Ge Water Heater Pilot Light Won’t Stay Lit [5 Easy Solutions]

The most common reasons why your GE water heater pilot light won’t stay lit include:

  • Dirty pilot tube.
  • Kinked flex tubes.
  • Defective main control valve.
  • And poor heater combustion.

That’s not all! Another critical cause for this issue to happen is the malfunctioning of the thermocouple. Due to a bad thermocouple, it shuts off the fuel for why your heater will no longer stay lit.

ge water heater pilot light won't stay lit

Whatever the reason is, there will be countless solutions on the internet that may seem more confusing.

So, we intend to break down all the possible reasons with exact troubleshoots for our reader through this well-proven guide. 

Scroll down!

Quick Fixes For Ge Water Heater Pilot Light Won’t Stay Lit

Before moving to the detailing part, let’s glance at the below table, highlighting quick solutions regarding this issue to make your further reading easier.

Probable ReasonsPossible Solutions
Dirty pilot tube> Clean out the pilot tube with a needle.
Kinked flex tube> Straighten the tube.
Obstructed thermocouple> Clean out the clogged thermocouple.
Bent thermocouple> Bend the thermocouple toward the pilot.
Broken thermocouple> Replace the damaged one. 
Failed main control valve> Replace the bad valve.
Lack of combustion air> Clean & adjust the vent pipe.
> Clean the air intake filter.
> Adjust the vent hood to prevent back-drafting. 

GE Water Heater Pilot Light That Keeps Going Out [5+ Easy Fixes]

Continue reading to learn all the causes and clear ideas of how you can fix the issue by yourself in a shorter time.

Note: You can also read how to fix AO smith water heater won’t stay lit.

1. Dirty Pilot Tube

Dirty pilot assembly is the most apparent cause of why your heater fails to keep the pilot lit. The pilot tube is an essential part of the ignition process in a water heater. 

ge water heater dirty pilot tube

Accumulation of dirt and debris on the tube is quite obvious and due to that, it prevents the flame from engulfing the thermocouple.

That’s the point the safety mechanism triggered and turns off the gas flow. As for the fuel source being disrupted, the pilot fails to stay lit. Don’t worry. A simple cleaning of the pilot tube will back it to work normally. 

How To Fix:

First, turn off the gas supply and disconnect the pilot from the gas valve connection. Take a needle and slide it into the pilot hole. Move the needle back and forth and take out the stuck large debris in the tube.

Unclog the pilot tube until it gets cleaned. When done, connect the tube back to the gas valve and try to relight the pilot.

2. Kinked Flex Tube

After the pilot tube, a defective flex tube is another possible reason why your pilot’s light won’t stay on. It acts as a medium to flow the gas to the heater.

At times, the tube might be kinked or damaged. Due to this, the gas flow will be interrupted and the pilot light fails to stay lit.

How To Fix:

Simply straighten the flex tube if it gets kinked. Also, ensure there are no obstructions in the tube to ensure proper gas flow.

If you are suspecting a broken flex tube, better to replace it with the assistance of a professional.

3. Thermocouple Issue

A thermocouple is a vital component of any water heater system which is a heat-sensing probe of the pilot assembly.

It works by generating a small voltage to signal the gas valve to keep gas flowing to the pilot assembly. 

ge water heater pilot assembly

So, unlike the other problems, malfunctioning of the thermocouple is suspected to be the major problem in case of pilot light issues. 

There are a few concerning facts that may occur with the thermocouple. Here are included some of the common ones with the proper solutions:

i. Obstructed Thermocouple

At times, the thermocouple can be blocked by debris which creates obstructions in generating current to keep the gas flowing to the pilot light. The only way to fix the issue is to clean out the clogged thermocouple. 

How To Clean A Water Heater Dirty Thermocouple

Follow the steps below to clean your thermocouple:

  • First off, unplug the water heater’s power cord and turn off the gas supply. Wait for the unit to cool down.
  • Before touching the thermocouple, make sure it is completely cool. Dissolve the thermocouple from the heater burner assembly.
  • Now take a wire brush or emery cloth sandpaper and start rubbing the thermocouple ends. When done, wipe the element with a lint-free cloth to clean the remaining debris.
  • Finally, connect the component back to the burner assembly and relight the pilot. 

ii. Bent Thermocouple

If the pilot light is still going out even after cleaning the thermocouple, check for whether it is bent away at any point. Not only you but also it is the common case for most of the users. 

ge water heater bent thermocouple

A bent thermocouple will never allow the gas to flow flawlessly and also it doesn’t detect the heat signal.

How To Fix:

Whatever you are doing with the thermocouple, make sure it is cool enough to touch. Then, simply grab the thermoset and bend it toward the pilot.

iii. Damaged Thermocouple

Asides from being grimy and bent, a damaged or broken thermocouple is another major reason why your pilot may be unlit or stay lit.

Due to a broken thermocouple, it will no longer sense the heat on the pilot light and also shut off gas to both the pilot and the burner. That leads to it constantly shutting off. 

Your pilot will not work out again until you are replacing the bad thermocouple. But before replacing it, you can do a diagnostic test with a multimeter. 

If it supplies voltage below 20 MV, be sure it is surely broken and needs replacement. To do so, proceed to the below section.  

