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This week my 7 year old water heater turned off 3 times and it has become incredibly hard to reignite the pilot light.

Here are the observations:

  1. When I press the red "RESET" button, I hear consistent hissing sound. Which probably means that gas to ignite pilot is getting there.
  2. When I press the "IGNITE" button I see the spark. But 99% of the time the spark does not ignite gas.
  3. May be a coincidence, but if pilot does light up and if I release the red RESET button too soon, the pilot light simply goes off. If I keep the red button pressed the pilot light keeps burning.
  4. Another observation that may be a coincidence is that if pilot lit up and went out (as described in #3 when I release red button too soon), then I usually have to wait 1 hour or so before pilot ignites again.

Since ignition spark and gas appear to be there, then does this mean that lack of oxygen is preventing pilot from lighting up? Or could this still be something else? At one point I saw the burner light become orange, but it changed color back to blue.

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It could be that the pilot orifice is partially obstructed. There are cleaning wires which can be inserted into the orifice to clear it. These are available at stores which service gas lights. To reach the orifice you might have to hold the wire with a pair of needle nose pliers or needle nose locking pliers.

Many camping stoves are supplied with a cleaner wire mounted on a light stamped steel handle.

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    The behavior this morning changed from "hard to ignite pilot" to "hard to ignite pilot AND if pilot ignites then it immediately goes out once I release the reset button". I kept the reset button pressed for 5 minutes, but it did not help. Could this be caused by bad thermocouple instead? If I understand correctly then the reset button forces the gas supply to pilot. Once the reset button is released then thermocouple controls the gas supply to pilot (ie it provides gas only if there is flame). – Hans Solo Nov 13 '18 at 22:26
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    Yes. A bad temperature sensor is a possible cause of the behavior you describe. Sometimes they just need to be moved back into place above the pilot flame, but they can need replacement. I think there is a way to test the output of the pilot flame temp sensor. – Jim Stewart Nov 13 '18 at 22:37
  • I tested the thermoucuple and saw 30mV when I heated up the other end with lighter. Also with pressed Reset button the pilot could lit up, but once I released flame went out. Does this mean that most likely the obstruction is at the valve that supplies pilot with gas? Or could the issue still be with orifices? – Hans Solo Nov 15 '18 at 6:25
  • Is it possible to hold the lighter flame on the end of the thermocouple that the pilot is supposed to heat? Try a cleaner wire. – Jim Stewart Nov 15 '18 at 9:30
  • Thanks Jim. The water heater has been working fine since I cleaned orifice. I guess the pilot flame was not strong enough to heat thermocouple due to gas supply obstruction. – Hans Solo Nov 15 '18 at 22:17

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