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How to Light RV Water Heater Pilot?

Written by Stephen Ryan / Fact checked by William Turner

Table of Contents

How to Light RV Water Heater Pilot Conveniently

How to Light RV Water Heater Pilot Conveniently

Are you a mobile home owner who enjoys warm water after a hustling day? Water heaters can be tricky when you have an RV.

Most of the newer versions come in handy with automatic controls, but the older versions may require the owners to manually turn it on.

Switching on the water heater on pilot can be intimidating, but if you know how to light RV water heater pilot mode, it is in fact easy and not that much of a hassle for campers and mobile home owners.

It is important to know how to light your RV water heater in a pilot to be able to familiarize the system, and have a safe water heater mechanism. Check out these simple steps on how to light your RV water heater system.

What You Will Need to Light Your RV Water Heater in Pilot Mode


The newer water heater models don’t have to rely on lighting it up on pilot mode. Some water heaters even just rely on the engine, and it seemingly just turns on the water heater as well. Propane-fuelled water heaters have a pilot mode. On top of this, these heaters can also be classified into manual and automatic.

You can learn more about the types of RV water heaters here.

To light up the RV water heater under the pilot mode, we will only need one thing to accomplish this task:

A Long Lighter

This lighter can be commonly found in home improvement stores, and is commonly a kitchen gadget. This will be used to light up the pilot of your water heater.

If there is no long lighter around, you can alternatively use a long match stick to light up your RV water heater. You may need to practice handling a long match to be able to hold it for some time while fire is still on.

This tool is very convenient compared to the alternatives because it has a handle, and it does not really pressure you to light up the water heater immediately.

Step by Step Instruction on How to Light Your RV Water Heater in Pilot Mode


Locate your water heater

The first important step in lighting your water heater is locating its mechanism box. This is usually a small square box with a cover, and is usually located at the side.

Fill the water tank

Before turning on the water heater in the pilot, make sure that the tank is filled with water. Most RV water heaters have a 6 to 10 gallon capacity, fill it enough for your usual consumption.

Turning on the water heater with an empty tank will likely damage the water heater system. To avoid expensive repairs for the damages, it is better to prevent this from happening by ensuring that the tank is full whenever the water heater is turned on.

Determine if your water heater is automatic or manual

It is also important to determine if your water heater is automatic or manual because some steps will vary. To check, look out where the water heater mechanism is. It is usually a silver or white box, at the side of your water heater. A dial with a label pilot can be found.

If there is a button labelled ignition under, it is an automatic water heater. If no ignition button is found, you have a manual water heater.

Turn on the propane tank

Turn on the propane tank of your water heater. After which, head over the panel of the water heater. Remove the cover to have access on the controls and the pilot knob.

Press the pilot knob

On a manual water heater, remove the metal plates covering the pilot button or knob. If it is automatic, there is no need to remove any metal plate.

Twist the control knob towards the pilot. Press this down and hold it down to feed propane via the lines. It is natural to hear hissing sounds, as this is the propane filling up.

Light up the water heater

As you are still holding down the control knob at the pilot, ignite inside by using the kitchen lighter. You may use a long match, but you need to be still for a while.

Hold the knob for a few seconds or a minute until the flame through the pilot light appears.

Hold the knob down under the pilot for half a minute or so to establish the flame. This will let the flame steady, so it won’t easily be blown away. This step might be hard for those using a long match because the match loses its light at a faster rate.

Turn on the water heater

After the pilot has been lit up, let go of the control knob. You may now switch it into the on position.

You can now set your water heater in your desired water temperature. Wait for a few minutes for the water to heat up. You can now enjoy warm water any way you like.

You may also check out this guide on how to light your RV water heater in manual mode in this link. Other troubleshooting and maintenance tips here.

Knowing the basic mechanism of your water heater is an important thing if you own an RV. This will prevent you from damaging your water heater, and will keep your water heater in good condition for a long time.

Although most people will skip the steps of turning it on in the pilot, it is essential to know the manufacturer instructions and maintenance suggestions to keep it functioning in good shape.

Again, it is better to use a long lighter than the alternative long match in lighting up the water heater. Remember to hold the knob under pilot as you light it up. This tutorial is helpful for those who are fond of using their RV water heaters.

Did you have fun along the steps of how to light RV water heater pilot? Share it to your friends and family, so they will know how to conveniently light up their RV water heaters.

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