Anode Rod Aluminum broken in two; can't get rod out of tank!

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Ladd2

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I have a Whirlpool 50 Gallon tank purchased three years ago from Lowes. Given that we have an acid neutralizer and a water softener upstream of the hot water tank, this morning I went to pull the factory aluminum anode rod, inspect it and replace it with a new magnesium one. Unfortunately for me the aluminum surrounding the core wire has broken away from the core wire and the lower portion, the part still inside the tank, is also broken away from the core wire bending outwards and won't come up through the hole! i.e. the part inside the tank is the reverse of what can be seen outside the tank. (See Photo Below).

Other than cutting the core wire and letting the rest of the rod drop into the tank, I'm at a loss as to what I can do!

No tool that I have, nor one that I can think of, will fit through the top hole of the tank, go down six inches, grab the bent aluminum and bend it back towards the core wire so I can pull the whole rod out.

Urgently seeking Internet Advice regarding this problem. If you have any tips, clues or whatever as to how to get the rod out, I would be *most* appreciative. If cutting the rod and letting it stay in the tank won't hurt anything, I'm good with that too.

Please reply A.S.A.P.

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Reach4

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That's a tough one. I wish I had a good idea.

I toyed with the idea of dropping a lasso of strong cord to try to grab something. I am not feeling that is going to help.

Do you call Whirlpool or Lowes? Will they offer a replacement WH for this? Stranger things have happened.

Other than cutting the core wire and letting the rest of the rod drop into the tank, I'm at a loss as to what I can do!
If that is the one to beat, how about pulling up forcibly and see if the rest of the aluminum peels off. Then hope it clings to the bottom of the rod and gets lifted out. If it just hangs up, I guess you still have the option of cutting the steel.

The drain on the bottom has a 3/4 NTP thread on it I don't know if you could fish fragments out from that after unscrewing the valve. Would the aluminium+zinc rod do harm sitting on the bottom. I don't think so; you are not drinking the hot water.

I presume you were putting in the magnesium rod to better-protect your WH.

City water?
 

Ladd2

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Thanks for offering advice!

I am on well water that is quite acidic, hence the acid neutralizer to take care of the acid problem and the water softener to take care of the resulting hard water.

I like your out of the box thinking and "get a bigger hammer" approach to forcefully pulling the rod up, but think I'll hold off on that for now as to avoid possibly doing greater damage to the tank itself.

Having spent the last hour researching this problem on the Internet (after all, if it's on the Internet, it must be true!), I have found three other instances of this happening, two of them stating that they were Whirlpool aluminum anode rods. With all three, the solutions offered were to cut the rod and let it drop to the bottom of the tank. The folks offering this solution (two of them were plumbers) say that no harm will come to the tank. At that point it will no longer act as a sacrificial anode rod, simple slowly turn into sediment. Yet another reason to regularly drain some water out of the tank.

I'm going to keep looking and also waiting for any additional input from this board.
 

Reach4

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If you have H2S smell from hot water, consider a powered anode. However a good sanitizing can also prevent H2S, since AFAIK, it takes SRB and anode metal to make H2S in the WH. Aluminum+zinc ("aluminum") anode rods were made to reduce, but not eliminate, the H2S production with magnesium. Magnesium protects significantly better. Hotter water setting can reduce H2S production too.

A good powered anode is expensive compared with anode rods.

For the new anode, I think 10 or 15 (estimated) ft-lbs of torque is enough (by hand with a short wrench). They crank those needlessly tight from the factory. Use Teflon (PTFE) tape. Yes, electrical continuity is required for the anode to work, but the threads cut through the tape easily.
 

Ladd2

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I have never had the sulfur smell with my current tank. If magnesium rods are prone to growing the bacteria that gives me the sulfur smell, I'm sure I'll know when it happens and I'll stop using a magnesium even though they offer better protection. FWIW, I normally keep the tank at 120° with a once every three months boost to 130° when I need to clean large pots in which I have rendered down 20 pounds of tallow for making bread pan-sized bricks of suet for all the woodpeckers.

I did consider a powered anode and yes they were expensive. I decided putting in a new anode every two or three years wasn't that big a deal and way cheaper.

I'm sure that I did crank the new rod in way too tight by hand, but the impact wrench worked this time and hopefully again in a couple of years.
 
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jadnashua

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I doubt what's left of the old anode rod will cause problems if you just cut it off and let it remain in the tank.
 

