How Water Heater Repair Can Be Done Yourself

San Rafael

(415) 942-6565

Santa Rosa

(707) 452-3464

Not having enough hot water is extremely inconvenient and disrupts multiple areas of your household. When your hot water heater begins to show signs of malfunctioning, your first thought may be to head straight to the professionals to get a solution. However, after thinking it over for a little while, it is natural that you might feel a little overwhelmed by the process. How much will it cost? How do you find the cheapest solution? How will you know what kind of repair is right for your water heater or if replacement is really the most cost-effective option?

The good news is that there are many cost-effective options when it comes to water heater repairs. This includes some water heater repairs that can be done by yourself instead of hiring a professional. Being able to perform repairs yourself can also save you the time of waiting for a technician to come to the house if you can’t schedule an immediate appointment, possibly leaving you with no hot water for a little while. Your water heater problems may be solved completely by simply pressing the reset button or going into the breaker box to check a circuit breaker. You can also fix things like leaks, a faulty thermostat or pilot light, and more. In this article, we will look at the most common problems that occur with water heaters, repair solutions you can perform by yourself, when to call a professional, and how to decide between repair and replacement.

Common Hot Water Heater Problems

The most obvious and disruptive problem your hot water heater might have is with the water temperature. You may find there is an inadequate amount of hot water, no hot water at all, or water that is too hot. A hot water heater not heating water could mean a thermostat or circuit breaker problem, a failed heating element, a faulty pilot light for a gas water heater, or a tripped limit switch. Switching the breaker to the off position and then back on again may be a possible, simple solution. You may also need to hit the red reset button on your tank. The reset button is there to reset the hot water heater when it begins to exceed the temperature set at the high-temperature limit.

A leaking water heater is another common issue, usually due to leaks from the valves, cold water inlet, or loose pipes and plumbing connections. If the tank is leaking from the side, this could mean there may be damage to the tank, such as cracks or holes.

Rusty water or a foul odor can be either a corroded tank or anode rod or bacteria contamination if the smell is akin to rotten eggs. Internal corrosion can turn your water brown, yellow, or a rusted red color.

The water tank making noises could mean that the tank is overheating. This can happen due to sediment buildup at the bottom of the tank. These noises could be popping, whining, or rumbling.

Water Heater DIY Repair Tips

Now that you’ve identified the problem with your water heater and have an idea of what the cause might be, it is time to move on to the repair stage of the process. Always make sure that you turn off the gas for a gas water heater and shut off the power for an electric water heater before you begin repair work. Also, for an electric water heater, be sure to test the wires to make sure the power is off. You can do this with no contact voltage detector. Make sure that the hot water has time to cool down to a lower temperature, since the temperature inside a water heater can be scalding.

1) Thermostat Adjustment

Thermostat adjusting can often be the answer to temperature issues in water heaters. There will usually be a lower and upper thermostat in your water heater unit to coincide with the two water heater elements. Remove the access panel to the lower thermostat and the access panel to the upper thermostat in your water heater. Using a flathead screwdriver, turn the set screw of the thermostat to adjust the setting. The recommended thermostat heat setting is no more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Return the access panel to the lower thermostat and upper thermostat when finished.

2) Leak Fix

For leaking water heater repair, identify the valve, inlet/outlet pipe, or plumbing connection that is having a water leak. Turn off the water supply, then tighten the connection with a wrench. Check all the other pipes and connections to make sure they are not loose. Turn the water back on and make sure the leak has stopped.

3) Flush Tank

To rid the tank of odd-smelling or rust-colored water or an overheating tank, turn off the water supply to the water heater, then drain all water from the tank. Attach one end of a garden hose to the drain valve located at the bottom of the tank, then open the temperature pressure relief valve and the drain valve. Drain the water out into the lawn until the sediment buildup has drained out completely and the water is clear again, then close the pressure relief valve and drain valve, and remove the hose. Turn on the power and water supply. It is a good idea to flush out the water heater tank at least once a year.

4) Fixing Damaged Pressure Relief Valve

It is likely you will need a new pressure relief valve installed if yours is faulty. Turn the cold water supply and electricity off, then drain the water and pressure from the tank by opening the valve and letting the water drain out into a bucket below the plastic relief valve drain pipe. Using a pipe wrench, unscrew the old relief valve and screw the new valve into the water heater, using plumber’s tape, then attach the plastic relief valve drain pipe. It is good to check the pressure relief valve a couple times a year.

5) Pilot Light Issue

In some cases of odd-smelling water with gas water heaters, it is a case of a faulty pilot light. Shut off the gas control valve and wait for the gas to dissipate before reigniting the pilot light according to the specific instructions for your water heater unit. If you smell gas after this, turn off the gas supply and contact your gas company.

