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How to Light RV Water Heater Pilot without Inviting Extra Risks?

Writen by Tom Hank

Fact checked by Joseph Varney

how to light rv water heater pilot

Many new RVs are now using automatic or electronic ignitions in certain appliances. However, you may have an older camper, motorhome, or travel trailer that still uses a manual pilot light, particularly for the vehicle’s water heater.

Take note that it doesn’t require a significant amount of time and effort to ignite your RV’s water heater manually. You only need to press the pilot knob, ignite the component, and turn on the unit.

The process on how to light RV water heater pilot is reasonably straightforward. But it’s still possible to make mistakes if you miss out on some details.

Table of Contents

What You’ll Need


You only need some fairly common items to make an RV pilot light for the vehicle’s water heater function. Aside from a lighter or a long match to ignite the pilot light, take note of these objects for the task:

Water Hose

The first step in igniting an RV water heater pilot light is to fill the fresh water tank with water. Therefore, you need to use a reasonably durable hose to connect your vehicle’s water tank to an RV fresh water refilling station.

If you don’t have a hose, you can borrow one from a friendly RVer. But make sure that the individual also uses this hose to refill fresh water. Don’t use water hoses used to remove wastewater. Doing so will promote risks of cross-contamination.

How to Light RV Water Heater Pilot Step-by-Step Instructions


Before proceeding to ignite a water heater’s pilot light, or any part of your vehicle that requires manual ignition like an RV furnace pilot light, make sure to exercise extreme caution.

Remember, working with propane or natural gas can be dangerous if mishandled. Therefore, exercise patience and avoid doing the steps haphazardly to reduce and prevent certain risks.

Step 1: Fill Freshwater Tank with Water

Running the heater without water in the freshwater container can cause severe damage to the tank.

Start filling your RV’s fresh water tank with water by locating the intake valve. In some vehicles, this location has a label like ‘city water’ or something similar.

Connect the spigot from the freshwater refilling station with one end of a reasonably clean water hose. Then, connect the other end of the hose to your RV’s intake valve. Turn on the faucet or spigot to let water flow to your vehicle.

Step 2: Press the Pilot Knob


Turn on the propane tank in your RV. Then, open the access panel cover on the water heater. If you find it difficult to twist the knob, some models may require you to press down on it to turn it properly.

Don’t be alarmed if you hear a hissing sound. It’s an indication that propane is filling the gas lines of your RV. Stop the procedure if the sound is questionably loud because you might have a gas leak problem.

Step 3: Ignite the Pilot Light

Use a lighter or a reasonably long match to light the pilot. Make sure that you’re still holding onto the pilot knob as it may return to its original position.

After igniting the pilot light, continue to hold the knob for about a minute. You’ll know when to stop holding the component when you see a flame in the water heater.

Step 4: Switch on the Water Heater


Release the knob after the pilot light ignites properly. But this time, twist the knob to the on position. If you can, set your desired temperature on the manual water heater. Take note that it may take a few minutes before the water’s temperature sets to the desired level.


Did you enjoy reading this guide on how to light RV water heater pilot? Make sure to leave a comment and share your experiences on this particular task. We’d like to know any problem you have, like if the RV water heater pilot won’t light or if the RV water heater pilot light won’t stay lit.

Remember, don’t be hasty when doing this reasonably straightforward operation. Otherwise, haphazardly doing the steps can invite issues.

Finally, don’t forget to share this article with other RVers. That way, other RV owners with manual pilot lights in their water heaters will know how to use this device properly and safely.

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