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What To Do When Water Heater Element Stuck

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, we may receive a small commission for made purchases.

The heating element is undoubtedly the most crucial part of any water heater.

Regardless of whether you have a tankless water heater, you cannot underestimate the role of the heating element. However, like everything electric, the heating element is not made to last forever.

Sure, you can get one of the best water heaters and expect the element to stay for a decade or so. However, the heating element would become less effective at one point or another. We are talking about the general wear and tear.

But the water heater element may get stuck in some cases, making things more complex. Nevertheless, it is not like you cannot solve the issue. You definitely can. However, you must understand a few things in the first place.

First of all, you must know why the water heater element got stuck in the first place. Then, you can think about the ways to remove the same from the water heater housing. Shall we get started, then?

Why Does the Water Heater Element Gets Stuck?

Water Heater Element Gets Stuck

As you can guess, there is no single answer that applies to every water heater out there.

Instead, the answer depends on a few factors, including but not limited to the water heater you have and the place where you live. Anyway, we have listed some common reasons people find the water heater element stuck inside the system.

  1. The first reason is simple enough. You have been using the water heater for some time, and you have not replaced the heating element in a long while. So, if you are using the heating element that the heater initially came with, it may have reached its maximum lifetime. As we mentioned earlier, these things are made to last forever. Instead, over time, the material may start to deteriorate. Since the material cannot go outside, it will get stuck to other water heater parts. That is why experts ask you to check the insides of your water heater if it does not perform as it should.
  2. The second reason may have something to do with your water supply. If you get hard water in your area, it may eventually cause the heater element to get stuck. If you do not know, hard water contains a high amount of minerals and chemicals. They are what make the water ‘hard.’ As you may already know, increased exposure to such chemicals can impact the health and durability of the heating element. Once again, we end up having a heating element with deteriorated quality. In this case, you can have a heater element get stuck way earlier than you think.
  3. Multiple errors with the water heater may also lead to the water heater element getting stuck. For instance, let us consider the case of circuitry problems with the water heater. If the water heater had any overheating issues, the heating element might have taken the bullet. It again means the element would become non-functional and problematic. In the end, you will have to remove the water heater element from the system and install a new one. It is one of the situations where you have to replace the element.

Now, you know why you may have a water heater element stuck to the housing or that got burnt out. You can now look at the ways to solve the issue.

How to Loosen A Stuck Water Heater Element?

stubborn water heater element

Before you remove the water heater from the housing, you should check some options to loosen it from the stuck situation.

Now, there are a couple of ways to go about it.

  • You can try loosening the stuck heater element from the part. It may happen if the element has not been stuck for an extended period. However, it would be best to use the proper set of tools and correct sensitivity. If you rush too much, you may end up damaging other parts of the device.
  • The other option is to use a solution that can loosen the stuck element from the housing. You should choose this method if the element got stuck due to the increasing amount of minerals and chemicals in the source water. We recommend going for a lubrication solution that the maker has suggested.
  • Another handy solution is to create a mixture of water and vinegar. It will have an impact on how stuck the heating element is. Once you have made the mixture, you can use a toothbrush to apply the same to the heating element. Let the combination do its work for a few minutes. Once you feel the heater element has become loose, you can remove or fix the element.

Depending on the situation you have, you can choose any of the methods below. For instance, if you think the heater element is intact but do not want to get chemicals into the equation, you can stick to the water-vinegar mixture.

Removing Stuck Water Heater Element

pulling old water heater element

Now that you know how to loosen the heater element, shall we think about removing the heating element?

You will have to do this if you want to fix the current heating element or install a new one. However, there are two aspects you should know about this.

Tools and Equipment You Need

First, we will look at the tools you need to pull this off. Please keep in mind that we are listing the tools based on the general concepts. You may need fewer or more tools depending on the water heater you use.

  • If you plan to replace the existing heater element, you should have the new heater element at your disposal.
  • If you are dealing with an electric water heater, you should have a voltage tester or a multimeter. It is recommended to have a multimeter, which can detect voltage and other measurements.
  • A water heater element wrench (see also ‘Water Heater Element Wrench: What You Should Know‘) is also necessary. You should not attempt this task using a general wrench, as it may tamper with the heater element altogether.
  • Of course, you need a screwdriver, which will be necessary when opening and closing the housing of the water heater.

Additionally, you should have a hose. It may come in handy when draining the water heater (see also ‘Water Heater Making Popping Sound? Causes And Troubleshooting Tips‘).

Step-by-step Guide to Remove Heater Element

how to remove water heater

If you have all these tools at your disposal, you can start removing the heater element. Given below are the steps you have to follow. Ensure that you follow these steps in the order we have mentioned them.

  1. As it goes without saying, you have to disconnect the water heater from the power or gas supply. You’ll have to do it to ensure maximum safety. Merely turning off the switch is not enough.
  2. Now, make sure that you drain the water heater altogether. If you cannot do it using the provided valves, you can use the extra hose.
  3. If you have not done this already, you have to apply the solution to loosen the heater element. This process may take a few minutes. So, you have to keep calm.
  4. Once you think the element has loosened, you can begin removing it from the system. Depending on the type of heating element in use, you may have to use the screws or extra force to make it possible. However, you should not apply too much pressure unless you want to damage the heater.

Once you have done these steps, you have a couple of options. First, you should check if the heating element is working as it should. It is where you can use the multimeter and other testing solutions.

replaced water heater element

If you believe you can fix the element, you should do it. However, we would not recommend this if the element has attracted enormous minerals and chemicals over time. Second, you can install a new heating element in the heater.

This task would not be difficult as long as you stick to a compatible product. However, it would be best to take some extra precautions to make the heater element stay longer. Here are the best ideas you can follow.

  • Check if you are getting hard water from your supply. If that is the case, you will have to use a water softener. It means the heavy minerals would not reach the insides of the water heater. It also means your water heater would stay functional for more time.
  • Ensure that your circuit does not have any problem. If the water heater gets high voltage, it may impact the system. Therefore, to avoid having a burnt-out water heater (see also ‘Water Heater Reset Button Keeps Tripping? | Causes & Solutions‘) element, you should recheck the systems for the correct design.
  • You should also avoid using incompatible and low-quality accessories in the package. It will impact the total lifetime of the product. For instance, when you buy a new heating element, get a branded one. It will work better with the heater and provide you peace of mind for a long time.


We hoped this guide assisted you in solving the heater element getting stuck problem.

As we mentioned, it is not a complete guide. The specific steps would vary depending on the size and style of the water heater you have installed. However, you can rely on the basic ideas you get from here.

author avatar
Charlie Hardcastle


On Key

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