Desperate for help - New AO Smith install anode rod seal not working

Discussion in 'Water Heater Forum, Tanks' started by Matthew Hardy, Feb 23, 2018.

  1. Matthew Hardy

    Matthew Hardy New Member

    Jun 14, 2015
    First thanks to everyone on the forum as it is an invaluable resource. I typically hire all work when I can afford to do so, but have to do some myself from time to time and this forum has been a huge help with that.

    My issue is I just installed a new AO Smith water heater from Lowes. I know they are not as well built as the AO Smith that you get from the plumbers, but could not afford anything else right now and my existing water heater died.

    I have the install done and am pretty confident everything is good. It fills up with no leaks. I have not turned the gas on yet as I wanted to make sure everything is good. The top of the water heater has a plug with the anode tube on it. After the water heater was full water started leaking up through the hole. I used a 1 1/16 socket wrench to take out the anode rod and it was really screwed in tight. I put tape and pipe dope (in that order) and tightened it again. I am pretty sure it is about as tight as it can get.

    When I filled the water heater again water is still coming through this. I can go get a new anode tube I guess, but worried if that will solve the issue if I put lots of tape on already. I can try to put more tape in I guess, but does not seem to be working.

    I can call a plumber, but it is late on a Friday and my wife's family is in town. We have been without a water heater for the last week so am desperate for help.
  2. dj2

    dj2 In the Trades

    Aug 13, 2013
    Are you using a long handle socket wrench? Use a metal pipe over the handle for leverage and see if you can tighten more.

    If not...It could be a mis thread or a factory defect (covered by warranty).

    Water heaters are supposed to go through a leak test before leaving the factory, but there is a possibility that this one fell through the cracks. I would go back to Lowes and complain. Try to solve it at Lowes, cause AO Smith will drag their feet and will not happily cooperate.

    At lowes, bring your case to the store manager.

    It won't be easy. Let us know what they said.
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  4. Ladiesman217

    Ladiesman217 Member

    Dec 31, 2010
    How big is the leak? Just a very slow and small amount of water weeping through the threads?

    I would pull the anode rod out again, tape the threads again with more turns of the tape and reinstall. Recently I had to tape a boiler style threaded valve three times until I got a perfect seal on the threads.
  5. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Sep 25, 2013
    What hole? The big threaded hole, or is there a hole in the anode?
  6. Matthew Hardy

    Matthew Hardy New Member

    Jun 14, 2015
    Thanks for the quick responses. Did not expect much as it is late on a Friday, but the forum comes through.

    First to clarify - it is the threaded hole that was leaking and it was not a trivial amount. It was not a geyser, but the water was even with the top of the water heater and dripping over the side.

    Update - I called AO Smith to see if they had any suggestions / recommendations. The rep went through a quick troubleshooting list (i.e. any water from other fittings, etc.) as a formality, but agreed the threads on the anode rod are the issue. I asked if just replacing the rod might work, but he indicated if it did not seal with tape and dope that would probably not help. He said to take the water heater back to lowes and gave an RA number so they will just swap it out.

    I told him that is really not a good option as the install was not trivial and my wife is on the verge of killing me (her family is in town starting today and we have not had hot water for a week). He offered $250 towards the installation, but the quotes I got in my area - Agoura Hills CA - were $1,500 - $2,000 so that does not help much. Much of the work (this is going in a separate post) was bringing everything up to code (i.e. installation of a thermal expansion tank, putting a sediment trap on the gas line, creating two separate drain lines going outside as the previous installer had tied the drain from the T&P valve to the drain in the pan under the water heater, etc.) so that does not need to be redone, but still going to cost me $1,000+ and time. After asking how it is a parts and labor warranty if they do not cover labor he offered another RA number to cover a standard installation by the outfit Lowes sends on installations. I thought this plus delivery and taking back of the defective water heater was a really fair offer, but the time factor was an issue.

    Before I called Lowes to start the process, I decided to give it one more go trying to tighten the plug holding the anode rod. It is in a tight spot (on a platform in my garage next to two furnaces) so not much room to use a breaker bar so I used another wrench along with my big socket wrench and the deep 1 1/16th socket. I was able to turn it another couple quarter turns and am unfortunately pretty sure it is never coming out. After saying a quick prayer, I opened the shut off valve to start filling the water heater again and low and behold it is holding. I literally had tears of joy streaming down my cheeks.

    It took another couple hours to get the pilot light lit (separate post coming on that), but we now have hot water and a new heater that is not leaking anywhere. I have not turned on my recirculation pump as I want to make sure nothing goes wrong before my in-laws can shower tomorrow, but I feel pretty confident it is good.

    I have a few other items on this install that I am going to start a separate thread on as I have a number of questions / comments, but want to thank everyone who replied.
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