Fixing Suburban Water Heaters: Why Your Pilot Won’t Stay Lit

Struggling with a suburban water heater that won’t stay lit can be a real headache. You’re looking for a quick shower and instead, you’re left with cold water and frustration. But don’t worry, you’re not alone in this. Many homeowners face similar issues with their water heaters.

In this article, we’ll dive into the common reasons your suburban water heater might be giving you the cold shoulder. From pilot light troubles to faulty thermocouples, we’ll guide you through the troubleshooting steps to get your water heater up and running again.

Stay tuned as we explore the fixes that could reignite your water heater’s flame and ensure you’re back to enjoying those warm showers in no time.

Common Reasons for a Suburban Water Heater Not Staying Lit

When your Suburban water heater fails to stay lit, it’s crucial to pinpoint the exact issue. Understanding the root causes improves your chances of a successful DIY repair.

Dirty Pilot Tube

Sediment and dirt can clog your heater’s pilot tube, stifling the gas flow necessary to keep the pilot light lit. It’s similar to trying to drink a milkshake through a straw only to find the straw is blocked — frustrating and ineffective.

Faulty Thermocouple

A thermocouple is a safety device that shuts off the gas if the pilot light goes out. If it’s malfunctioning, it might read as if the pilot light isn’t lit even when it is, cutting off the gas supply as a precaution.

Vent Issues

Proper venting is critical for a water heater’s operation. If vents are obstructed, it may cause the pilot light to go out due to poor airflow.

Gas Pressure Irregularities

Like water pressure in your taps, consistent gas pressure is key. If the gas pressure is too low, the heater won’t have enough fuel to keep the pilot light burning.

Control Valve Problems

The control valve manages the flow of gas to the pilot light and burner. A faulty valve may not be able to sustain the flame.

If you’re experiencing a persistent issue with your water heater pilot light, these factors could well be to blame. Regular maintenance and prompt attention to signs of distress can keep these issues at bay.

Troubleshooting Steps for Pilot Light Issues

When your suburban water heater’s pilot won’t stay lit, it’s crucial to tackle the problem methodically. Here’s how to troubleshoot effectively:

Check the Pilot Tube

Firstly, ensure the pilot tube is clean. A clogged tube can prevent the pilot light from staying lit. Use a needle to gently clear away any debris.

Inspect the Thermocouple

A faulty thermocouple often causes pilot light issues. If it’s loose, tighten it with a wrench. If it’s dirty, shut off the gas and wait for the thermocouple to cool down before cleaning it with sandpaper.

Evaluate Gas Pressure

Inadequate gas pressure can also affect the pilot light. Refer to your owner’s manual to check the proper pressure levels and consult with your gas company to ensure these levels are met.

Look for Vent Obstructions

Check for any blockages in the venting system. Birds’ nests, leaves or other debris can obstruct the flow of air necessary to keep the pilot light functioning.

Assess the Control Valve

Sometimes, the issue lies with a defective control valve. This part may need professional evaluation or replacement.

Regular Maintenance Check

Periodic checks can prevent the aforementioned issues. Keep an eye on:

  • Gas supply consistency
  • Clear vent system
  • Clean pilot and thermocouple
  • Secure connections

Deal with problems promptly when they arise. Engage a professional if you’re unsure about any of these steps to ensure your suburban water heater operates safely and efficiently.

Checking and Replacing Faulty Thermocouples

When your suburban water heater won’t stay lit, one of the first components you should inspect is the thermocouple. This safety device senses when the pilot light is on, allowing the gas valve to stay open.

To examine the thermocouple, ensure the gas is turned off. Locate the thermocouple next to the pilot light – it’s usually a copper rod. Check for signs of soot, corrosion, or other debris that may affect its function. A dirty thermocouple can be carefully cleaned with a piece of fine sandpaper. After cleaning, if your heater still experiences issues, the thermocouple might be defective.

