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If your home's furnace has suddenly stopped working, you may have discovered that your pilot light has gone out. However, after several attempts to relight it, you may be unable to keep it lit. If so, use the following three-step guide to find out the problem and possibly find a simple solution.
Step 1: Look At The Thermocouple Under The Pilot
The first step involves looking at the thermocouple located underneath the pilot light. This piece typically has two tubes sticking out from the bottom that feed gas to the pilot. If this becomes damaged or loose, not enough gas is able to get through to keep the pilot lit.
First, turn off the gas to keep from inhaling any fumes as your perform your inspection. Then, use a flashlight and shine it on the thermocouple. If you notice the tubes directly beneath it are bent or no longer attached, or if the thermocouple itself appears damaged, replace it with a new one.
Once you have replaced the thermocouple, turn on the gas valve and try to light the pilot. If it still will not stay lit, go on to the second step.
Step 2: Check The Pilot For Rust And Corrosion
Turn the gas valve off and use a flashlight to look at the pilot itself. Normally, the metal should be shiny and clean with no evidence of rust or corrosion. However, if either does exist, it could create a full or partial blockage, preventing gas from fully feeding the pilot light.
After visually inspecting the pilot's outer casing, check the condition of the hole by using a cotton swab. Hold the swab straight up and down over the pilot, then insert the tip into the hole. Carefully twist the swab and lift it out. If you see any reddish or brownish particles, this means rust has gotten inside. If so, go on to step three to clean it.
Step 3: Clean In And Around The Pilot
For this step, you will need a small piece of 800-grit sandpaper, a lint-free rag, a clean soft-bristle toothbrush, and a thin wire for cleaning out the hole. You can use a straightened paper clip or a sewing needle small enough to fit into the hole. A quilter's needle has a tiny gauge and should fit into most pilot holes.
First, use the sandpaper to clean around the outside of the pilot. Lay the piece flat on top above the hole, then gently sand the metal, swirling down and around it. This will loosen and remove any rust on the metal.
Wipe the area clean with the rag, using the same direction as the sandpaper. Going down and away from the pilot hole keeps any rust particles from entering it.
Second, use the toothbrush to brush any loose rust out of the hold that may have been introduced into it during the sanding. Place the brush so the bristles enter the hole slightly; then use a circular motion to brush away from the hole.
Finally, once you have brushed out the hole, insert your piece of wire. If you feel any resistance, slightly rotate it to break the blockage free. However, if you are unable to get past the resistance, do not force the wire through it. Applying too much pressure could damage the tube or thermocouple.
After you have finished, wipe the area around the pilot with the cloth. Then turn on the gas and try relighting the pilot.
After going through the above guide, you may still be unable to keep your pilot light going. If so, you may need to contact a heating repair professional. They can diagnose the problem and offer you recommendations on how to fix the issue.