Mark Ingles

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I'm too late to help Ladd2, but maybe my suggestion can help someone in the future. I had the same problem yesterday while replacing the anode rod in a 15 year old WH. The rod was mostly disintegrated, but there were two splintered fingers at the top getting hung up. Pulling harder just made the situation worse by splaying the splinters further apart. I found this forum while looking for advice. I thought about cutting the rod and letting the remnant stay in the tank, but I wanted to try a few things first. I used a hooked awl to grab and straighten the splinters. It wasn't easy especially in such a small hole, but patience and determination paid off. It's hard to see what you're doing, so I had to feel my way around with the awl and grab one arm at a time and then push the rod back into the tank using quite a bit of force as a means to bend the splinters straight. It worked! See attached pictures.

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ACEschborn

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Old thread, but wanted to chime in as well...

I'm 2.5 years removed from the installation of my hybrid electric water heater (Kenmore Elite 153.592500), and wanted to check the status of the anode rod. I ended up having the same problem and tried to resolve with the ideas above, but unfortunately I wasn't getting anywhere (and didn't have a hook awl like Mark).

I was tempted to button it up as it was, with the split rod left in the tank, but didn't want to risk trying to time removing it in the future before any problems. Instead, I elected to (very carefully) use a mini/compact hack saw to cut off one of the splintered pieces (~3-4" at best guess). I was then able to remove the remainder of the anode rod (pictured). I snipped the steel wire, reinserted the 'plug' (at that point), and will be picking up/ordering the new anode rod tomorrow.

Couple questions:

1. What will happen to the cut off piece of anode rod? Slowly disintegrate?
2. What's the best way to prevent this from happening again in the future? Given that this happened at 2.5 years, do I replace the anode rod every 2 years to get ahead of it splitting? Wait until the 3rd year or even 4th year so there's even less of the anode rod left?

Good luck to anyone who encounters the problem!

-ace

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Phog

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This may be a dumb question but, why not just reinstall it for another few months and let the "barb" disintegrate more? It eventually should get small / brittle enough to be pulled out. (I also realize that this particular question is months old & do agree that cutting off and letting the piece drop to the bottom is fine too)
 

ACEschborn

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I thought about doing that, but got fixated on getting it out and replacing it. I ordered a new magnesium anode, but have been researching powered electric anodes. Seems like a better fit vs. replacing a Mg anode every couple of years...
 

Reach4

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I thought about doing that, but got fixated on getting it out and replacing it. I ordered a new magnesium anode, but have been researching powered electric anodes. Seems like a better fit vs. replacing a Mg anode every couple of years...
I think the Ceranode, with the long electrode, is going to protect better than a powered anode with a short electrode. Yes it costs considerably more.
 

Xman

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Yes an older thread, but was the best I could find on the net for suggestions so wanted to add to the knowledge base ...

I too had an anode rod fall into the water heater tank. But in my case it was brand new. I was replacing an older water heater where I never could get the anode rod out for servicing. This new tank had a hard plastic trim piece up tight against the anode bolt head which blocked a socket from going around it. I worked to extract the plastic then decided to make sure I could remove the new rod. My bad, the magnesium rod separated from the anode bolt and dropped into the tank. It was loosely attached to the bolt head by threads only and spun out. Only use an impact wrench to break the nut free enough to remove by hand. Here is how I got the rod out of the tank.

1. removed upper electric element.
2. used small flex light to view inside the tank.
3. Dropped strong thin line into the anode opening with nut tied to the end. I used a spool of bow string. Used a bent hanger to fish it through the upper element hole. Removed the nut and secured both ends of the string.
4. laid tank on two 2x8s so the tank was off the ground.
5. Rolled the tank so the anode rod could be touched in the top element hole.
6. inserted another bent hanger wire to hold the anode as I rolled the tank up to the side.
7. positioned the anode so I could loop the line around the top threaded part and tied a knot.
8. pulled the string from the anode opening so the rod was near the top of the tank.
9. lifted tank upright and gently pulled the anode rod out of the anode opening.
10. secured anode rod to the anode bolt with red loctite and re-installed.
 
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1. What will happen to the cut off piece of anode rod? Slowly disintegrate?
Good luck to anyone who encounters the problem!
The piece of material in the bottom of the tank will likely just work as intended.
State water heaters for commercial recommends simply chucking a piece of zinc into the bottom of their heaters (the tops are made such that you can't remove the anodes without replumbing the entire heater). I spoke with their techs directly on this issue, and that's what they recommend for everyone.
 
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