If your water heater has quit working the first step is to determine the issue and what type of water heater you have. If the tank is leaking you are probably going to have to replace the unit. If the pilot light won’t stay lit then you may be able to repair your unit. The average life of a water heater is 8-12 years and in some cases it may be better to replace your unit instead of investing in a repair.
Common Water Heater issue
Rotten egg smell
If you notice a foul smell coming from the hot water supply it’s usually the result of a corroded Anode Rod. The Anode Rod is a removable part of a water heater that is there to help increase the life of the tank. If the Anode rod is not changed out or replaced, the rod will break off and sit at the bottom of your tank.
Pilot won’t light
There are a few reasons that Pilot lights quit working in a gas water heater. The most common reasons are a clogged intake, filter, or thermocouple. It could also mean that the entire gas valve needs to be replaced. When the thermocouple kicks off the pilot light it will usually click about 20 seconds after releasing the gas supply. If the pilot goes out immediately, it indicates that the gas valve is bad.
Hot water runs out after 5 minutes
If you have an electric water heater this probably means your heating element has gone bad. If you have a gas water heater it’s most likely due to the dip tub breaking off inside of your water heater. The dip tube can be replaced but will require removing the intake connection from the top of the water heater.
The dip tube is designed to bring incoming cold water to the bottom of the tank near the burner. If the tube breaks off the cold water will sit at the top of the tank near the outlet. Not only will this delay the burner from firing up but it will also disperse cold water near the hot water outlet.
How to troubleshoot a gas water heater
If the pilot goes out and will not stay on after being relit you should check the thermocouple and control switch. Using a multimeter you should first check the thermocouple for continuity.
Check the thermocuple
The first step in testing a thermocouple is to make sure that it is fully connected to the gas valve.
To check the thermocouple for continuity, the end that connects to the gas valve should be disconnected and attached to a meter clamp. Add the second clamp a little further down the thermocouple and attempt to light the pilot. When the pilot is lit, you should start to get a reading on your multimeter. If there is less than 10 millivolts you should replace the thermocouple. If the reading is higher than 15, the thermocouple is not the problem and does not need replaced.
Check the thermal switch
The thermal switch is the white plastic piece that looks like an electrical plugin. The thermal switch should be closed so it should have continuity. Continuity can be tested using a multimeter.
If the thermal switch is open it usually means the combustion chamber is clogged and the burner has overheated. In this case the combustion chamber should be cleaned and the thermal switch replaced.
How to video for common water heater repairs
If you have a troubleshooting question about your water heater you can leave a comment below and we will try to answer as quickly as possible.