Skip Navigation

Common Water Heater Problems

Common Water Heater Problems

If your water loses heat quickly, doesn't heat up at all or has other issues, your water heater might be the main culprit. Most issues can be easily identified, and some of the issues can even be fixed without the aid of a plumber. Here are some common water heater problems and ways you can troubleshoot or fix them.

Hot water heater in home

No Hot Water

Use a continuity tester to check the upper and lower heating elements to see if they're working properly. A continuity tester identifies a short-circuited or burned-out heating element by reading the amount of electricity it puts off. If they are malfunctioning, you can find affordable replacement parts at the hardware store and change the parts yourself using a few tools found in most tool sheds.  

shop all continuity testers

Low Water Pressure

Make sure the water shut-off valve is open if the hot water pressure is low throughout your house. Sediment buildup inside the tank could also cause low water pressure. You can get rid of buildup by draining the water heater tank and flushing out the sediment.

Water is Too Hot or Cold

Read just the thermometer on your water heater to ensure that it's set to the correct temperature. If it's set to the right temperature, but the water is still too hot or cold, you may need to replace the thermometer and the heating element.

shop all water heater thermometers | water heater elements


Fixing a water heater leak

Pooling Water around the Tank

Identify where the leak is coming from. If the leak is coming from a connector or pipe, either try tightening the leaky part, or disconnecting the tank from the water supply and replacing it yourself. However, if the tank itself is leaking, you'll need to have a new water heater professionally installed.

Whining or Popping Noises Coming from the Tank

Start by draining the tank to flush out any buildup in the tank. Built-up sediments can come in contact with the heating element, causing loud, whining noises. If the noises continue, your heating elements are likely burning out, in which case you'll need to replace them yourself or have them replaced by a professional.

Smelly or Rust-Colored Water

Drain the tank, fill it with about 32 ounces of bleach and flush it again. You also can increase the water temperature to about 160 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour. Both methods should eliminate any odor-causing bacteria and remove rust inside the tank. Otherwise, you'll have to replace the anode rod that kills bacteria and removes rust.

You can replace the rod yourself, but it does require some skill and a few heavy-duty tools. You might need to hire a professional if you don't have much plumbing experience.

shop all water heater anode rodsbleach