Troubleshooting Pilot Light Problems

A few simple steps can generally relight your pilot light, regardless of the appliance, but don't hesitate to call for professional help.

Whether it's a gas-powered stove or oven, or a gas-powered boiler, furnace or water heater, there's a pilot light involved. A pilot, being what it is (a tiny flame), will likely go out from time to time, even if there is nothing wrong with your system. After all, a brief interruption in gas flow or a stiff gust of air is about all it takes. That being said, a pilot shouldn't go out frequently, and if it does, you need to get a technician in to look for problems.

That being said, what should you do at first if the pilot goes out? Procedures vary depending on whether it's a stove top, oven or other appliance (like a boiler, furnace or water heater). Let's start with the easier ones: the stove and oven, then we'll move on to the more complex appliances. (If your appliance has instructions about relighting the pilot, follow them first and foremost; the advice below is general and may not apply to all units.)

STOVETOP PILOTS

* Turn the burner control knobs off.

* Remove the cooking grates and cooktop, if necessary.

* Find the pilot light ports and light each that is out with a match.

* Replace the grates and cooktop.

* Turn on the burners one at a time to make sure they are working now.

Pilot flames on stovetops should generally be 3/8 of an inch high. You can adjust the flame's height if you need to, though. Follow the pilot lot back from the pilot toward the oven control to find the adjustment screw. Turn the screw until your flame is the proper height.

OVEN PILOTS

* Turn the oven control knob off.

* Remove the broiler carriage.

* Light a match and hold it to the top forward section of the pilot.

* Put the broiler carriage back in place.

Generally speaking, there is no need (and no way) for you to adjust the pilot flame for an oven.

FURNACE/BOILER/WATER HEATER PILOTS

* Turn off the appliance, either at the thermostat or power switch.

* Locate the gas valve, which normally displays three positions ("on," "off" and "pilot"), and turn it to "pilot."

* Press the gas valve knob in to send gas to the burner.

* Hold a lighted match to the pilot burner. You may need a long match (such as those used for fireplaces) or may need to hold a shorter match with a pair of pliers to reach the burner.



* Light the pilot, but continue pressing in the gas valve knob for 30 to 60 seconds.

* Let go of the gas valve button.

* If the pilot doesn't stay lighted, try the process again once or twice more before exploring the possibility of other problems.

* If the pilot flame stays lighted, turn the gas valve knob to "on."

* Close the access panel.

* Turn the appliance back on at the thermostat or power switch.

If you have a spark ignition for the pilot, you won't need a lighted match. Instead, you need to push that ignition button, and you may need to do this several times if there is air in the line.

If your pilot light goes out more than once every season, there's a good chance you have a mechanical or other physical problem that needs to be fixed. The possibilities include (but are not limited to):

* A thermocouple that has gone bad or is loose

* A bad gas valve

* Low gas pressure or blockage that causes a poor flame

* A downdraft or high wind/air movement or some other sort

* Damaged heat exchanger

* Improper venting

* Problems with the flue or chimney

* You're out of fuel (it may sound obvious, but people often forget this possibility)

© High Speed Ventures 2011