Types of Water Heater Anode Rod Issues & Steps to Fix

When people think of a water heater, they usually imagine a metal tank with water in it. But there’s much more to a water heater than that. Your Broken Arrow water heater is made of various components, including an anode rod. If you have issues with your anode rod, you could have serious trouble with your hot water. Find out more about common anode rod issues and how to fix them. Your knowledge could help you prevent the need for a new water heater installation and repair.

What is an Anode Rod?

If you want to know about the issues associated with anode rods, you need to know what they are and how they work. Inside a water heater, there is a steel wire wrapped in zinc, magnesium, or aluminum. Typically, the rod is approximately four feet in length.  The anode rod is responsible for preventing rust from forming in the tank. If you leave a gallon of water in a metal bucket, a chemical reaction will trigger and result in the bucket rusting. The oxygen and moisture from the water are responsible for causing the reaction. In your water heater, the same reaction could occur. However, the reaction doesn’t happen if you have an anode rod. The anode rod sits in the water and attracts impurities in the water that would otherwise cause rust in the tank. Rather than eating away at the tank of your water heater, the molecules go to the anode rod, and a reaction causes them to eat away at the anode rod. In essence, the anode rod sacrifices itself for the sake of your water heater.

What Problems are Associated with Anode Rods?

Just as your water heater won’t last forever, your anode rod won’t last for an eternity. Generally, anode rods last for about three to five years. The lifespan depends on the quality of your water and your home’s hot water demands. Here are a few problems that could arise with your anode rod.


As previously mentioned, the anode rod won’t last forever. The anode rod corrodes and becomes smaller. After a certain point, the anode rod deteriorates so much that you can see the core. This means the rod may no longer be able to attract contaminants, and it won’t continue to work. If a rod has more than six inches of deterioration, you need a new one. 

Soft Water 

Some people prefer to live in a home with soft water. If you have a water softener, your anode rod may deteriorate quickly. The phosphates and rock salt in your water corrodes the rod and results in the wear and tear of your water heater. 

Calcium Carbonate Build-Up

At times, the calcium carbonate in your water collects on the anode rod. The minerals protect the anode rod from corrosion, but this causes the water tank to corrode. If you notice a white substance on the anode rod, you should wipe it off. Doing so allows your anode rod to do its job.

How to Fix an Anode Rod Problem

If you don’t want a broken water heater, you need to look out for issues with your anode rod and replace it if necessary. When it’s time to replace the anode rod, you should do the following:

Turn Off the Water Heater

You should never work on an appliance without turning it off. Before you try to access the anode rod, turn off the circuit breaker to the water heater. If you have a gas heater, turn off the thermostat.  You should also turn off the water to the heater. To accomplish this, twist the valve on the cold water supply line. Alternatively, shut off the water at the meter outside of your home. 

Find the Rod 

The anode rod is near the top of the water heater, but it may be difficult to find. If you look at your owner’s manual, you can find out how to access the anode rod. You might also be able to find the owner’s manual online. 

Drain the Water

To access and change the anode rod, you must first drain the tank of the water heater. Take a garden hose and connect it to the tank. The other side of the hose should drain somewhere that won’t cause flooding or water damage.  After you drain approximately 10% of the water, you should be able to reach the anode rod. In some cases, you may need to drain more ways to reach the rod. 

Take Out the Old Anode Rod

The next step is to use a wrench or socket to remove the anode rod. If the rod seems stuck, tighten it first and then loosen it. Don’t use any oils or sprays to lubricate the rod, or you could do damage to the water heater. 

Install the New Rod

Before you disassemble your water heater, you should already have a replacement anode rod. You can choose between materials, so take your time shopping. An aluminum rod will last longer than a magnesium one, but it costs more.  When you’re ready to install the rod, insert it into place. Turn it clockwise until your rod can’t turn any more. Using a socket wrench, tighten the rod even more. 

Turn on the Water Heater

If you haven’t already closed the drain valve on your water heater, do so. Then, turn the water back on from the valve you used in the previous steps.  Open a hot water faucet and allow air to move through your pipes. Once you do that, it’s time to turn on the heater and restore your hot water. 

Do You Need Water Heater Installation and Repair?

Replacing your water heater’s anode rod isn’t as easy as it sounds. If you want to check your anode rod or you need to replace it, you can rely on a professional. Here at Infinity Plumbing, we are here to help. You can trust us with your water heater installation and repair. Call us today to learn more about how we can help.