How to Light a Pilot Light on a RV Hot Water Tank

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Lighting a standing pilot light on an RV hot water tank is an easy task once you know some of the principals of operation. Working with natural gas or propane can be dangerous if not handled correctly, but with some instruction, even a beginner can complete the task with ease and confidence.

Items you will need

  • 1 box of long matches or long butane lighter

  • 1 small flashlight

  • 1 small combination screw driver

Locate the gas control valve and the burner access panel on the side of the hot water tank. You also will need to go to the propane storage tank area of the unit and open the main shutoff valve on the propane storage tanks. Go back to the hot water tank and check for the smell of gas around the unit. If no gas smell is present you are ready to light the pilot light.

Turn the temperature control valve to the lowest setting on the dial of the control assembly. Locate the on/off control knob for the pilot light and turn the knob to the pilot setting on the unit. Now push in or down (this depends on location of knob) and hold the pilot control knob. While holding the knob in, light a match or your butane lighter and hold it at the pilot light orifice opening. This can take 20 to 30 seconds to force out the air from the supply line and into the pilot light assembly.

Continue to hold the pilot light control knob in for about one minute after the pilot light has been lit, then slowly release the knob. The pilot should stay lit. If it goes out, repeat from Step 2 on but hold the knob longer. You should now have the pilot light lit. Replace the inner and outer burner access panels back into position on the tank.

Turn the on/off control knob to the on position. Turn the hot water tank temperature control knob to the desired position--usually around a 120-degree mark. You should hear the burner flame fire start, and in 30 minutes to an hour, you should have hot water.


  • The lighting instructions are almost always on a label that is attached to the outside of the hot water tank by the access panel or on the inside on the back of the access panel. Always read these instructions before lighting a pilot light for the first time. Take care when lighting the pilot light. Do not put your face directly in front of the opening on the hot water tank; you should be off to the side or at a little angle. Check for gas smells. If you smell gas, do not try to light the pilot light. Check for leaks or call a professional.
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