Imagine having your gas stove go out on you right before you are supposed to put in a Thanksgiving turkey. There aren't many worse holiday disasters, but with a little bit of knowledge you may be able to salvage the dinner. By far the most common problem with gas stoves is with the igniter. This is the device that gets the gas burning in the first place. Without a working igniter, you're toast.
Igniter Won't Work
Your gas stove will ignite with one of three methods: hot surface igniter, pilot light, or electronic ignition. To figure out which one you have, simply turn on your oven (even if it doesn't work at the moment). If you hear a clicking sound, it is an electric ignition. Don't be confused with the stove top though, you may have electric ignition on the stove top and a different ignition method for the oven. If you see a soft orange glow in the oven, you have a hot surface igniter. If there is a small light continually burning inside the oven, that is your pilot light. Chances are good that you have a hot surface igniter, they are by far the most popular.
If your oven simply won't turn on, or you smell a gas odor when you turn it on, you probably have an igniter problem.
Hot Surface Igniter Fixes
Hot surface igniters work via an electronic current. The electricity flows through the igniter, making it glow orange. As it heats up, more current flows it, and once the current reaches a certain level it trips a valve that will allow gas to flow through. If the igniter is old or broken, the current will not reach a high enough level to allow the gas to flow. The valve may open slightly, which could be one reason for a gas odor, but no flame. These are relatively easy to replace and do not require a professional, but if you feel uncomfortable at all replacing yours, call an appliance repair technician.
Electronic Ignition Igniters
These are pretty rare for the actual oven, but extremely common for the burners. If either one is not working, check your owner's manual for a fuse location. Often, all you need to do is change the fuse and the oven will light without a problem. If your igniters aren't working right after you have cleaned them, allow them to dry for a few minutes. Sometimes water can weaken the spark.
Pilot Light Igniters
These are the quickest igniters to fix, but can be a little tricky. You'll need your owner's manual if you aren't familiar with your stove. Find the location of the pilot light inside the oven, clean around it to ensure you will get the proper gas flow and then re-light the pilot light. The manual should have instructions, but if it isn't working, consider calling a professional, such as Ross Appliance Services, to walk you through it.
The vast majority of gas stove issues are with the igniter, so try these solutions first. If they don't work, an appliance repair technician will almost always be able to solve your problem. Let's just hope the problem emerges when you're putting in a late night batch of cookies rather than the Christmas goose.