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What is the normal operation of a gas hot water tank?

My gas operated water tank kicks in, stops, kicks in, stops, kicks in a third time and then runs. Is this normal or do I need to call in a service man. Never noticed before but now I live in a basement next to this tank and it is a concern. I guess I expected it to start and continue running until the water was heated. Appreciate a response.

When the thermostat tells the water heater to start heating the tank, the first thing that happens is the ignitor goes on, then the gas goes on, then the gas is supposed to ignite, and the water is heated.

In the path of the flame is a flame sensor. This flame sensor is supposed to heat up rapidly so that the heater knows that the gas actually caught fire. If the flame sensor doesn't heat up, it assumes the gas is on, but hasn't caught fire, so it shuts off the gas so the house doesn't explode. Then the whole cycle starts over again.

The flame sensor is metal, and it gets covered in oxides, that prevent the heat from transferring properly. So if you can find the flame sensor, you can gently rub it with fine sandpaper to remove the oxides. This is part of normal maintenance.

Your heater takes several tries to complete the cycle. The flame sensor heats up, but not enough, so it shuts down. It starts over, the flame sensor gets hotter, but still shuts down. Finally on the third try the flame sensor gets hot enough that now it believes you have a proper safe flame, and doesn't shut down.

Look online for photos of a "flame sensor". It will be a metal rod, in a ceramic base, with an electrical wire running out of it. Remember, the flame sensor sits in the path of the flames when the heater is working, so look into the flames to find it.

One more thing, when I say "ignitor", it could be electric or a gas pilot light.

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American Flyer Trains No 596 Water Tank
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Plasticville O O27 1916 Water Tank EXCELLENT Original Complete BOX
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Lionel 6 84315 O Branchline Water Tank Kit Assembly Required
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Hinckley Schmitt wood spring water tank car decals O Scale
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Atlas O 3003203 1 Ontario Northland MOW Water Car 17600 gal Tank Car 5 3 rail
Atlas O 3003203 1 Ontario Northland MOW Water Car 17600 gal Tank Car 5 3 rail
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LIONEL PRE WAR O SCALE WATER TANK LIONEL TRAINS
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JACKS CABIN WATER TANK O On30 Railroad Structure Unpaintd Wood Laser Kit RSL104
JACKS CABIN WATER TANK O On30 Railroad Structure Unpaintd Wood Laser Kit RSL104
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LIONEL 6 9250 GENERAL MILLS WATER POXY 3 DOME TANK CAR BRAND NEW
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MTH Rail king MTH 33000 gallon tank car NIB 20 96012 box water damage
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LIONEL MODERN 52160 MONOPOLY WATER WORKS TANK CAR NIOB 1998
LIONEL MODERN 52160 MONOPOLY WATER WORKS TANK CAR NIOB 1998
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Ameri Towne Roof Top Water Tank
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WATER TANK 596 ARROW WATER SLIDE DECAL for American Flyer O Gauge Trains Parts
WATER TANK 596 ARROW WATER SLIDE DECAL for American Flyer O Gauge Trains Parts
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Lionel 38 15 Water Tower Tank Bottom Original Postwar Part
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O Gauge O Kitbashing Roof Top Water Tank 37
O Gauge O Kitbashing Roof Top Water Tank 37
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Scale Model Masterpieces Yorke Rio Grande La Jara Water Tank Kit O 148
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2 WATER SLIDE DECALS for LIONEL TRAINS PW 2755 SUNX TANK CAR in BLACK + GLUE
2 WATER SLIDE DECALS for LIONEL TRAINS PW 2755 SUNX TANK CAR in BLACK + GLUE
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Lionel O Scale 50000 Gallon Water Tank Item 6 16861
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LIONEL 16390 LIONELVILLE FIRE RESCUE FLATCAR W WATER TANK  GENERATOR LNIB
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