Bradford white water heater pilot won’t light [FIXED]

If you're facing the issue of a Bradford White water heater pilot not lighting, this article provides a quick and effective solutions to resolve the problem.

If you own a Bradford White Water Heater and face issues with the pilot light not staying lit, several factors may be causing this problem. Common culprits include a faulty thermopile or thermocouple, a tripped thermal cut-off switch, and a dirty burner. This article will delve into each of these issues and provide step-by-step troubleshooting solutions to help you restore your water heater’s functionality.

Understanding the Importance of a Pilot Light:

Before we delve into the troubleshooting steps, it’s essential to understand the significance of a pilot light in a water heater. The pilot light is responsible for igniting the main burner, which heats the water in the tank. Without a consistent and steady pilot flame, the water heater cannot function correctly.

Common Causes for a Pilot Light Not Staying Lit:

Several potential causes for a pilot light failing to stay lit on a Bradford White water heater. These include a faulty thermopile or thermocouple, a tripped thermal cut-off switch, or a dirty burner assembly. Identifying the root cause is crucial for determining the appropriate troubleshooting steps.

Bradford White Water Heater Pilot Will Not Stay Lit [3 Quick Solutions]

If your Bradford White Water Heater pilot won’t stay lit, it is likely due to a faulty thermopile, defective thermal cut-off switch, or a dirty burner. Let’s explore each of these issues and find solutions to resolve them.

Thermopile Gets Dirty or Faulty:

Over time, carbon buildup can accumulate on the thermopile, acting as an insulator and reducing voltage. This decrease in voltage prevents the thermopile from generating enough power to ignite or maintain the pilot light.

testing voltage of bradford white water heater thermopile using multimeter

Solution: To diagnose the issue, perform an electrical test on the thermopile using a multimeter set to the volts DC option. Detach the two wires connected to the control valve and attach the multimeter probes to those wires. Observe the voltage reading while relighting the pilot and holding down the control knob. A healthy thermopile should show a reading between 650 to 850 millivolts. Consider cleaning or replacing the thermopile if the reading is below 450 millivolts.

Note: To access the thermopile, remove the cover and, if necessary, the burner assembly. Clean the thermopile using a fine emery cloth or replace it if required.

Faulty Thermal Cut-off Switch:

The thermal cut-off switch (TCO) is wired in series with the thermopile and cuts off power to the valve if the combustion chamber temperature becomes too high. A tripped TCO will hinder the flow of gas required for lighting the pilot.

Testing continuity of Bradford White Water Heater thermal shutoff switch using multimeter

Solution:┬áCheck the continuity of the thermal cut-off switch by using a multimeter set to the Ohms setting. Disconnect the wires from the switch and place the multimeter probes on the terminals. If the multimeter reads “OL” (indicating no continuity), it signifies a faulty thermal cut-off switch that needs replacement.

Dirty Burner:

A dirty burner or combustion chamber can prevent the pilot light from staying lit. Accumulated dirt or debris restricts airflow, reducing oxygen and smothering the flame.

Bradford white water heater dirty burner problem

Solution: To clean the burner chamber, follow these steps:

  1. Shut off the gas supply and disconnect the power cord.
  2. Remove the outer and inner doors from the bottom of the unit.
  3. Disconnect all electrical connections attached to the gas control valve, including the pilot tube and main burner feed line.
  4. Remove the burner assembly from the unit.
  5. Remove dirt, debris, and dust from the gas chamber area by using a vacuum cleaner or something.
  6. Check the pilot electrode, pilot tube, and pilot orifice for clogs and clean them if necessary.
  7. Reinstall the burner assembly, replacing any damaged parts.
  8. Check the gas leaks with soap water applied on the joints.
  9. Turn on the gas supply and relight the pilot.

Frequently asked Questions (FAQs):

How do I know if my thermocouple is broken?

Test the thermocouple electrically using a multimeter set to the volts DC option. If the reading falls below 450 millivolts, the thermocouple is likely faulty.

How do I clean my thermocouple?

Remove the burner assembly, locate the thermocouple, and use a fine emery cloth to remove carbon buildup.

How much does it cost to replace a water heater thermocouple?

The cost of replacing a water heater thermocouple ranges from $20 if done yourself to approximately $150 when done professionally.


A malfunctioning pilot light in your Bradford White Water Heater can lead to a lack of hot water. By addressing issues such as a dirty or faulty thermopile, a tripped thermal cut-off switch, and a dirty burner, you can troubleshoot and resolve these problems. Follow the step-by-step solutions in this article to ensure your pilot light stays lit and your water heater functions optimally.

TanklessHelp Staff

TanklessHelp Staff has an experienced writers and researchers in the field of water heating technology. With a background in HVAC and plumbing, Tanklesshelp staff has in-depth knowledge in many types of waterheaters in America and Canada. They have a passion for educating homeowners and businesses on solving easy to hard repairs and guide them on how to maintain them to save money.

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