, only take these steps if you have your appliance's manual and are comfortable with the process. Otherwise, call a professional! If you can't relight the pilot or if the flame is still irregular, proceed to step two.

2. Clean the pilot tip
Over time, the tip of a pilot light can become corroded or blocked, which will interfere with the flame. This problem is an easy one to fix - it just requires a little cleaning. Turn off the gas to the appliance and unplug if possible. You should consult the manual for specific cleaning instructions, but you're usually safe using a toothbrush to scrub off any residue. Once you've cleaned the pilot, relight the flame. If it's irregular or the appliance still isn't working, you probably have a problem with your thermocouple.

3. Test the thermocouple
Your pilot light won't work correctly if its co-pilot, the thermocouple, is faulty. This wire measures the temperature of the flame and triggers the ignition of the gas. When the thermocouple is working right, it will sense a pilot flame getting bigger and adjust the gas supply to heat the appliance. On most water heaters, the thermocouple is a bronze- or brass-colored wire. If you suspect this is the culprit, go ahead and call a repairman, as the thermocouple will need to be adjusted or replaced altogether. If your appliance is covered by an HMS home warranty, a customer service representative will help you choose the best service provider for the job.

The information in these articles is intended to provide guidance on the proper maintenance and care of systems and appliances in the home. Not all of the topics mentioned are covered by our home warranty or maintenance plans. Please review your home warranty contract carefully to understand your coverage.