How to Replace a Thermocouple on a Whirlpool Water Heater

Written by cecilia harsch Google
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How to Replace a Thermocouple on a Whirlpool Water Heater
Keep the water hot by replacing the thermocouple on your water heater. (Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images)

A Whirlpool water heater needs a gas supply, a working gas control valve/thermostat, an unclogged pilot and a clean burner assembly. If all these items are functioning but your water heater is not working, chances are your thermocouple is damaged and needs replacing. The thermocouple acts as a safety device, cutting off the gas supply to the burner assembly if the pilot goes out. The flame from the pilot heats the thermocouple, sending a signal to the gas control valve/thermostat to continue to supply gas to heat the water.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Phillips or slotted screwdriver
  • Adjustable wrench

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  1. 1

    Follow the gas supply pipe from the left side of the Whirlpool combination gas control valve/thermostat to the wall. Locate the main gas line cut-off valve on the pipe. Turn the cut-off valve handle clockwise to cut the flow of gas into the gas control valve/thermostat.

  2. 2

    Rotate the knob at the top of the control valve/thermostat to the "Off" position. Newer Whirlpool water heaters have a dial stop to keep the gas control knob from accidentally turning. You must hold down the dial stop to turn the knob off. Turn the thermostat dial to the lowest temperature on the control valve/thermostat.

  3. 3

    Remove the exterior panel door covering the thermocouple, manifold tube and pilot tube from the front of the Whirlpool water heater. The panel has metal tabs that slip into slots cut into the exterior metal body of the water heater. Once the panel is removed, it exposes the manifold door and the burner assembly. An older Whirlpool gas water heater has an interior door that covers the burner compartment and burner assembly.

  4. 4

    Turn the two screws counter-clockwise to remove them from the manifold door. The manifold door remains on the water heater until you remove the tubes from the gas control valve/thermostat. Lift the interior door covering the burner compartment on an older Whirlpool water heater.

  5. 5

    Remove the pilot and manifold tube from the bottom of the control valve/thermostat by rotating them counter-clockwise with an adjustable wrench. Turn the thermocouple clockwise to remove it from the bottom of the valve/thermostat. If your water heater has a push button igniter attached to the gas control valve/thermostat, simply pull the igniter wire out of the bottom of the igniter.

  6. 6

    Grab the manifold tube, the largest of the three tubes you removed from the valve/thermostat. Push the tube toward the ground to release all the tubes from the gas control valve/thermostat.

  7. 7

    Hold the tubes in your hand and gently lift the manifold door and burner assembly from the water heater's burner compartment. On an older Whirlpool water heater, you only pull the burner assembly from the burner compartment. The manifold door does not exist on an older water heater.

  8. 8

    Pull the metal retainer clip holding the plastic two-piece wire connector around the thermocouple and the igniter wire. The connector also holds the thermocouple and igniter wire in the manifold door. In a newer Whirlpool gas water heater, the thermocouple, manifold tube, pilot tube and igniter wire feed through the manifold door. This is a safety feature to shield you from the burner assembly and burner compartment.

  9. 9

    Pull the thermocouple from the pilot assembly attached to the burner assembly in both older and newer Whirlpool water heaters. On the newer water heater, pull the thermocouple through the manifold door.

  10. 10

    Thread the replacement thermocouple through the hole in the newer Whirlpool manifold door. Push the probe into the pilot assembly in both older and new water heaters. Ensure that the tip of the thermocouple sits 1/8 to 1/4 inch past the tip of the pilot.

  11. 11

    Replace the plastic two-piece wire connector around the thermocouple and the igniter wire. Slide the retainer clip onto the two-piece connector to hold it together.

  12. 12

    Slide the burner assembly into the burner compartment on both types of water heaters. On the newer water heater, slide the manifold tube on the bottom of the burner assembly into the bracket installed in the floor of the water heater.

  13. 13

    Replace the two screws in the manifold door. Check around the door for any insulation inside the burner compartment before you tighten the screws. Check for any gaps around the manifold door gasket after you tighten the screws. Loosen the screws and reposition the door if you find gaps. Replace the interior door over the burner compartment on the older water heater.

  14. 14

    Reconnect the manifold tube, pilot tube and thermocouple to the bottom of the gas control valve/thermostat. Push the igniter wire into the igniter.

  15. 15

    Turn the main gas line cut-off valve counter-clockwise to open the valve and supply gas to the water heater. Follow the lighting instructions on the side of the Whirlpool water heater to start it. Replace the exterior door into the slots on the water heater.

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