USA Water quality is supported by its audience. If you buy something through our links, we may earn money from our affiliate partners. Learn more

How to Tell if Pilot Light Is Out on Water Heater in 4 Steps

Fact checked by Stephen Conklin

how to tell if pilot light is out on water heater

Does your gas water heater suddenly produce cold water? There can be several reasons for this phenomenon, but the most common is a pilot light that went out. It would be a cinch to diagnose the problem if you knew how to tell if pilot light is out on water heater.

One way to tell if the gas water heater pilot light is out is by looking for a flame in the burner chamber. Unfortunately, if the pilot light frequently dies out, it’s often a sign of another issue. Knowing how to check the water heater’s pilot light should help you rule out other concerns. I’ll help you sort this out.

Table of Contents

Things You’ll Need for This Guide

Checking if your water heater’s pilot light is on or not isn’t a complicated process. You only need three effortless steps, requiring a few tools or materials. In most cases, there’s nothing to prepare. However, it would be best to be ready with the following.

  • Owner’s Manual

People should take the time to read their water heater’s user guide because it contains crucial information about the appliance. The owner’s manual describes many things about the water heater, including the pilot light’s location and troubleshooting the pilot light if it turns off.

If you don’t have the user guide, you can ask your dealer or email the manufacturer for a copy. Alternatively, you can find downloadable PDF files specific to your gas water heater.

  • Tools and Materials

Besides the owner’s manual, the only things you might need for this activity are screwdrivers, knee pads, and gloves. In some instances, you don’t even need these materials and tools.

For example, gloves and knee pads are suitable for protecting the hands and knees when you lie close to the floor to access the water heater’s burner chamber. You don’t need these protective devices if you have an elevated gas water heater.

A screwdriver is essential for loosening the screws securing the burner chamber access panel. However, some brands have easy-to-open, toolless compartment covering.

Steps for Checking if a Gas Water Heater Pilot Light Is Out


Step 1. Determine your gas water heater’s pilot light location

Novice owners always ask me, where is the pilot light on my water heater?

Manufacturers ship their water heaters complete with a detailed instruction manual, including the location of essential parts, components, and elements. You can check your owner’s guide for the pilot light’s precise location in your water heater.

Alternatively, you can examine your gas water heater’s bottom section. You should see a chamber with an open window. This compartment is where you’ll find the gas water heater’s burner assembly. You should see the pilot light there.

Pro Tip: You can check online resources and forums for the pilot’s light location specific to your gas water heater’s brand, model, and make.

Step 2. Open the burner chamber’s access panel, if necessary

Some gas water heaters have an access panel covering the burner assembly. Although they might have a window, burner assembly components might obscure your view of the pilot light. Hence, I recommend opening the burner compartment to look better at the pilot light water heater.

AdamDIY has an exciting video on relighting a water heater pilot light. At the 0:18 mark, you’ll see a panel below the gas control unit. Adam popped this out effortlessly. You’ll also notice a small square window on the right of the heater. That’s the viewing window for the pilot light.

Not all gas water heaters have an easy-to-open burner chamber panel. Some might have screws fastening the cover to the tank. It’s best to loosen and remove these screws to access the pilot light viewing window.

Step 3. Check if there is a flame in the pilot light tube

I suggest wearing knee pads and gloves to protect yourself against the hard floor. The pilot light viewing window might be too low for you to check while standing or sitting.

Check the pilot light on the water heater by looking through the viewing window. It’s dark inside, so the bluish-yellowish flame should stand out. If you can’t see anything, you have a pilot light out on the water heater.

Steps for Relighting the Gas Water Heater Pilot Light


You already know how to confirm a hot water heater pilot light out situation. Unfortunately, you still don’t have hot water. That’s why it’s crucial to relight the pilot light to enjoy warm showers, hot baths, and more.

Step 1. Turn off the gas control valve

Locate the water heater’s gas control valve. You should see this on your hot water tank’s side, complete with flexible pipes running from your main gas supply line. There’s a red or black knob on the gas control unit. Grab the knob and turn it into the OFF position.

Don’t relight the pilot light yet. It’s best to wait about 10 to 15 minutes for the gas to dissipate from the gas burner chamber. Igniting the pilot light at this time might be disastrous.

Step 2. Set the control to PILOT

Check the gas control knob and look for a marking labeled “pilot.” The pilot setting is an energy-saving feature in gas water heaters. It’s what people use when they go on vacation or leave their water heaters for several days.

Manufacturers set the pilot mode to maintain optimal water temperatures while ensuring you won’t wait too long for the appliance to heat the water when you return.

Step 3. Press the igniter several times for 90 seconds

You should see a small red or black button next to the gas control valve. This component is the igniter, similar to the switch you use on your gas stove or furnace. Pressing it creates a spark to ignite or light the water heater pilot tube.

It would be best to press the igniter repeatedly at five-second intervals for 90 seconds. If the pilot light doesn’t ignite, wait for another ten minutes before repeating this step. If the pilot light on water heater out after three to four attempts, you might have a different problem.

Problems in gas pressure or a thermocouple issue might cause your pilot light to turn off frequently. Inadequate combustible air or excessive draft can also be pilot light concerns you might want to consider.

It’s worth remembering that some gas water heaters don’t have an automatic ignition system. These products require you to use a long-stem lighter, similar to what you use in igniting a gas stove.

Step 4. Set the water heater’s thermostat to your preferred water temperature

Check the status light indicators to see if they are on or blinking. A steady light is a sure sign your pilot light is on. A blinking status indicator might mean the system generates a spark but is insufficient to turn on the pilot light.

With the pilot light turned on, you can set the water heater’s thermostat to the desired temperature level.

Houseimprovements has an engaging video about lighting a gas water heater’s pilot light worth checking out.


How to tell if pilot light is out on water heater? You only need to locate the burner assembly, access the pilot light window, and look for a flame. Then, you may relight the pilot light if necessary.

Did you enjoy following this guide? I hope so because I had fun describing the steps. Your friends would love to learn about this trick, too. So, consider sharing this article with them. I’ll also answer your feedback, comments, questions, or other concerns.

5/5 - (3 votes)