RVhometown is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

How to Light RV Water Heater Pilot? – Only Take a Minute

Writen by Dane Heldt

Fact checked by Robert Clark

If you have a brand new RV or travel trailer then you do not have to worry about lighting your pilot lights. The newer models of RVs either have electronic or automatic pilot light controls. However, if your RV is already a couple of years old then you need to learn how to light the RV water heater pilot and that of the other appliances in the RV.

How to Light the RV Water Heater Pilot

If you had just recently bought a secondhand and rather old RV then you need to know how important it is for you to turn off the pilot lights of the different appliances whenever you are on the road. Also, it is important to know how to light them correctly once you have arrived at your destination.

Here are some simple instructions on how you can light up the pilot lights in your RV.

How to Light the Pilot Light of the Oven?

If you are the type of person who is quite content with reheating leftovers from lunch to dinner then you will be fine just using your microwave. However, if you want to feast on gourmet food while you are roughing it in the wilderness then you need to know how to operate your oven.

Do keep in mind that the following are just general instructions. It is still best to consult your RV’s instruction manual for any specific instructions regarding your oven’s pilot lights.

Important Note: Your oven should always be off (including the pilot light) whenever you are traveling and upon returning home from your trip. You should also turn off the pilot light once you are done cooking each meal. This will help you save fuel and prevent you from turning off the pilot light.

1. Turn the oven control knob to pilot

Turn on the pilot setting of your oven and then open the oven door. Keep in mind that some ovens will allow the propane to flow just by turning the knob to the pilot setting but other brands require you to push in the knob to let the propane flow.

Make sure that you have your lighter handy and be ready to light the pilot lamp as soon as you open the door. Taking too long will cause too much fuel vapor to collect, resulting in a massive flare-up when it comes in contact with an open flame.

2. Ignite the pilot light

You should have one of those kitchen lighters (the ones with a long handle) so you can safely reach the pilot light. Reach the back of the oven with your lighter and ignite the pilot. Continue holding down the oven knob. You might need to hold down the button for as short as a couple of seconds.

How to Light the Pilot of Your RV’s Refrigerator

In some cases, it might take as long as 30 seconds for the thermocouple to heat up substantially. If you let go of the knob too soon and the flame blows out, don’t worry. Just do it over again but this time, press the knob a little longer.

3. Set the temperature

Now that you have the pilot light lit, you can preheat your oven to your desired temperature. If your oven requires you to push the temperature knob so you can light the pilot light then you can just leave the knob at the pilot setting.

On the other hand, if you do not have to push the knob to light the pilot light, turn off the knob completely after you are done cooking or else your oven will leak propane.

How to Light the Pilot Light of Your Furnace

If the weather is just right then you won’t need to turn on the furnace but if your RV feels like a walk-in refrigerator at night then you will need to light up your RV’s furnace to prevent yourself from freezing to death.

Important Note: When you are lighting your furnace, open a couple of windows to ensure proper ventilation in the RV in case there is a propane leak.

1. Turn on the propane

Turn off the electricity to your furnace. Turn on the valve on the propane tanks. You should also turn on the fan to auto and then set the thermostat to the highest heat setting. Let the fan run for a couple of minutes before doing the next step.

2. Access the pilot light

Head over to the access panel of your furnace and take off the cover. This should give you access to the controls of the furnace but the one that you should look for is the control knob for the pilot light. Twist the gas dial to the pilot position and push down on the knob.

3. Light the pilot light

If your pilot light can be lit using a striker system, like the one used in most cigarette lighters, press it a couple of times or until the pilot is lit. If you will need a match or a lighter to ignite the pilot light, then the knob should have an “on” position.

Be ready with your lighter or match and ignite the pilot immediately after turning the switch on. Set the thermostat to your desired temperature once you are sure that the pilot is lit.

How to Light the Pilot in Your Water Heater?

Although it would have felt great to have a long warm shower after a long drive towards your destination, if you have an older model propane water heater then you will need to turn on the pilot light first and then wait a while for the water to get sufficiently hot.

How to Light the Pilot in your Water Heater

However, waiting a while for the water to heat up is better than risking a propane gas leak in your RV when you leave your water heater open while you drive.

Important Note: Before lighting the pilot light and turning on the heater, make sure that the water tank is filled with water. Running the water heater while it is empty and dry will cause a lot of expensive damage to the water heater system.

1. Press the pilot light knob

Turn on your propane tanks and then head on over to the access panel of the water heater and remove the cover. Twist the control knob over to the pilot. Press down on the knob and hold it down to feed propane through the lines. Do not worry if you hear a hissing sound. That is just the propane filling up the lines.

2. Light up the pilot light

While holding down the control knob, ignite the pilot light using a kitchen lighter or a long match. Hold the knob for a minute or so until you see the flame of the pilot light. Keep holding down the knob for around thirty seconds to let the flame establish itself so it will not get blown away.

3. Turn on the water heater

After lighting the pilot light, let go of the control knob and twist towards the on position. Set your desired temperature, and then wait for a couple of minutes for the water to heat up.

How to Light the Pilot of Your RV’s Refrigerator?

Although propane-fueled refrigerators are becoming rarer these days, you can still find them in many of the older models of RVs. Before you light the pilot, make sure that the refrigerator is almost perfectly level so that it can function more efficiently. This is also necessary to prevent it from getting damaged.

1. Press down on the pilot light control knob

Before you do anything, locate where the pilot light control knob is. It is usually accessible from the fridge’s access panel outside the RV or it can also be in the kick plate at the side of the fridge. Once you located the pilot knob, you can turn on the propane tanks. Press and hold on to the knob so that propane can flow through the lines.

2. Light the pilot

Once you find the pilot knob, continue pressing on it until the propane reaches the pilot and then release the switch when the pilot switch is lit. Now that you know how to light the pilot lights of the different appliances, you do not have to worry about trivial things and just enjoy your camping trip.

Just a reminder, the instructions mentioned above are just general suggestions on how to turn on the pilot light. It is still much better if you would consult the vehicle’s manual to find out if there are any special instructions that you need to follow.


If you have an older model RV, then you probably have appliances that run on propane. The best way to light them up is to allow trained professionals to handle them.

However, if you are camping in a remote area then you need to do it yourself. The great thing about propane-fueled appliances is that they are very efficient at what they do, so taking a bit of time getting them ready by learning how to light the RV water heater pilot and those of the other appliances will be more than worth it.

Rate this post