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How to Light an RV Water Heater Pilot: Step-By-Step Guide 2022

Written by Philip Lopez / Fact checked by Paul Lemaire

how to light an rv water heater pilot

If you own a newer travel trailer or RV, it is unnecessary to worry about lighting the RV furnace pilot light. They are usually equipped with electronic or automatic controls, and all you need to do is flip the switch on.

However, if you own an older model, you will need to invest a little more effort. Specifically, you will have to light your RV water heater pilot manually. But do not worry! This process is quite simple. Just follow the four following steps to avoid risks.

Step 1: Make Sure Your Freshwater Tank Is Filled With Water

Step 2: Flip The Control Knob

Step 3: Light Up the RV Pilot Light

Step 4: Turn On Your Water Heater

Now, let’s go into the details of how to light an RV water heater pilot!

Table of Contents

Tool List

  • A lighter/a long match
  • Water hose

Your RV water heater pilot won’t light if you do not have a long match or a utility lighter. It is easy to purchase one through a trusted e-commerce site, such as Amazon.

The first step of this guide is to pump water into your tank. As a result, you will need a durable water hose to connect the freshwater refilling station to your water tank.

It is best to purchase a new water hose from a local home appliance store. However, it is also possible to borrow a hose from another RV owner. Just make sure it is also used for freshwater refills. If its owner uses it to remove the sewage, it will contaminate your water supply.

Four Easy Steps to Light an RV Water Heater Pilot


First of all, you need to exercise extreme caution when igniting the RV water heater pilot or any other part that requires manual ignition.

You can put yourself in danger if you are careless while working with natural gas or propane. This job requires patience and care. What’s more, avoid doing the following steps in a messy way to get the best results without inviting additional risks.

You should consider this article as a general guide. The best option is to consult your RV manual to get a good idea of lighting an RV water heater pilot.

Last but not least, open some windows while working on this project to make sure the inside of your RV is adequately ventilated. This is very useful when propane is leaking.

Step 1: Make Sure Your Freshwater Tank Is Filled With Water

The freshwater tank must be full of water before you attempt to run the heater. Otherwise, your water heater system can be seriously damaged.

You will need to locate the RV intake valve. It typically comes with a label that looks like ‘city water’ or something like that. Then, use the water hose you prepared to connect your intake valve to the freshwater refilling station. Next, rotate the spigot or faucet to start filling your tank with water.

Step 2: Flip The Control Knob

Start with turning on the RV’s propane tanks. After that, navigate to the access panel of the water heater and take the cover off. Finally, twist the control knob from “Off” to “Pilot” position and hold the knob.

Some RVs may require owners to press the control knob down and hold it after turning it to the “Pilot” position so propane can flow through the RV’s gas lines.


Propane will not start to flow unless you press the control knob down. So, do not press this knob until you are ready to ignite your pilot light.

Step 3: Light Up the RV Pilot Light

Now, you are ready to manually light up the pilot with a long match or a lighter. A small blue flame will appear after igniting the pilot.

Make sure you keep the control knob pressed while igniting the pilot light to prevent it from returning to the original position.


You should hold the pilot knob for thirty seconds to one minute.

Step 4: Turn On Your Water Heater

After lighting your pilot light, release the control knob and rotate it from the “Pilot” position to the “On” position. At this point, you can heat the water to the desired temperature.

There you have it! You have completed lighting an RV water heater pilot. Now, enjoy a great hot shower!


  • Keep your face away from the control panel when you turn on the water heater.
  • It takes about half an hour for the water in your tank to heat up after lighting the water heater.
  • When you are done using your RV water heater, it is essential to turn off the propane. It is dangerous to let it run without using it.

You should check out this video for a better understanding.

Pro Tips

  • If your RV water heater pilot light won’t stay lit, the cause may lie in an incorrect gas/air mixture or lousy thermocouple. So, it is essential to maintain your RV periodically.
  • If you do not have the skills to do it correctly or the time to spend working on it, it is wise to get help from a trusted RV technician.
  • Make it a priority to read and follow the manual that comes with your RV.
  • The best thing is to have your RV serviced before you travel to avoid any problems in a remote area.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do My RV Water Heaters Turn Off Automatically?

Most RV’s water heaters are thermostat-controlled. Thus, they will automatically turn off when the water reaches a specific temperature.

2. Is It Safe to Leave The Water Heater at All Times?

The short answer is yes! It is possible to leave your water heater at all times, regardless of whether it is electric or propane-powered.

In general, your propane tank is unlikely to explode while you’re driving because you left your water heater on. However, if you want to eliminate the risk completely, you should turn it off when it’s not in use.

3. Will Leaving My Water Heater On Make It Go Bad Faster?

Do not worry! This will not cause any significant wear and tear.

4. Is It Best to Turn My Water Heater off at Night?

In general, it is optional. But in the long run, you can save some money by doing this.

5. What Do I Do if The Pilot Light Won’t Light?

If the pilot light does not stay alight, the cause may lie in the thermocouple. In fact, dust buildups sometimes collect on the thermocouple and then block the sensor. Hence, you should try to clean the thermocouple. After that, relight the pilot light.

6. How Long Does A RV Hot Water Heater Last?

An RV water heater can last more than ten years, provided that it is adequately maintained. However, some RVers say their models are more than 20 years old and still in good working order.

7. How Often Should I Drain The RV Water Heater?

RVers are advised to drain the water heater at least twice a year. However, the frequency may increase if you use the water heater more often.

Wrap Up

Hopefully, by now, you have grasped the necessary information about how to light an RV water heater pilot. In general, this requires meticulousness and patience.

You should consider our guide as a general guide on lighting the RV pilot light. It is best to consult your RV’s manual to find out if there are any special instructions you need to follow.

Please share this helpful guide with other RV owners. It will mean a lot to them and us.

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