When you smell a small amount of gas in a kitchen or near an older gas stove it generally means the pilot light has blown out. Older stoves don't use electronic igniters to light the surface burners or the oven; instead they use a pilot light -- a small flame that stays constantly lit -- as the ignition source. Most gas stoves with pilot lights have two of them: one for the surface burners and one for the oven.
Pilot Light Locations
The first step to relighting the stove's pilot lights begins with locating their positions in the gas range. Examine the stove itself, as sometimes the instructions to relighting the stove's pilot lights are imprinted on the inside of the oven door.
The pilot light for the surface burners is usually fairly easy to access; it's usually found in a central location beneath the cooktop, where metal tubes run from it to each burner. Some four-burner stoves may even have two pilot lights just for the surface burners and a separate one for the oven. For surface burners with two pilot lights, look for a pilot light centered between the front and back left burners, and the front and back burners on the right.
Smell for a Leak
As a precautionary measure, before you attempt to light the pilot lights in a gas stove, smell the air for a gas odor. If you smell gas, do not light the pilot light. If the odor is particularly strong, it means one of two situations have occurred: The pilot light has been off for a long time, resulting in a buildup of gas, or you have a gas leak. In kitchens with strong gas smells, vacate the home and call 911 or the gas company.
Even if you don't smell gas or the smell is slight, ventilate the room for at least five minutes to air it out. Apply this same rule when lighting a pilot light in a gas fireplace, a hot water heater, an older gas furnace and stoves.
Once the room has enough fresh air in it, lift the cooktop and light the pilot light. Use a extra-long lighter -- the kind used to light fires in a wood stove, a fireplace or even candles. Don't use a small handheld lighter, as this is a good way to get burned.
For cooktops that have a safety button, you must hold the button in for up to a minute, based on the stove model and manufacturer, after lighting the pilot light. After a minute, release the safety button to verify the pilot light stays on. Stoves equipped with safety buttons immediately shut off the flow of gas through the pilot light to prevent gas buildup in the home.
Ovens that don't come equipped with a broiler may require you to remove the oven floor to access the pilot light. Otherwise, simply open up the broiler drawer and light the pilot at the back of the stove.
Check the stove's surface and oven burners to ensure they come on. If they all work, it means the pilot lights are staying on. If the pilot lights do not stay lit, you need to contact an appliance repair person to fix the stove.