If you’ve been captivated by any of the many cooking shows out there these days, you’ve probably noticed that the top chefs across the globe consistently use gas cooktops, as opposed to electric cooktops, for boiling, frying, grilling, and flambéing their culinary creations. There are several good reasons for this. The professionals appreciate how a gas burner will reach a cooking temperature immediately upon being ignited (instead of waiting for an electric element to heat up) and how quickly that burner will cool down when the gas supply to the burner is shut off, giving the user greater control over the temperature required to properly prepare sauces, meats, or noodles. Additionally, gas cooktops do a better job of evenly heating the bottom of varied cookware such as skillets and woks.
But even the top chefs can have the preparation of their carefully planned menus disrupted when one or more of the gas cooktop burners won’t light. Provided there is a consistent gas supply to the cooktop, there are four likely causes of a burner not lighting. To understand those causes, Repair Clinic suggests going over the basics of how a gas cooktop operates first.
The basics of gas cooktop operation
Each surface burner knob on the cooktop controls a burner valve. When the knob is turned to the “LITE” position, the valve opens, allowing gas to flow from the manifold. As the gas travels through the burner tube, it is directed into a fitting called the venturi where it combines with air to create the proper mixture necessary for combustion.
At the same time, a spark switch closes, allowing 120 volts of alternating current to travel to a spark module which produces high-voltage pulses to each electrode protruding through a hole in its respective burner base. The high-voltage pulses cause a spark to occur between the electrode and the grounded burner cap. The gas and air mixture at the burner head is ignited by the spark, producing a flame that can be controlled by the burner knob. By rotating the burner knob clockwise, the flame can grow higher which will cause it to spread wider over the bottom of the cookware, resulting in greater heat. Rotating the knob counterclockwise will reduce the size of the flame, allowing the sauce, oil, or meat to simmer.
If the ratio of gas to air is correct, the color of the flame should be blue with an occasional yellow tip. If the flame is primarily yellow or orange then the burner is not getting enough air for the complete combustion of the gas. You can often adjust an air shutter, located behind the burner valve, to allow more air in to correct this problem.
4 reasons a gas cooktop burner won’t light
If a gas cooktop burner refuses to light, these are the four probable causes you should be troubleshooting:
- Malfunctioning spark ignition switch – When the electrical contacts inside a gas cooktop spark ignition switch close, the current is allowed to travel to the spark module which produces high-voltage pulses to all of the electrodes. If one or more of the spark ignition switches are malfunctioning, voltage won’t reach the spark module and the surface burner won’t light. To help determine if the part is defective, you can use a multimeter to test each switch for electrical continuity – a continuous electrical path present in the switch. Set the multimeter selection dial to the lowest setting for ohms of resistance, confirm the meter probes are in contact with the ignition switch wire harness terminals, then turn on each of the switches. If one or more of the ignition switches test “negative” for continuity, you’ll need to replace the component.
- Defective spark electrode – If a surface burner spark electrode is defective or worn out, it may not produce a spark or the spark may be too weak to ignite the gas. A defective electrode will make a clicking sound when the surface burner is turned on, but the burner will not light. You should inspect the electrode for cracks or other damage to help determine if the part should be replaced.
- Faulty spark wire – The spark wire connects each surface burner spark electrode to the spark module. If the wire is faulty, the electrode may not receive the high-voltage pulse necessary to create a spark to ignite the gas. Inspect the wire for signs of burning, corrosion, or fraying, especially near the area where the wire connects to the electrode. Spark wires, which are relatively inexpensive, can often be replaced independently of the electrode.
- Malfunctioning spark module – Since the spark module provides power to each surface burner spark electrode, a malfunctioning module could fail to produce high-voltage pulses to one or more of those electrodes. You can determine if the spark module is malfunctioning through the process of elimination. If you’ve confirmed that the ignition switches, electrodes, and spark wires are all in good condition and working properly, then it’s highly likely that the old spark module will need to be replaced with a new one to solve the problem.
Bonus gas burner won’t light troubleshooting tip
On older model gas cooktops using a standing pilot, the pilot orifice can become clogged with food residue or grease, obstructing the gas flow. You should confirm the orifice is clear of debris if the standing pilot won’t light. While a gas supply tube orifice clog is less of a problem with a modern gas cooktop and its electric ignition system, it’s still a good idea to make sure both the orifice and the burner base are free of residue to ensure the paths of the gas and ignited flame are unobstructed.
Fixing a gas cooktop burner
The procedure to access gas cooktop burner components such as the spark ignition switch, spark electrode, or spark module in order to replace a faulty part will vary depending on the model. Repair Clinic is a great resource to find model-specific instructions on how to replace parts to fix your gas cooktop. Enter the full model number of the appliance in the “Repair Help” section of the Repair Clinic website to find the instruction you need. For example, this set of videos shows you, step by step, how to replace components on a Frigidaire Gas Range (Model FFGF3052TSA).
Importantly, the success of your repair is dependent on choosing the exact OEM replacement part that matches your gas cooktop model.
Repair Clinic stocks genuine OEM gas cooktop parts
The Repair Clinic website is designed to take the stress out of locating the exact matching part by immediately providing you with a complete list of compatible parts once you enter the appliance’s full model number into the website’s “Search Parts Online & Get Answers” search bar. You can then use the “Part Category” and “Part Title” navigation filters to refine that list to identify the specific part you need. As your repair partner, Repair Clinic stocks genuine OEM replacement parts that fit gas cooktops and ranges from such top industry names as GE, Bosch, KitchenAid, Electrolux, LG, Kenmore, Samsung, Magic Chef, Hotpoint, and more, along with the procedural videos, diagrams, schematics, and articles needed to guide both do-it-yourselfers and professional technicians to a successful repair.