removing water heater elements


I have one of those heater element sockets which have holes in the end to take a 3/8" shaft - and I had no problems with the upper element, but the lower one is jammed up solid; with some 3/8" metal rod through the socket holes and a 4' thick-walled hollow bar on that as a breaker, it just keeps on bending the 3/8" rod where it meets the socket...
Heating around the element nut with a torch hasn't helped, nor has leaving the whole lot to soak in penetrating oil for a few hours, nor has thumping it with a big hammer to loosen the corrosion (makes me nervous, that, though - tank looks to be cast iron, and I don't want to crack it).
Worst-case I might be about to drill the darn thing out, I suppose, although I was mainly interested in checking the element for scaling, not outright replacing it (it's giving 13.8 ohms consistent with the upper one, and nothing to ground on either terminal), plus i don't want to risk trashing the tank threads.
Next attempt might be to drill the holes larger in the socket, as I have a bit of 5/8" solid rod sitting up in the workshop - but before I go modifying the tool, I was wondering if anyone had any other bright ideas? Maybe leaving it to soak overnight in penetrating oil is worth a shot?
cheers
Jules
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Jules wrote:

Have you tried tightening it? Sometimes things will break loose when turned the other way.
Have you tried the hammer and screwdriver at an angle trick on the nut to try to turn it with impact?
Have you tried a pipe on each end of the bar to double the force before the bar bands?
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On Fri, 02 Oct 2009 12:08:43 -0700, Bob F wrote:

Heck, that was a quick reply :)
Just gave that one a go - no luck unfortunately...

Not yet - I suppose that should be my second-last-resort to drilling the darn thing out, as it might damage the nut and make it impossible to get the socket on...

Sadly I can't as it is right now; whoever installed the thing fitted it against a wall with the access panels on the left and pointing slightly toward the wall - I'd have to cut the pipes and take the whole tank out to get at it like that.
(although I do want to cut the cold feed pipe anyway so I can put a shut-off valve in, so I suppose it'd only be one extra pipe and I could re-route things easily enough - I'll have a think about that!)
Oh, can't see a sign of a washer on that lower element, unlike the upper one - makes me wonder if it doesn't have one and it's just been gooped up with who-knows-what to seal it. Grr!
cheers
Jules
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Jules wrote:

There are many types of penatrating oil. The one I've had the most luck with is "BLASTER PB," available at auto parts stores.
It is used by all our neighborhood Mexican auto mechanics who don't know enough English to curse very well. Saves them an awful lot of "um..., ahhh..., "
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On Fri, 02 Oct 2009 13:57:11 -0500, Jules

If it ain't broke DON'T FIX IT!
Worst case is you will be buying a new water heater and that "worst case" could be right now if you keep screwing with that element. You may not break the metal can but you can crack the glass lining.
My bet is the bottom of that water heater is slugged solid with scale and you will be buying a new one soon enough. At least do it on your own schedule.
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On Fri, 02 Oct 2009 15:33:12 -0400, gfretwell wrote:

Good call there, by the way. Wasn't getting much scale out of the drain valve, so I'd figured it couldn't be too bad. Then I took the drain valve apart, and the internal valve passage is a square-section s-shape, and only of about 1/4" diameter.
I took the upper element out and had a peek inside, and it was choked with scale at the bottom, like you figured. Not surprisingly, a lot of the bits are far too big to ever stand a chance of getting through that valve body...
I managed to break some of it up, probably got about 3 gallons of solid scale out of it and another of sludge; I think that might drop the level below the lower element (just waiting on it to heat right now) which will buy some time, but it's looking like a new heater's a good idea sometime soon :-)
cheers
Jules
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wrote:

they haven't made them with glass linings for a LONG time

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wrote:

Huh, saw glass lined in the local place just yesterday.
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yeah me too, at both lowes and home depot. my tank is 9 years old, i was shopping
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wrote:

well, if it's glass lined, then why a: does it need an anode, and b: what would rust to produce a hole in the casing?
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charlie wrote:

Because the glass lining is not perfect and does not cover every single square micron of the tank. The area it does cover reduces the erosion of the anode.
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plus the glass detoriates over time espically in the high hear areas
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wrote:

Ive had that happen too, If you can get a big pipe wrench on the socket.... Pay heed others cautions
Jimmie
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On Fri, 02 Oct 2009 13:18:08 -0700, JIMMIE wrote:

Yep! :)
Annoyingly, the local tool place has sockets with 1/2" drive right up to 1-1/4" in their cheap-but-I-don't-care-as-I'll-only-use-it-once-range for about $3, but the 1-1/2" that I'd actually need is 20-something bucks :-)
cheers
Jules
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Jules wrote:

Sometimes you can buy used tools at "used tool" stores. You can rent tools at rent-all stores. Pawn shops sometimes have a bin of used sockets for sale.
You could use a pipe elbow on the other end of the socket bar to get a different angle on it.
Drilling out for a larger bar might work, or it could weaken the socket so it deforms instead.
You could have a steel bar welded to the end of the socket you have.
As others have said, unless this is a fairly new heater, you might be better off just leaving it untill the element really need to be replaced.
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I would cut the pipes and turn it to get at it. Adding shut offs is what I did when I installed mine. In 5-10 years you will be happy you did. Also once a month run water out of the bottom faucet on the tank to keep it clean. Jerry
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