Pilot lights on gas water heaters go out all the time and for the simplest of reasons. However, there may be a deeper problem with your appliance if the pilot light goes out frequently or refuses to stay on after you light it. Here are two things that may be causing this problem and what you can do to fix them.
There's a Problem with the Thermocouple
The majority of gas water heaters with pilot lights use thermocouples to determine if the light is on or not. When the pilot light goes out, the thermocouple shuts down the gas to keep it from leaking into the area and causing problems. Dirt or damage to the thermocouple can cause it to malfunction and shut off the gas prematurely, resulting in a dead pilot light.
Turn off the gas valve and then visually inspect the thermocouple. This device is typically located near the gas valve, but you should check your owner's manual just to be sure. More often than not, the problem will be that the thermocouple is dirty, which interferes with the signals it receives from the pilot light. Use a small piece of sandpaper to get rid of the dirt and debris and see if that fixes the problem.
Sometimes the thermocouple may fail to register the pilot light because it is literally bent out of shape. If the pilot light is not touching the thermocouple at all, then you need to adjust the device so the flame wraps around the sensor again. Make sure the device is cool before manipulating it to avoid burning yourself.
Pilot and Flex Tube Issues
Another reason why the pilot light won't stay on is because the tube feeding gas to the flame is blocked with dirt and debris. You can usually tell this is the case if the pilot flame is small and burns an orange-yellow color (the flame should be blue). Again, turn off the gas and wait for the area to cool down if the pilot light has been on. Locate the pilot tube, which should be connected to the automatic gas valve. Using a wire brush, clean the tube out until it's free of debris. Reconnect the tube and turn everything on. If the pilot light burns blue, then the clog was the problem.
If the pilot light is still burning feebly, check the flex tube for kinks. The flex tube supplies gas to the water heater's controller. Occasionally, the tubing gets twisted or kinked for one reason or another. Unraveling this tube should allow the gas to flow freely again and feed your pilot light.
For more ideas on what could be causing your pilot light to continuously go out or help fixing the issue, contact a company like Erickson Plumbing & Heating.