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How to Replace a Water Heater Thermocouple

A hot water heater that doesn't heat might just need a new thermocouple. Learn how to replace this inexpensive part and keep your hot water heater working for years to come.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

  • COST
  • Cost Under $20
  • Standard thermocouples are available at home centers and hardware stores.
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Replace a thermocouple to fix a pilot light

The No. 1 cause of pilot lights that won’t stay lit is a worn-out thermocouple. It’s easy to replace and a new one costs $5 to $10. Rather than trying to unfasten the thermocouple inside the water heater’s burning chamber, it’s easier to remove the whole burner and thermocouple assembly. Then detach the thermocouple from the burner and take it with you to the home center or hardware store to ensure you buy the right replacement.

First shut off the gas valve on the water heater and the gas valve on the gas line near the heater. Then unfasten the three nuts that hold the thermocouple and the two gas tubes to the valve. The burner typically sits loosely—or under clips—in the burning chamber and just slides out. This is a good time to vacuum out the burner compartment, check for water leaks and remove debris in the burner ports.

Attach the thermocouple and reinstall the burner assembly. Light the pilot following the instructions on the water heater. Check for gas leaks by applying soapy water to joints and looking for bubbles while the main burner is firing.

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • Adjustable wrench
    • Wrench set

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

    • Replacement thermocouple

Comments from DIY Community Members

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1 - 4 of 4 comments
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December 03, 11:21 PM [GMT -5]

Thank you. I have done this once before, the hard way, being a contortionist. Never dawned on me to remove entire burner assembly, duh.
Much, much better.

March 24, 7:10 PM [GMT -5]

Much simpler article (with good pictures) than other web sites!!

December 08, 9:40 AM [GMT -5]

Thankyou for the great directions and photos.

July 25, 5:13 PM [GMT -5]

THANK YOU! Not only did this confirm my suspicions on a bad thermocouple, but saved me some hassle with the tips and instruction throughout the article, and a little confidence to do the project myself. Great photos as well. Saved me a bundle from having to call someone out. Thanks again.

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How to Replace a Water Heater Thermocouple

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