Richmond Water Heater Pilot Light Won’t Stay Lit (Fixed)

Water heaters are sometimes fickle machines. While they’re enormously helpful, occasionally, they can present significant problems, one of which is that the pilot light is repeatedly going out. 

If your pilot light on your Richmond water heater won’t stay lit, it’s usually due to a faulty thermocouple or a lack of combustible air. A problem with the thermocouple is significantly more common, but both could be causing problems. 

Today, we’ll examine why your water heater pilot light keeps going out and discuss ways you can fix it. Let’s get started. 

1. The Most Likely Problem – The Thermocouple Is Bad

The thermocouple is one of the primary components of your Richmond water heater. This device detects whether your pilot light is on by generating an electrical current. The thermocouple should stay warm as long as the pilot light is lit. 

Photo by myself – Own work licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Sometimes the thermocouple stops generating the electrical current and begins to cool down. When this happens, the device assumes that the pilot light is off and the water heater won’t ignite. 

If the thermocouple is having problems, it’s usually due to it being dirty, bent, or damaged. All these things can create significant issues with the pilot light refusing to start. Let’s talk about each one in a little more detail, and then we’ll go into some solutions for you to try. 

A dirty thermocouple happens the same as anything else that gets dirty. Over time, dust and debris collect on and around the water heater. This is expected given that water heaters typically reside in dark and dusty closets. Of course, even if your water heater were out in the open, it would still collect dirt. 

When the thermocouple becomes dirty, it stops sending the right signals through, and it can cause the pilot light to go out repeatedly. Each time you relight the light, it will stay on for a few minutes and then go out again. 

The thermocouple may also become bent. This can happen if you’ve recently had work done in your home and something accidentally drops on the thermocouple. It can also happen if it’s been moved in the wrong way. This is a widespread problem when installing a new Richmond water heater. 

A bent thermocouple will ultimately prevent the pilot light from staying lit. This is because the pilot light can’t heat it. The thermocouple then turns off the gas supply, and you’ll end up with a pilot light that refuses to light. One way to fix this is to bend it closer to the pilot light, which we’ll discuss more in a few moments. 

You may also have a damaged thermocouple. Damage can happen when relocating a water heater or, over time, if the water heater gets too old. There’s not a lot to do in this case, and often it will need replacing in this situation. If the thermocouple has been damaged, you may notice that the pilot light won’t stay lit and may be overly challenging to light.

How To Fix 

Once you’ve narrowed down the thermocouple that’s the problem, you’ll want to get started with some fixes. What you do with the thermocouple depends on what the problem is. 

In this section, we’ll primarily cover how to replace a thermocouple if it’s damaged, but let’s quickly go over what you should do if it’s dirty or bent. 

You can clean your thermocouple with a dry cloth. Simply wipe it down and test out lighting the pilot light again. 

If the thermocouple is bent, you can bend it more toward the pilot light. You want it to be close so that the pilot light and the thermocouple can exchange heat. It should bend fairly easily. 

Now, let’s discuss what you can do to replace a damaged thermocouple. You’ll need the following: 

  • Adjustable Wrench
  • Wrench Set
  • Replacement Thermocouple

Here’s a quick overview of how to fix your thermocouple. 

  1. Unscrew the thermocouple lead. You also want to unscrew the two gas tubes.
  2. Shut off the gas valves. Ensure you shut off both gas lines as well.
  3. Unfasten the three nuts that hold the thermocouple. Also, unscrew the two gas tubes. 
  4. Remove the burner assembly and then detach the thermocouple. This should be pretty easy. The burner usually sits loosely in the burning chamber. 

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2. A Lack of Combustible Air

The other problem that may be causing a pilot light that won’t stay lit is that your pilot light has a lack of air. 

You need to know that the water heater requires air to keep your pilot light burning. We all know that fire requires oxygen to continue burning, and pilot lights are no exception to this rule. 

Most often, when the pilot light is experiencing a lack of combustible air, it’s because it’s become surrounded by clutter, lint, or other debris. Too much clutter can cause limited airflow, and the pilot light will go out soon after being relit. It’s essential to keep the area surrounding the pilot light clean. 

How To Fix

This likely comes off as evident, but you’ll simply want to clean your water heater to fix this problem. 

Wipe down around the thermocouple, the pilot light, and so on. Be sure to remove dust and debris from the gas lines. Ensure that you clean the area around the pilot light very well. 

After this, try lighting the pilot light again to see if it stays lit. 


Usually, the pilot light isn’t staying lit on a Richmond water heater due to the bad thermocouple. It may also be due to a lack of combustible air, but this is less likely. 

Look to see if the thermocouple has been bent, damaged, or is too dirty, and take appropriate action.