How To Replace Thermocouple On Water Heater

Here are the step-by-step procedures that you need to follow to replace the bad thermocouple precisely:

Step 1: Disconnect The Water Heater

For the very first step, disconnect the power connection of your heater and turn off the gas supply also the control valve. Then wait for some while to let everything cool. 

set the control valve to the off position
Step 2: Remove The Burner Assembly

 To access the thermocouple you need to remove the burner assembly manifold cover.

remove the burner assembly

For this, disconnect all the connection goes to the gas control valve and slide out the burner assembly from the burner combustion compartment.

Step 3: Disconnect The Old Thermocouple & Install The New One

Unscrew the pilot assembly. Pull out the bad thermocouple slowly from the pilot assembly. Then slide the new thermocouple back in place. 

disconnect the thermocouple

Generally, a thermocouple about is 18 or 24 inches long. Ensure your new element is meeting this correct size. After installing the new thermocouple, reassemble the burner assembly and then turn on the gas supply.

4. Failed Main Control Valve

If your water heater pilot light won’t stay lit after replacing the thermocouple, now you might be dealing with bad control valve. A gas control valve is regarded as the soul of a water heater. 

failed main control valve

Besides managing the gas flow to the heater, it has a few primary functions. Controlling the pilot light is one of them. 

Now due to insufficient voltage supply or any internal defects, it stops working and the pilot light won’t stay on. 

There are a few external signs that let you know about a faulty main control valve. That includes:

  • Non-working control knob
  • A faulty pilot button or it is not popping up after pressing.
  • The water is getting too hot.

How To Fix:

The only way to diagnose a faulty control valve is by replacing the non-operational control valve with the new one.

As the complete task is related to gas fittings and other major ones, we recommend you contact a qualified gas technician to perform this job precisely.

5. Lack Of Combustion Air

Every gas-operated water heater needs a proper amount of combustion air to burn safely. Generally, a water heater requires 50 cubic feet of air per 1,000 BTUs/hr. 

Due to incomplete combustion, a greater amount of carbon monoxide starts generating inside the heater which blows out the pilot.

So, if all the above troubleshooting has been ruled out, you can suspect incomplete combustion as one of the root culprits of this issue. 

Insufficient water supply in the heater room is the most probable reason here. Aside from this, there are a few major reasons left over for why your water heater is dealing with a lack of combustion air. Here you go:

  • Clogged vent.
  • Blocked or missing pipe cap on the top of the vent pipe.
  • Dirty air intake filter.
  • A vent draft means exhaust gases are spilling out into the room rather than leaving.
  • High winds or down drafts from the fan.

How To Fix:

First off, make sure there that sufficient fresh air is delivered to the room for the proper gas combustion.

If you already have done this, follow the below essential steps to say goodbye to poor combustion problems from your water heater. 

Step 1: Inspect The Vent Draft Hood

The draft hood is an essential part of a gas-fired water heater which connects to the vent to exhaust the gases. In case the hood is missing, crooked or blocked, it leads to the vent draft issue. 

ge water heater vent draft hood

Also, a bad hood will create a strong down-draft that extinguishes the burner or pilot.  To fix that, locate the hood from the legs at the top of the water heater. 

Then check to see whether it is in working order or not.  Also, a draft hood should be centered over the vent hole and its leg must be straight.

Step 2: Clean & Adjust The Vent Pipe

In the next step, you need to inspect the vent pipe for your water heater for any blockages. After long use, building up shoots or dirt, leading to blockage in the pipe is obvious. So, check and clean out the vent pipe.

never downsize the vent pipe

Besides, proper adjustment of the vent pipe is also quite essential. As per the manufacturer’s instructions, never downsize the vent pipe and the minimum slope should be ¼” per one foot.

Check the vent cap as well and clean it if needed. Plus make sure it is not too down of the vent pipe.

Step 3: Clean The Air Intake Filter

Aside from the vent pipe, the heater takes air from underneath as well. Thus the air intake filter should be clean as before ones. To clean this, get a brush as shown in the picture.

clean the air intake filter

Then stick it underneath the heater. Then push up or back and forth the brush to remove stuck debris from the air intake filter and that’s all. After cleaning the pilot light will definitely stay lit longer.  


Is it dangerous if the pilot light goes out on the water heater?

Yes! Definitely! It is quite dangerous if the pilot of your water heater has been out for hours. There would be a higher possibility to leak into your room which leads to serious hazards. So, don’t take it as a minor fact and go for checking any pilot problems.

Does a water heater pilot light always stay on?

Basically, a pilot light is a small flame to ignite the burner. Gas-fueled water heaters use it in the ignition system. To continue the ignition process and keep the water warm, the pilot light should stay lit at all times.

How to relight the pilot light on the GE water heater?

First, set the thermostat to the lowest setting and switch the gas valve to the “Pilot” setting. Then hold the pilot knob and ignition button simultaneously for 3 seconds and that’s all! The pilot light will lit.

Wrapping Up!

There you have it. All the confusion about the GE water heater pilot light won’t stay lit should go away now. The issue is not unfamiliar to the GE water heater owner but it could be troublesome for new users. They will struggle in finding the possible reasons and how to deal with the problem. 

The good news is that you can fix the issue by yourself like an expert by following our suggested straightforward solutions methods. 

While doing so, if you face any single troubles, find yourself by our side. Just drop your comment and make your problem solved!

About William

William is the founder of He has real life practical skills in fixing smoker & heating appliance issues. He loves to share his knowledge & helps others in fixing their appliances & saving their money. William firmly believes that anyone can repair his or her unit with the correct guidance & knowledge. See more at about us.

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