To replace the thermocouple, you’ll need a wrench to gently remove the faulty unit from its bracket. Remember to take note of its position and orientation; this information is crucial to correctly installing the new thermocouple. After purchasing a compatible replacement, secure it in place according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Test your water heater after replacing the thermocouple to ensure the pilot light stays on. If the problem persists, other issues could be at play, like a malfunctioning control valve or low gas pressure.

Remember, if you’re unsure of how to properly conduct these inspections and replacements, it’s always best to call a certified technician. Their expertise can save you time and prevent further damage to your suburban water heater.

Other Possible Causes for a Water Heater Not Staying Lit

Sometimes, the issue with your suburban water heater not staying lit extends beyond the pilot tube and thermocouple. You’ll need to investigate a few more areas to pinpoint the problem.

Dirty or Clogged Burner
A dirty burner can prevent the pilot light from staying lit. Dust and debris affect the flow of gas and air, disrupting the flame. Regular cleaning ensures the burner assembly is clear and functioning correctly.

Faulty Gas Control Valve
The gas control valve regulates gas flow to the water heater. A valve that’s not operating properly can cut off gas to the pilot light. If you’ve ruled out other issues, this valve may need replacing.

Airflow Problems
Your water heater needs adequate airflow for the pilot light to work efficiently. Check for any blockages or issues with the air intake filters. Restricted airflow can cause the pilot to extinguish.

Damaged Seals or Gaskets
Compromised seals or gaskets can lead to a pilot light that won’t stay lit. These are responsible for maintaining the appropriate pressure in the combustion chamber. Over time, they can degrade and will need replacement.

Inspecting these components is crucial for a comprehensively functioning water heater:

  • Burner: Ensure it is clear of debris
  • Gas Control Valve: Test for proper operation
  • Airflow: Verify there are no obstructions
  • Seals/Gaskets: Check for damage and wear

Electrical Issues
For electric ignition systems, check for loose connections or faulty wires. Electrical faults could prevent the igniter from working, meaning the pilot won’t stay lit.

Remember, regular maintenance is key to preventing issues with your water heater. If any of the above inspections feel daunting or if the problem persists, don’t hesitate to contact a professional for a thorough examination and repair.

Tips to Reignite Your Suburban Water Heater’s Flame

When your suburban water heater won’t stay lit, you’ll want to try several fixes to reignite that vital flame. Following these direct tips can restore your hot water supply promptly.

Check the Gas Supply
First up, ensure your gas supply is on and reaching your water heater. A simple oversight here could cause your flame to extinguish. If the gas valve is off, turn it on and attempt to light the pilot again.

Pilot Light Procedure
If the gas supply isn’t the issue:

  • Turn the control knob to “Pilot.”
  • Press down on the pilot light button.
  • While pressing the button, ignite the pilot light with a long-stem lighter.
  • Keep the button pressed for about a minute after the pilot light is lit, then release it slowly.
  • If the pilot light remains lit, turn the control knob to “On.”

Inspect the Pilot Orifice
A dirty or clogged pilot orifice might prevent gas from flowing to the pilot light. Carefully cleaning the orifice with a fine needle could be the fix you need.

Adjust the Thermocouple
Sometimes the thermocouple needs to be adjusted. It should be in the flame of the pilot light to gauge the heat correctly. If it’s not, the water heater might shut off as a safety measure.

Follow the appliance’s manual to:

  • Locate the thermocouple.
  • Gently bend it back into the pilot light’s flame.
  • Test the ignition process again.

When you’ve ensured that the above components are in working order, go back to the lighting procedure. Regular maintenance checks and cleanings can prevent many issues with pilot lights, so consider adding these to your home maintenance schedule. If pilot light problems persist despite your efforts, professional help from a certified technician is your next best step.


Tackling your suburban water heater woes can be straightforward when you know what to look for. You’ve learned how to check the gas supply reignite the pilot light and inspect for blockages. You’ve also discovered the importance of the thermocouple and the value of regular maintenance. Remember if the problem persists it’s time to call in the pros. By following these steps you’ll ensure a warm and comfortable home with a fully functional water heater. Stay proactive and your suburban water heater will be less likely to let you down.