Help! I can't loosen the drain plug in the water heater.

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jack_the_bear

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I am trying to winterize our new 5th wheel and have gotten stuck on the step to drain the water heater.  Our heater is a Suburban model SW10DE.  The anode also serves as the drain plug.  I first tried to unscrew the plug with a pair of pliers - couldn't budge it.  Then I tried some vise grips - still wouldn't budge.  Then I sprayed it thoroughly with some WD-40, let it sit for a day, and tried to open it with a plumbing drain wrench - still wouldn't budge.  I went to Lowe's and bought a shower drain socket wrench and a 1/4 inch diameter steel rod to operate it and bent the rod into a circle.  I went back to Lowe's and bought a 1/2 inch drive socket set only to find out that the biggest socket (1 inch) wasn't big enough to circle the nut, went back to Lowe's and got a bigger socket, and tried again - still wouldn't budge.  I then put a 1 foot long 1 1/4 inch diameter steel plumbing pipe over the end of the socket wrench handle to get some more leverage and actually bent the socket wrench handle, but the nut still would not budge.  I'm out of ideas here.  Although the low nighttime temps have only been in the upper 20's so far, I don't think I can count on a warm winter for the next 3 months, and I really need to drain this thing.  Any ideas from out there?
 

Kenneth

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Try and tap it while holding pressure on the wrench. Like a impact wrench it might jar the rust loose enough to get it started.
 

Carl L

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I am trying to winterize our new 5th wheel and have gotten stuck on the step to drain the water heater.

A new trailer?!    You should not be having that degree of freezing of the drain plug on a new machine.    I would suspect that it were way over-torqued in manufacture.  Get to your dealer and invoke the trailer and water heater guarantees.

 

BruceinFL

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Carl Lundquist said:
A new trailer?!    You should not be having that degree of freezing of the drain plug on a new machine.    I would suspect that it were way over-torqued in manufacture.  Get to your dealer and invoke the trailer and water heater guarantees.

Yep, I had the same problem with a "new" trailer. Had to take it to an RV shop to get the nut loose. The trailer may be "new" but the heater and the RV have probably been sitting for a while. A new trailer could have been built many moons ago and with parts that have been on the shelf for a while.
 

Jim Dick

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Hi Jack,

Since it's a new coach I'd take it to the dealer and have them remove the plug. If I remember correctly the nut is a 1 1/8" or 1 1/16". If you try to remove it yourself and damage the threads the dealership probably won't honor any warranty.

 

John From Detroit

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jack_the_bear said:
I then put a 1 foot long 1 1/4 inch diameter steel plumbing pipe over the end of the socket wrench handle to get some more leverage and actually bent the socket wrench handle, but the nut still would not budge.  I'm out of ideas here.

That is not normal... It calls for professional help to remove the plug,  From the sound of it the plug was installed with the aid of an impact wrench and the installer impacted for a while... Removal will likely require simular tools

However use of an impact wrench there can cause damage

And with a brand new coach.. If someone is going to damage it by using too powerful a tool... I would much rather it be the dealer than the customer  (NOTE, my coach is also new, however the plug came out easily)
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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I'm amazed you bent the wrench and did not twist the sidewall of the tank itself.  Those tanks are not made of realy strong materials.  Definitely take it to a dealer who is authroized to perform warranty work on the RV or on Suburban heaters (he water heater has a separate warranty anyway).  That way, you aren't responsible for any damage that might occur in removing it.

By the way, WD40 is not a great penetrating lubricant.  If you want something that will seep in and loosen frozen threads, get a penetrating oil.  Any auto parts store will have one of the many brands available and hardware stores should have them too.  One of the best is a product called KROIL  from Kano Labs.
 

Carl L

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I'm amazed you bent the wrench and did not twist the sidewall of the tank itself.

Myself I am astounded.    I have delivered a calculated 400-500 lb-ft of torque using a 3 foot cheater on a 1/2 inch drive breaker bar and not bent the Craftsman bar.    The wheel lug nuts in question came off too hot to handle from all the force exerted.    I suspect that Jack needs a better quality of wrench.  It sounds like the quality of the tank wall is just fine tho.  ;D
 

Karl

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Taking it back to the dealer is the best bet. Aside from that, try putting some heat around the plug; not on the plug itself. It may break whatever is holding it  - be it corrosion, pipe dope, etc., but don't try this on a glass-lined tank! Uneven heating can destroy the lining.
 

jack_the_bear

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Cordova, TN
Okay everyone.  Many thanks for all the comments and suggestions.  Since the overwhelming feeling was that I should take it back to the dealer, that's what I did.  They had to use an impact wrench to get the anode plug out.  There was a big gob of pipe dope stuck to the end of the threads on the inside.  I don't know if that could have been part of the problem, but I suspect mostly it was just screwed in too tight.  The suggestion about the penetrating oil was a good one.  I did go get some of that and sprayed it all over the end of the plug last night, so it was able to percolate all night.  I will keep the can in my RV tool kit for future use.  I also went and bought a new set of Craftsman socket wrenches today in the hope that it will be strong enough for any bolt/nut needs in the future.  When it comes time to put the anode plug back in the water heater I'm thinking I might wrap the threads with a little Teflon tape.  Does anybody know if this is a good or bad idea?  Thanks again for all your help.
 
A

Albslb2

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Great Idea.  Nothing else need be said.  Good Luck and happy motoring
 

Ron

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When it comes time to put the anode plug back in the water heater I'm  thinking I might wrap the threads with a little Teflon tape.  Does anybody know if this is a good or bad idea?

That is probably a very good idea.  I think I would do just that.

 

Lou Schneider

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When it comes time to put the anode plug back in the water heater I'm thinking I might wrap the threads with a little Teflon tape.? Does anybody know if this is a good or bad idea?
Teflon tape is a very good insulator, so unless the threads penetrate the tape you could be cutting off the current path between the anode rod and the tank wall that allows the cathodic protection to work.
 

jack_the_bear

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Cordova, TN
I wondered if that would be a problem about the current...so perhaps if I only put one wrap of the Teflon tape to ensure against a sticking plug but making sure the threads cut through to complete the circuit it should be okay?
 

Ron

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Lou is correct forgot about that anode.  Better to leave a couple threads unwrapped or like you said just one wrap of the teflon tape.  Then don't overtighten.
 

N Smock

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jack_the_bear said:
When it comes time to put the anode plug back in the water heater I'm thinking I might wrap the threads with a little Teflon tape.

I hope your plan is to place the plug back even if loosly til spring. You don't need any critters setting up house keeping inside the tank.

Nelson
 

Karl

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Best to stick with the Teflon (tm) tape. Regular anti-seize compounds may contain molybdenum disulfide and are not suitable for potable water. Those designated as food grade contain PTFE (Teflon) and are difficult to obtain, so you might just as well use the tape. The tightening process will shear the tape in several places, so good electrical contact should not be a problem.
 

Carl L

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The tightening process will shear the tape in several places, so good electrical contact should not be a problem

That and the head of the plug is going to make contact with the tank metal.  In any event, a check of the electrical continuity between the tank and plug with a multimeter or a checker should resolve doubts.

I have just had a thought.  Jack said they found a gob of "pipe dope" on the extracted plug.  Could some genuis have used Loctite on the plug?
 

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