argh... water heater drain valve


Decided to drain the water heaters today, as I'm near certain that the previous residents of this house have never done it... well, I got to the gas one and the handle, which is just some cheezy stamped thing, stripped before I could open the valve. I hit three hardware stores; all I can find are the standard handles with either a square or splined broach in them. This one only has two flats on the stem. It's tight enough that I can't open them with pliers.
The other one is some solar thing; I opened the valve and it never closed again :( Right now the hose is dangling in the sink with a nozzle on it to keep the water from flowing, tomorrow I guess I'll buy a cap and never touch that one again. I did work it back and forth quite a few times, thinking that it probably just had some crap stuck in it that needed to be flushed out, but that didn't do the trick.
So the questions:
1) I suspect that attempting to replace either valve will probably result in failure of the water tanks, so there's not much point in attempting to do that, correct?
2) The gas water heater is a Rheem unit, I am guessing that this valve came with it, does anyone know where I could buy a replacement handle that would work? Or am I stuck with just using that one until it fails and then buying a whole new water heater, as well?
thanks,
nate
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As I remember, your WH is about twenty years old. They last only just so long. I'd just leave it alone, so you don't break something.
On your next WH, you can put it off the floor, install a ball valve, and so on.
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Christopher A. Young
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wrote:

You're making a simple repair real complicated. Just replace the valve. Any spigot made for garden hoses will work. It just screws into the tank like any spigot. Most are 1/2" pipe threads, but a 3/4" is possible. This is a common problem. Those spigots on water heaters are cheap junk, especially the plastic ones. If this is too much for you to handle, you can buy a garden hose cap for about a dollar and screw it on the end, using a hose washer which should be included. Next time you drain it, take that cap off. Both methods work. I prefer the new spigot valve method.
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