Rheem water heater pilot light won’t stay lit [easy fix]

Troubleshoot your Rheem water heater's pilot light woes with our concise guide. Identify common issues and follow step-by-step instructions to restore your hot water supply hassle-free.


A reliable pilot light is the lifeline of any Rheem water heater, ensuring a constant supply of hot water for your household needs. However, if you find yourself in a situation where the Rheem water heater pilot light won’t stay lit, it’s essential to troubleshoot the issue promptly to avoid further inconvenience. In this detailed guide, we will delve deeper into the common reasons behind pilot light problems in Rheem water heaters and provide step-by-step instructions to help you diagnose and potentially fix the issue yourself.

Step 1: Verify the Gas Supply

Before delving into more complex troubleshooting, start by checking the gas supply to your water heater. If you have a propane water heater, ensure that the propane tank has an adequate supply. In the case of a natural gas water heater, confirm that the gas line is functioning correctly and not experiencing any interruptions. If the gas supply is indeed available, proceed to the next step.

Step 2: Inspect and Light the Pilot

To access the pilot light, remove the cover and insulation on your Rheem water heater carefully. Set the gas valve to the “Pilot” position, allowing you to press down on the pilot button. While holding the pilot button, use the igniter to ignite the pilot light. Observe if the flame goes out immediately after ignition. If it does, this indicates an underlying issue that requires further investigation.

Step 3: Address Drafts and Ventilation

Drafts in the room or inadequate ventilation can lead to pilot light instability. Begin by inspecting the area around the water heater for any gaps in walls, windows, or doors that might be causing drafts. Correct any drafts you find to ensure a stable pilot light. Additionally, check the vent connected to the water heater. Ensure it extends 18 to 24 inches above the roof line and is free from any obstructions. If the vent is too short, even minor breezes can extinguish the pilot light.

Step 4: Adjust the Thermocouple

thermocouple of gas water heater

If the pilot light remains lit while you hold down the pilot button but goes out when you release it, the issue might lie with the thermocouple. The thermocouple is a small, bulb-shaped device located near the pilot aperture. Its purpose is to generate a small electrical current that keeps the gas valve open when heated by the flame. Check if the thermocouple is properly positioned and making good contact. Adjust its position if necessary to ensure a secure connection.

Also learn: Rheem tankless water heater maintenance

Step 5: Troubleshoot the Emergency Cut Out

In some Rheem water heaters, an emergency cut out sensor is installed within the gas valve to detect over-temperature conditions. Unfortunately, this sensor has been reported to be faulty in certain models, causing pilot light issues. To temporarily bypass the cut-out, you can use a small nail or a similar object to bridge the connection. However, this is not a permanent solution and requires professional attention.

Step 6: Clean Dirty Gas burner or gas chamber

Bradford white water heater dirty burner problem

Is your Rheem water heater’s pilot light refusing to ignite or stay lit? Don’t fret! One of the common issue is a dirty gas chamber that obstructs air supply, leading to flame extinguishment. Additionally, a faulty igniter or damaged wiring can hinder the pilot light’s stability. Follow the below step-by-step instructions to clean the gas chamber effectively and ensure your Rheem water heater pilot light stays lit, restoring your hot water supply effortlessly.

Step 1: Prepare for Cleaning

Begin by turning off the power, gas, and water supply to your Rheem water heater. Safety is paramount, so ensure these connections are completely disconnected before proceeding.

Step 2: Disconnect Gas Control Valve Lines

Using an adjustable wrench, unhook all lines, including the thermocouple connector and gas supply tube, from the gas control valve. This will allow easier access to the gas burner chamber.

Step 3: Remove Gas Burner Cover & Assembly

After detaching all lines, gently remove the bottom cover panel to access the burner or pilot assembly. Unscrew the four nuts holding the panel in place and safely store them for later use. Once removed, take out the burner assembly.

Step 4: Clean the Gas Chamber

Eliminate dirt and debris from the gas chamber area with a shop-vac, ensuring a thorough cleaning. Use a torch light to illuminate dark corners, leaving no speck of dirt behind. For a deep clean, apply a suitable cleaning solution to the gas chamber.

Also learn: How to fix Rheem water heater leaking from drain valve

Step 5: Reassemble & Test

Place the burner assembly back into the gas chamber and securely screw the gas chamber cover. Reconnect all lines, including the thermocouple connector and gas supply tube, to the gas control valve. With the cleaning complete, turn on the power and open the gas shut-off valve, followed by the main water supply valve.

Step 7: Seek Professional Assistance

While the above steps may help resolve some pilot light issues, it’s vital to remember that water heaters involve gas connections, making safety paramount. If you encounter any difficulty or feel uncomfortable with the troubleshooting process, do not hesitate to contact a qualified plumber, gas service provider, or Rheem technician for a thorough diagnosis and repair by contacting official number 800-621-5622.

How to Relight the Rheem Water Heater Pilot

Before reigniting the water heater, it’s essential to relight the pilot to ensure proper functioning. Follow these steps for a successful relighting:

  1. Rotate the gas control knob counterclockwise to the off position.
  2. Wait for 5 minutes and then turn the gas control knob clockwise to the pilot position.
  3. Depress the igniter button while pressing the gas control knob all the way in until the status light starts blinking.
  4. Check through the sight glass window to confirm that the pilot is lit.
  5. Release the gas control knob and set it to your desired setting.


A properly functioning pilot light is crucial for consistent access to hot water in your Rheem water heater. By following the detailed troubleshooting steps outlined in this guide, you can diagnose common issues and, in some cases, potentially resolve the pilot light problem yourself. However, if uncertainty or concerns persist, always prioritize safety and seek professional assistance to ensure your water heater operates efficiently and safely. Regular maintenance and timely repairs are essential to prolonging the lifespan of your Rheem water heater and avoiding unexpected disruptions in your hot water supply.

Joseph Miller

Joseph Miller is a highly experienced water heater repair expert with a passion for keeping homes warm and comfortable. With over 50 years of industry expertise, Joseph has developed a deep understanding of water heater systems and the intricacies of their repair and maintenance.

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