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Tanklets > Leaking Water
Heaters and Fittings

Q: My tank is only about 2 years old and I would never have thought it would take a dive this quick. I have read a few blogs and some Q&A about this problem and I was hoping that there is something else I can do before replacing the electric water heater. It is leaking from the bottom of the outboard line. I am guessing it is the outboard and not the in line because it is the line without the water shutoff.

But the leak isn't coming from the connector but it looks like it is coming from the tank working it's way up into that hole. But that doesn't make much sense because there are two other lines that it should be leaking out of as well. I have released the pressure on the tank even tightened the line a little bit but nothing has cured it. I turn off the water shutoff and it doesn't leak at all, as soon as i turn on the water it starts to go. It is a slow leak but it eventually seeps up until there is a little puddle and then everywhere. I really appreciate any feedback.

A: Water heaters do fail under warranty and have to be replaced. Every manufacturer expects a certain amount of this because of limitations in the manufacturing process. The question here, though, is, is it the tank or the plumbing. The plumbing you can fix. The tank you can't. If you have a copper flex line, replacing it may solve this problem.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a flex that was only a couple of years old that had split and was spraying water all over the place. If it hard-plumbed with copper tubing, it will be messier. If you think it is leaking at the nipple, you can try removing that and replacing it with six wraps of Teflon tape. If it still leaks after that, time for a new tank. -- Randy (6/18/08)

Q: I've just gone through your Web page on water heaters. I've got a 6-year-old Sears "Best" with all the recirculation crap for low sediment, etc, etc. Well, it sprung a leak last night. It looks like it's under the tank, and I see a small rust spot and water shooting out. I feed the tank from a water softener, so I thought the hard water we have in San Diego, CA shouldn't be a problem. Can I fix this kind of a leak? Or is it a goner? Thanks

A: That doesn't sound promising. If a temperature/pressure relief valve or drain valve is leaking, that you can fix, but a tank leak is hopeless. Since you're softening your water, consider getting two anodes with your next heater -- and make sure you don't oversoften the water. (1995-2000)

Q: Hi there. My hot water heater is only six years old and is leaking water around the bottom. At this time, I can't afford to buy a heater at least for a few months. I have kids and just don't have the money. The leak is on the front at the bottom. I can see where that water is coming out. Is there anything that I can do to stop the leak for now? Thanks from a mother with no money, but who needs hot water.

A: The big question is: where is the water coming from? Water heaters have a plastic drain valve. Sometimes it drips. If so, it is no cause for concern. On the other hand, if the tank itself appears to be leaking, then it is rusting out and there's really nothing you can do about it. Eventually, the tank will break and you'll have to replace it -- or turn off the water to it and make do with cold water until you can afford to replace it. I know that isn't what you wanted to hear, but there's no way to repair a water heater that is rusting out. (1995-2000)

Q: I read your article on know-how, but I would like to know why my water heater is leaking. It is a small amount of water, but I cannot detect the location. The unit is about 8 years old. Do I need to worry?

A: Maybe. First check the drain valve. Sometimes those drip. If it's not that, feel the underside of the tank. If it's wet, your tank is probably on its way to water heater heaven. If you're really brave, you can remove the outer hatch to the combustion chamber -- often located below the control, then gingerly remove the inner hatch -- if the tank just fired it may be hot -- and shine a flashlight inside. If the roof of the chamber (which is the bottom of the tank) is really rusty, that's also a bad sign. (1995-2000)

Q: Hi. I have read your message boards and think I have my leaky tank problem narrowed down, but would like to clarify this is the case before I start working on it. My top-feed tank is 10 years old, and accummulates water on the top. It seems to ooze from 3 places on the top of the tank -- the connection at the cold supply line, the connection at the hot water line, and what I suspect is the place where the anode can be accessed.

I towel dry all 3 and they slowly fill with water until it puddles on top and then runs off the side to my basement floor and over to the drain. Is this an indication of a pressure or internal problem, or can I just try to tighten everything up to see if that solves the problem? The problem is recent, but we have made no changes in our home or plumbing. Thanks, Big E

A: Regarding the leaks at the connections, is it a question of a leak between the flex lines and the nipples, or is the water coming from the base of the nipples where the latter enter the tank? It's not uncommon for flex lines to leak, but it's not a good sign if leaks appear at the nipple and anode ports if they had always been sealed before. It may well mean your tank is about to rust out. You might try trying to reseal them, but be aware that you might have to buy a new heater. (9/19/04)

Q: At midnight, of course, I discovered a small flood in the basement. It seems it stemmed from the "broken" water heater. Are there any precautions I need to take to shut off the heater ?

A: ALWAYS shut off the energy supply to the heater first. If it's electric, check it with a meter to make sure it is off. Then you can drain the tank. Remember air must get into the tank for water to get out, so open a hot tap or the relief valve at the top of the tank to permit the tank to drain. Don't just assume the heater is bad. Find where the water is coming from before passing judgement. The heater could be innocent! -- Larry

A1: I just wanted to add a couple of comments. Make sure the temperature/relief valve hasn't opened for some reason. That could create a puddle. Likewise a leaky drain valve. Beyond that, you can feel around the base of a tank to determine if water is running down the side or out of the bottom. On a gas tank, you can shine a flashlight into the combustion chamber.

If you touch different areas of the jacket, you might be able to locate the leak. There will be a hot spot where water oozing out has heated the insulation. Finally, if you find your tank is a goner, go to Choosing a water heater, which can be reached from the home page and read it BEFORE you go out and buy another water heater. You'll be glad you did. -- Randy (9/29/04)

Leaks Around Relief Valve

Q: I have a heater of unknown age that recently started leaking around the the relief valve. No water is coming through valve but is coming from around the rubber gasket around the opening of the tank the valve sticks out of. I can't tell what is going on behind the gasket. The leak stops as soon as the water supply is shut. It also seems as though the vent gas in very moist, although this may allways have been this way -- I never looked closely at the vent.

A: A rule of thumb about heaters is that if there is water and it is not coming from a fitting or overhead, than it's coming from the tank. Even though you don't know just where the water is coming from, you know it is not coming through a threaded fitting. So, the tank must be bad. It's time to start shopping while you still have hot water and a slow leak. See elsewhere on this site for what to look for in a new heater. -- Larry (12/10/04)