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Old 02-20-2013, 08:13 PM   #1
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Water heater won't light


Tried to take a shower last night & had cold water. I may be a girl, but I know enough to check the pilot & it was out. I tried lighting several times following directions with no luck. I cleaned off burner & thermocoupler with an old toothbrush and tried again. Still no luck. There's not even a spark. It doesn't light at all. Yes I am holding down the red button & yes I turned down temp & yes I turned knob to pilot. No my furnace is not on at the same time, but I checked it & it does go on & heat up. I checked the outlet & there is power. What's left to do? If it were the thermocoupler, wouldn't the pilot light & go out? Should I hear some sound of gas moving (no guy jokes, haha)at least a hissing sound when I hold down the button? Please let me know if anyone has any safe ideas. The water heater is a Rheem SG40 installed in 2000. 7 years ago a friend installed a new thermocoupler becuz the pilot light wouldn't stay lit. But at least then there was a light that just wouldn't stay on. Thanks for any help!

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Old 02-20-2013, 08:23 PM   #2
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Water heater won't light


First we have to troubleshoot this to see where your problem is.

You say there is not even a spark when you try to ignite it.

Can you see any spark at all when your pushing the igniter? Try it a couple of times - you should see a bright spark. that way we know it is at least getting a spark to the pilot. May have to dim the lights a little to see it better.

At 13 years old - that's a pretty good water heater, a lot of them don't last that long.

Can you post any pics of your water heater so we can see it?

Stay tuned, there will be others joining the post shortly.


Last edited by jmon; 02-20-2013 at 10:15 PM.
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Old 02-20-2013, 09:04 PM   #3
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Water heater won't light


You say there is no spark at all.

One thing you can check;

The wire (sometimes it's orange could be another color) coming from the igniter, has a plastic shield over the connection. That plastic shield can be pulled back or forward which ever is easier so you can check the connection to make sure you have contact from the igniter to the wire that goes to your burner/pilot to provide the spark. Sometimes they work their way loose a little bit, thereby not giving you any spark at all. Unplug it and plug it back in, make sure it's making a good contact.

Make sure the igniter wire is in good shape. Check and make sure wire has no cracks, pinched, bare, or broken off from the metal probe that provides the spark.

If the wire is plugged in and making good contact, in good shape all the way to the metal probe, and you still are not getting any spark at all, then it's probably a bad igniter. They are about 5 or 6 dollars at a local hardware or plumbing supply store, and are easily changed out. They don't usually go bad, but they can over time. Usually it's the wire that goes bad from age. Take the old igniter and wire with you so you can show the parts person what you need.

If you feel comfortable enough to manually lite it the old fashion way, with a long match, you can try that to see if it fires up. Be very careful.

If you are getting a spark then there is something else wrong somewhere and will go from there. At 13 years old, there are a couple other components that are likely getting ready to go bad.

Some pics of the water heater would help us troubleshoot it better.

Stay tuned, there will be others joining the post shortly.

Last edited by jmon; 02-21-2013 at 09:09 AM.
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Old 02-21-2013, 11:38 AM   #4
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Water heater won't light


Nailed it right on the head! Thank you so much! After "adjusting" the wire, got a spark, but won't stay lit. Going forward with thermocoupler! Thank you for saving me so much time & confusion. You're awesome! New lesson learned today.
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Old 02-21-2013, 11:53 AM   #5
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Water heater won't light


your welcome, hope everything works out for you.

cleaning or replacing the thermocouple should do the trick. While you have everything all apart, you should give it a good cleaning as well.

additional tips;

You should also vacuum any spider webs, dust, and dirt away from vent and filter area as well. usually located at bottom some where. Make sure you are getting proper air circulation to burner/pilot area. A lot of vaccums/shopvacs have a long nozzle to reach inside the burner compartment.

A lot of people forget that the water heater should be cleaned and flushed out at least once a year. Most people make sure their boiler/furnace is serviced and cleaned, but forget about their hot water heater. That to should also be cleaned and serviced yearly.

A lot of times, especially after 13 years of service, filters and screens get clogged up and they can also cause the pilot not to stay lit. Probably just needs a real good cleaning.

Sounds like you're on the right track. Let us know how it worked out for you, if you need anymore guidance, or still not remaining lit.

Last edited by jmon; 02-21-2013 at 12:31 PM.
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Old 02-21-2013, 04:58 PM   #6
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Water heater won't light


Will the pilot light stay on if you hold the small button down?

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