Last Updated on March 27, 2023 by Dave Farquhar
If your gas stove isn’t lighting, and by that I mean burners are clicking or won’t light, or light unevenly, I have good news for you. You don’t need a new range. I don’t know how many homeowners throw out perfectly fixable ranges over this problem, but I know it’s too many. You can fix this problem for around $2 if everything goes well. Even if everything doesn’t go well, you can fix it for around $80. But $2 is more likely.
If your gas stove won’t light, it’s usually a problem with airflow. Replacing the burner heads usually solves the problem, or you can save money by soaking the burner heads in vinegar.
Check this first if your gas stove stopped working suddenly or after cleaning
First things first: Make sure you have power. Gas burners still need electricity to light. So in the event of a power failure, your gas stove won’t work. Also make sure your circuit breaker isn’t tripped.
You also want to test your gas supply. Does the oven work? Do some of the burners work? If none of it works, check the gas valve and make sure it’s open.
If the your gas stove stopped lighting after cleaning it, it’s likely some of the cleaner got stuck in the burners, causing a clog. Ironically, the fix for a burner you just cleaned is to clean it a different way. I cover that in the next section.
And if the problem developed gradually, or the gas oven works but not the burners, or some burners work, it’s not an electricity problem and it’s not a problem with your gas valve being shut off. It’s a clogged burner problem.
Why your burners on your gas stove won’t light
When your burners on your gas stove won’t light and you hear a clicking sound when you turn one or more of the knobs to the ignite position, the most common reason is a problem with airflow. To a certain degree, the burner heads on your gas range are self-cleaning. But eventually, gas cooktops can get fouled with grease or other cooking debris. And when that happens, they light unevenly, or in the worst case scenario, they quit working entirely and just click when you try to light them.
If you are diligent about cleaning your range top, including taking the burners apart and cleaning those in addition to the rest of the stove surface, you may never experience this problem.
Or maybe the problem happened after you cleaned it, from some of the cleaner you used getting stuck in the burners.
But if no one has ever shown you, you may not be aware that the burners on a gas stove come apart.
The good news is, you can clean the debris, whether it’s grease or another cleaner that got where it shouldn’t have, and probably get them working again in an afternoon for around $2.
Taking apart your burners
When you take the burner grate and burner cap off your burners, the parts lift straight up. And nothing really stops you from just tossing all three parts from all four burners in your dishwasher to clean them, at least for routine cleaning.
But if you have burners that won’t light, you need more intensive cleaning. They are going to need to soak for a while, and the good news is, you don’t need a commercial gas burner head cleaner to do it.
The $2 gas burner head cleaner
To fix your gas range that won’t light for $2, all you need to do is soak your gas burner heads in vinegar for 30 to 60 minutes.
Your gas burner heads should be white metal. They are not supposed to be black. But if they get too fouled with food debris, they turn black. The blacker they are, the more likely they need to soak for a full 60 minutes. And when you clean them, it’s possible for some of the cleaner you used to clog the heads.
But the trick is to pour some ordinary white vinegar from your nearest grocery store into a bowl and place the gas stove burner head face down in the bowl and let it soak.
After 30 minutes, take the head out, rinse it thoroughly with warm water, and then let it dry. Water in the head can also prevent air flow and keep it from working. You can dry the it with a hair dryer or some compressed air if you want to be sure. Or just let it sit for an hour or so and let evaporation do its thing.
If the head still has black spots on it, you can always scrub a those with an old toothbrush or a scouring pad to remove them. It also helps to carefully clear the holes in the burner with a toothpick or a needle. The vinegar does a pretty good job of loosening things up. If they don’t come completely clean, you can always re-soak them for about 30 minutes, scrub a bit more, and soak them again if necessary.
But what you will probably find is that after an hour of soaking and a thorough rinse and dry, the burner works just fine again.
Reassembly to fix burners on a gas stove not lighting
Taking a burner apart may seem intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be. The parts are keyed so they only go back together one way, if the orientation matters. Simply place the head back on the burner, and rotate it until it fits. It only fits one way, and you know it fits right when it sits level .
Then you put the two covers on top of the head. They work the same way. You know they are right when they sit level.
Once you have the head reassembled, try turning the gas control knob to light it. It should light readily to the familiar bluish-white flame. Probably more readily than you are used to. If it clicks, or you smell gas, turn the burner back off. It is still clogged.
When I do this on an old stove, I frequently find some of the heads are fouled more thoroughly than others. Just because one had is fouled and needs another soak to work doesn’t mean the others won’t be okay.
Replacement gas heads
You can buy replacement gas heads. They tend to be manufacturer specific, and the big box stores don’t tend to sell them. Your best bet is usually eBay. Search on your make of stove plus the words gas burner head. If you have a store near you that specializes in appliance repair parts, they may have what you need.
You can expect to pay around $20 per head. Replacing all four heads still costs about 1/3 what a new stove will cost. Chances are you will not have to replace all four. Even if you do, it’s worth doing, because this is about the only thing that goes wrong on gas stoves. Aside from this part, gas stoves can last decades.
Appliance repair is often intimidating. But it doesn’t need to be. They are not super complicated machines, and some simple maintenance with cheap parts can keep them running for decades. I have advice on fixing dryers as well.
What to do with your leftover vinegar
Don’t just pour your vinegar down the drain after you are done soaking your gas heads in it. Pour it in your toilet. I am not kidding.
Pour it in your toilet and let it sit at least an hour. Vinegar is extremely good for toilets. It helps to keep mineral deposits from building up, and removes them if some already have.
David Farquhar is a computer security professional, entrepreneur, and author. He started his career as a part-time computer technician in 1994, worked his way up to system administrator by 1997, and has specialized in vulnerability management since 2013. He invests in real estate on the side and his hobbies include O gauge trains, baseball cards, and retro computers and video games. A University of Missouri graduate, he holds CISSP and Security+ certifications. He lives in St. Louis with his family.
One thought on “Gas stove not lighting? Try this”
There is one other thing that can fail on gas stoves: the electric heater that ignites the oven.
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