Your water heater works in the background to provide hot water for daily tasks, from showering and laundry to washing dishes and cleaning. When your water heater won’t stay on, it can disrupt your routine and potentially ruin your day.  

However, understanding the potential causes can help you address the issue or know when to call an expert to restore your hot water supply. You may be wondering, “Why does my water heater keep turning off?” If so, you’ve come to the right place. 

As seasoned plumbers with experience handling water heater issues, we’ll happily discuss some of the causes and potential remedies for water heaters that keep turning off. 

At Works Plumbing, we offer world-class water heater repair services in Pacifica, CA, and surrounding areas. Our licensed and insured team boasts years of water heater repair experience under our belt. Call us any time at (650) 835-2009 to speak to our friendly plumbing team and schedule service.

Understanding How Your Water Heater Works 

Before we discuss issues that may cause your water heater to keep turning off, it helps to know how your unit operates. Gas-powered water heaters and electric water heaters have the same primary function of heating and storing water, but they work differently.

Gas Water Heaters 

When a gas water heater’s pilot light is lit, the thermocouple will sense it and begin the heating process to warm the water in the tank. The thermocouple triggers the unit to open the gas control valve, allowing gas flow to the burner.

The unit then transfers the burner’s heat to the water in the tank. Should anything go wrong with this system, such as the disruption of gas flow or a thermocouple failure, the unit might struggle to stay on.

Electric Water Heaters 

Unlike their gas counterparts, electric water heaters warm water using electric heating elements. Electric systems typically feature a thermostat that turns the heating elements on once it detects a drop in water temperature.  

Any heating element or thermostat issues may cause the unit to turn off. 

Common Reasons Your Water Heater Keeps Shutting Off 

Ultimately, understanding how your water heater works comes in handy when troubleshooting your unit and addressing a water heater that always turns off.

Once you know which type of water heater you have, you can ask yourself, “Why does my water heater keep turning off?” The most common reasons for water heater shutoffs include:

Gas Water Heaters 

Gas water heaters may keep turning off for the following reasons: 

Gas Supply Issues 

If your gas supply has issues, such as a leaky gas pipe or a partially or fully closed gas valve, the water heater may malfunction and turn off. 

Dirty or Damaged Thermocouple 

Working as a safety device, the thermocouple only kickstarts the heating process when it detects the pilot light’s heat. Should the thermocouple incur damage or get dirty, it may fail to sense the pilot light, shutting off the gas supply and consequently turning off the entire system. 

Faulty Main Control Valve 

As the name suggests, this valve controls the water heater’s water and gas pressure. If your main control valve isn’t functioning properly, it will stop the gas flow and cause the water heater to turn off. 

Flex Tube Issues 

The flex tube links the controller and the gas burner. A damaged or clogged flex tube won’t supply gas to the burner, effectively shutting down the water heater. 

Clogged Air Inlet 

If you have a modern water heater, it probably features an air inlet at its base. If dirt or other unwanted substances accumulate on these screens, they prevent sufficient gas flow to the burners. This buildup may cause the water heater to stop working. 

Electric Water Heaters 

An electric water heater may keep shutting off because of: 

Faulty Thermostat 

Thermostats regulate the tank’s water temperature. If the thermostat stops working as it should, it might not signal the heating elements to turn on as and when needed. 

Tripped Circuit Breaker 

If a circuit breaker supplying power to your water heater trips, your unit will have no power, causing it to cease operation. Circuit breaker issues may result from poor wiring during installation or an issue with wiring that runs between the water heater and the breaker panel. 

Circuit breaker switches may also wear out over time and need replacement.  

Damaged Heating Elements 

Heating elements heat water in an electric water heater. If they burn out, crack their casing, or sustain damage, they won’t do their job, causing a system shutdown. Sometimes, the thermostat’s high-limit switch may trigger, shutting down the unit.

Fortunately, water heater heating elements are relatively inexpensive, and you can hire an expert to replace your water heater parts. 

Wiring Issues 

Loose, damaged, or corroded wires can interrupt the flow of electricity to your unit, causing it to turn off. Whatever the case, shut off your water heater and call a professional to troubleshoot the problem. 


Your water heater may overheat for various reasons, such as a sediment buildup or a faulty thermostat. Overheating can trigger a cutoff switch that will turn off your water heater when it senses high temperatures, leaving you to struggle with no hot water. 

These issues can affect other appliances, such as furnaces and boilers. Moreover, some issues may prove rather complex to pinpoint. For example, if the electrical system that controls the gas valve short circuits, it may prove challenging to narrow down the primary issue. 

Troubleshooting a Water Heater That Turns Off Persistently 

Water heaters are complex systems that require professional expertise to repair. If your water heater keeps turning off, call a professional to pinpoint the cause of your water heater troubles. 

The following troubleshooting tips can help you diagnose your troublesome water heater and determine when to call in professionals:

  • Check your electrical components: If you have an electric water heater, check everything, from the power supply and circuit breaker to the heating elements and thermostat. You want to rule out any issues with these components before calling in a professional. 
  • Inspect the gas supply: Ensure that your gas line has no issues and that the gas valve opens fully. Any disruption in the gas supply may lead to poor functionality or a complete shutdown. 
  • Check the pilot tube: If you have a clogged or dirty pilot light tube, clean it gently with a slender brush. That way, you can get rid of any disruptions that may be causing your system to turn off. 
  • Check the flex tube: A malfunctioning flex tube may show visible signs of damage or kinks that affect the system’s overall efficiency and cause the system to keep shutting down. You might need to hire an expert to replace the tube and restore your water heater to proper functionality. 
  • Inspect the air inlet screens: If you have dirty air inlet screens, use a vacuum to clean them and restore proper airflow to your system. 

Why You Need To Call a Professional for Water Heater Repairs

While DIY fixes will work for some water heater issues, most instances require professional intervention. If the troubleshooting tips above don’t address the issue and your water heater shuts down persistently, call a water heater repair expert as soon as possible. 

Hiring an expert matters even more if you suspect a gas leak. These seasoned experts have the technical expertise, tools, and equipment to troubleshoot and repair complex water heater issues effectively. 

Our Water Heater Repair Service

Nobody wants to deal with a water heater that won’t stay on. Understanding the underlying issue can help you find the best approach to the problem. Nonetheless, you should always prioritize safety, even when some issues might seem easy to identify and repair. 

Whether your water heater has a faulty thermocouple, gas supply issues, or clogged air inlet, you can count on a trusted contractor for a comprehensive diagnosis and safe, effective solutions. 

Our plumbers at Works Plumbing have experience resolving just about any water heater issue Pacifica residents encounter. When you contact us, we’ll arrive at your home with everything we need to make the job go smoothly. You can’t go wrong with our team, and we provide 24/7 emergency service. 

Don’t fall into the temptation of trying to fix water heater issues on your own. DIY repairs may worsen the damage or compromise your safety. Dealing with gas supply lines or electrical wires, for example, risks causing further damage, a gas leak, or an electrical fire, all of which present a significant safety risk. 

Contact Us for Water Heater Repair 

At Works Plumbing, we take the time to offer tailored services at reasonable rates. Our flexible scheduling makes it easy for a plumber to come to your property. 

We provide free quotes and give you a chance to review and approve the estimate before we get started. 

Do you need more information and answers to the question: Why does my water heater keep turning off? Call Works Plumbing today at (650) 835-2009 for the best plumbing solutions in Pacifica, CA, or to learn how a hot water heater works.

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