Water – Removing Seized Anode Rod From Water Heater


We have an electric hot water heater (GE branded Rheem) that may date from the mid-90s (based on the energy usage tag). It was boxed in and I was finally prompted to open up the wall concealing it when we noticed an "electrical" odor. I found an overheating terminal on the upper thermostat.

After burning an effigy of the previous owner I set about cleaning up the installation and giving the heater a bit of TLC. Which brings me to the anode rod…

I can see through the top water and T&P valve openings that the anode rod is still there but it is clearly corroded – but I don't think I'm seeing the central core of the rod. Since the water heater is installed in a location where there isn't adequate clearance to remove the rod I'd like to replace it while I've got the heater removed. So far I've tried:

  • A 24" breaker bar – it rod rolled its eyes.
  • Soaking overnight with Kroil penetrating oil then the breaker bar – the rod laughed.
  • Heating the head of the rod – smoke, charing, but it would not relent.
  • An impact wrench – now the rod is openly mocking me.

Any suggestions?

Best Answer

You have certainly given it the effort to remove that stubborn anode rod. More intensive effort could very well damage the unit.

With a water heater that sounds like it is over 20 years old it might make sense to simply replace it. You have gone to all the trouble to remove it from its hiding place now would be a good time to place a new one with higher efficiency ratings in place instead of the old one.

Another thing to consider is that if the anode rod is that corroded there may well be other parts that are similarly corroded. There could even be corrosion pitting of the tank itself that may soon penetrate the tank and create a leak.