Heating Elements Repair/Replacement For Electric Water Heaters

A malfunctioning heating element can be the cause of many problems in an electric hot water heater, since they are the objects that actually heat the water. If you think this could be the problem with your faulty water heater, you will need to test the heating elements and possibly replace them if they are broken. In order to test and replace the heating elements yourself, follow these steps:

Continuity Test

You will need a multimeter to test the heating elements of your hot water heater. Remove the cover panels to access the elements. After disconnecting the wires from the terminal screws, attach the alligator clamp to one of the screws for the heating elements and touch the tester probe of a continuity tester to the other screw. If the tester remains unlit, you have a bad heating element and will need to replace it.

Remove The Faulty Element and Replace It With A New Heating Element

Be sure that you purchase a heating element that has the same wattage as your old one. Close off the cold water inlet valve, and open the hot water faucet in your kitchen. Drain the water heater tank with a garden hose as described previously, and unscrew the malfunctioning element with a heating element wrench. Insert the new element in its place and tighten it with the heating element wrench. Reconnect all of the wires and retighten all of the connections, then replace the cover panels and insulation.

When To Call For Professional Repairs for Your Gas Or Electric Water Heater

Though there are many aspects of water heater repair that can be performed on your own if you have the proper steps and tools, there are cases in which calling a professional is the best route to restoring your hot water heater to its original working state. A few cases in which you will definitely need professional assistance are:

Anode Rod

It is wise to have a plumber replace your anode rod every few years, but if you see red-tinted water, this means it is definitely time to switch it out. An anode rod corrodes more easily than a water heater’s tank since it attracts the oxygen and minerals away from the tank so that the water inside does not become filled with that bacteria.

Damaged Tank

If the tank itself is damaged or corroded, it most likely requires specialist repair work and possibly replacement. Even if you flush out all of the sediment buildup in the water, corrosion on the actual tank will linger and cause further damage.

Hot Water Problems

In some instances, if you are finding that there are continued problems with the water temperature even after adjusting the thermostat and checking the heating elements, it is possible you might need a different-sized tank that will be better suited to the hot water needs of your household. A larger unit could possibly give you enough hot water if you have a larger home or demand for hot water.


There are some cases where your hot water heater warranty may cover certain repairs or replacement parts. Before pursuing any kind of major repair yourself, it is a good idea to see what kind of coverage you have on the water heater unit. You can check the plate with the system’s model number and serial number on the side of your heater to see what year your tank was made and, therefore, determine if there is a warranty for it that can offer free or discounted parts, repairs, or replacement tanks.

Persistent Water Heater Problems

Whatever the issue may be, if you have exhausted all measures trying to repair your water heater, the problem may be internal and need professional work. There are some water heater problems that may show the symptoms of something easily fixable but are actually more complex than they appear. In this case, you will want your water heater to be handled by a certified expert in case there is a major problem that could become dangerous.

Water Heater Repair or Replacement?

When is it better to have your water heater repaired rather than replaced? Things like the two heating elements and the pressure relief valve have to be replaced individually in a water heater when they’re faulty. But when should you get a new water heater altogether?

Typically, when you are having to make frequent repairs and are experiencing breakdowns or malfunctions often, it is time to replace your hot water heater. The age of your water heater unit is also a determining factor. Electric water heaters will last around 10-15 years, and a gas heater will last between 8 and 12 years. If your water heater unit is reaching the end of its life expectancy or is already past it, it might be better to replace it with a new water heater rather than go through more water problems that will become incredibly inconvenient for your household.

There is also the choice between a tank or tankless water heater. A tank water heater is much less expensive, with quicker installation and the capacity to hold a lot more water. A tankless water heater is more expensive but more energy efficient and will last much longer. They can also heat water much quicker and deliver it immediately, rather than having a set amount stored for use that can run out.

Apart from a full replacement water heater unit, there are also replacement water heater parts that might be the answer. You might only need a new thermostat, anode rod, or dip tube. The benefit of having a professional for your water heater repair is that they can tell you whether replacing the entire water heater is going to be more efficient or if you only need to replace one part that is causing the water heater to malfunction.

Call John Owens For All Water Heater Repairs or replacements

Even if you follow all maintenance tips and take care of any and all repairs immediately, the time to replace any and every hot water heater will come. John Owens Services is a certified water heater expert you can rely on to replace any and all water heaters for our customers. Whether you need help with water heater repair, replacing heating elements, stopping leaks, replacing a thermostat, or replacing the entire water heater unit, our services will assist you with making the job as easy as ever, so you don’t have to worry about any part of the process. We can handle every water heater repair or replacement project, so you know that the job is being done to the highest professional standards.

However, if you wish to perform the smaller repairs on your hot water heater unit yourself, it is certainly possible. Being able to heat your water for dishes, showers, laundry, etc. is essential to everyday life.

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Good plumbing, heating, and air conditioning systems are vital in every North California home. John Owens Services, Inc. is proud to be the expert plumbing company you can count on

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Our philosophy is simple, we always want to maintain equipment to give it the longest life possible. Next, we want to focus on repairing when something goes wrong. Then only as the last choice, we replace equipment when needed. That’s the John Owens Way.

San Rafael
(415) 942-6565
Santa Rosa
(707) 452-3464



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San Rafael
(415) 942-6565
Santa Rosa
(707) 452-3464