Your patio heater won’t stay lit? You might have purchased a defective propane tank. Here are 6 quick fixes you can try.

Picnics and morning breakfasts in our gardens are probably the closest we can get to heaven. Drinking a freshly-squeezed glass of orange juice under the warmth of the sun, is something indescribable.

And what about late night dinners with friends enjoying a delicious glass of wine under the moonlight? Can life get any better?

Probably not, but what happens when it gets too cold outside, and your patio heater won’t stay lit? Your evening is ruined, that’s what.

I’m very sorry that you’re experiencing this issue. Sadly, I can relate, as this happened to me too not too long ago. I understand how frustrating not being able to use your patio heater can be.

But don’t worry. After a long process of trial and error, I came up with a bunch of answers, and I want to share them with you.

Below, you will find a list with the most common causes to this occurrence, and the simplest steps you can take to address them. I’m confident that, if you stick to them religiously, your patio heater will stay lit, and your soirées will be saved.

Sounds good? Let’s get to work!

Fixing a Malfunctioning Patio Heater

You might be tempted to think right away that there’s a faulty component to blame for this situation. And while you might be right, it’s not the only answer. We must go about the troubleshooting process in a detailed and orderly manner, so please, bear with me.

Here are 6 fixes you can try to keep your patio heater lit:

  1. Check for air currents
  2. Clean the pilot
  3. Check the gas valve-pilot connection
  4. Clean the thermocouple
  5. Refill your propane tank
  6. Replace your propane tank

#1 Check for Air Currents

This one might seem a little too obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people miss it.

The flame in your patio heater’s pilot is no different from the one on your stove top. Any kind of strong air current can blow the flame out, and compromise your appliance’s functionality.

This is especially a problem in very windy areas, or during certain seasons. And while most of these units are designed to protect the pilot’s flame from these conditions, any kind of damage to your patio heater’s metal housing can cause trouble.

If you’ve owned your appliance for a very long time and move it often, there’s a very good chance that the pilot’s flame is slightly exposed to air.

Solution: Take a close look at your patio heater. Inspect it from top to bottom, and try to find any kind of breaches, holes or tearing in the housing.

Provided that there is none, but you still suspect air to be the culprit, you can always relocate the unit next to a wall. This should somewhat decrease the current’s intensity. 

#2 Clean the Pilot

Dirt or debris could be compromising the heater’s functionality

If you’re in the habit of waiting too long between cleaning sessions, it should come as no surprise that your pilot might be dirty.

As you use your appliance and time passes, this part can become obstructed by dirt and debris, making it impossible for it to keep the flame lit, as gas flow is compromised. 

Moreover, this problem can not only manifest itself this way, but also through gas pressure buildup in the hose. A very dangerous occurrence.

Failing to give your patio heater proper maintenance, will not only decrease its lifespan significantly, but also put you at risk of a propane gas tank explosion.

Solution: The process to clean or replace your pilot may vary from model to model, but the broad strokes should be the same for all of them.

  1. Carefully close your gas valve to interrupt the gas supply, and let the unit cool down completely
  2. Remove any screws connecting the patio heater’s head to the rest of the body
  3. Take the appliance’s head to a table or somewhere where you can work on it comfortably
  4. Locate the pilot and try to remove any dirt or debris blocking its intake
  5. Reassemble and test

Provided that the part was only dirty, your patio heater should now work and stay lit. If it’s still malfunctioning, the pilot is likely faulty, and needs to be replaced.

The instructions above are very simplified. If you want a detailed walkthrough that you can follow along step by step, there are tons of online videos you can check out.

#3 Check the Gas Valve-Pilot Connection

Assuming neither the pilot, nor air currents are to blame, we can safely move on to considering damage to the gas line.

This hose connects your propane tank to your gas valve and pilot.

When unscathed, it should transport a steady supply of gas to keep your internal components in order to keep your appliance lit. However, any damage or tearing on it could compromise gas flow, and cause dangerous leaks

If your patio heater won’t stay lit, and you’re getting a strong smell of propane gas, your hose might be torn at one or more points across its length.

It is of the utmost importance that you stop using your appliance as soon as you suspect this to be the source of the problem. Failing to do so could cause an explosion if the pilot’s flame lights intermittently.

Solution: Follow the same steps you normally would when replacing your propane gas tank.

When you have a clear view of it, carefully turn off the gas supply, and remove the hose. Once you have done that, gain comfortable access to your unit’s internal components on its lower body, and disconnect the other end of the hose from your pilot.

You can check the hose for leaks by placing it over the sink, and filling it with water. Provided that you spot any kind of damage, you can get a new one from either your nearest hardware store, or directly from your manufacturer.

#4 Clean the Thermocouple

isolated image of a Thermocouple
A filthy thermocouple can sense temperature incorrectly

I’d go as far as to say that this is the lifeblood of your appliance.

Without your thermocouple, your patio heater would not be able to detect its internal temperature and self-regulate.

Being this part so important, it won’t surprise you to learn that, when it malfunctions, the entire unit can be rendered useless. A faulty thermocouple could explain why your patio heater won’t stay lit, as the component is likely sensing your unit’s temperature inaccurately.

If this is the case, no matter how much you open the gas valve or mess with the pilot, the heater won’t work normally.

Solution: Please follow the steps from their previous points to gain comfortable access to your appliance’s internal components, and remove the thermocouple for cleaning, or replacing.

I’d advise trying to clean it first, and see if that works.

#5 Refill Your Propane Tank

Assuming none of the solutions above worked for you, it might be a good idea to check your propane gas levels.

Sometimes, there’s nothing wrong with your patio heater other than the fact that it has run out of gas. As you can imagine, if this is the case, no matter what you try, it won’t stay lit, and eventually, it won’t light up at all.

Look at the bright side, though. Provided that this is the source of the problem, no repairs are needed, just a canister replacement.

Solution: Depending on how confident you feel about replacing the canister, you can either try to do it yourself, or call a certified professional to help you.

If you choose the former, please follow these steps:

  1. Access the back panel of your unit’s lower body
  2. Undo any screws (if there are any on your model) to expose your propane gas canister
  3. Carefully turn the gas valve on it counterclockwise 
  4. Detach the gas hose
  5. If there’s nothing else connected to it, remove it, and place the new canister

#6 Replace Your Propane Tank

assorted propane tanks
Inspect your propane tanks for defects

Lastly, let’s talk about the possibility of a defective canister.

While modern day quality standards in factories are extremely high, there’s always room for human error. This means that a faulty canister could have made it into the market inadvertently.

Common factory defects range from empty canisters, to broken gas valves. Whatever the case may be, if you’re 100% certain that your canister came this way from the store, you can call your supplier, and they should give you a replacement for free. 

Solution: In this scenario, the best thing you can do is not tamper with the suspicious canister too much.

Your supplier normally won’t have a problem with replacing it, as it is a known thing to happen. But if they detect that you messed with the tank before calling them, they might change their tune.

Conclusion

A patio heater that won’t stay lit can ruin a lot of evenings, and family picnics. You bought this appliance to make your life easier, and now you’re stuck having to find out what the problem is, and figuring out a way to solve it.

Luckily, as I hope you’ve learned in this piece, addressing most of the causes behind this situation is simple and not very time-consuming. More often than not, keeping your pilot clean, and inspecting your gas hose for tearing, is all you need to do to keep your appliance working perfectly.

Thank you for reading. If you found this article helpful, why not keep the learning going through our other incredible resources below?