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Anode rods can be removed with impact wrenches. They fit into smaller spaces and take less effort than tools relying on leverage. Electric-powered wrenches are better than air-powered ones. When using an impact wrench, wear safety gear, secure the tank, and stop when the bolt is loosened.
Many people are not aware that anode rods should be removed and replaced. If you were one of those people, this is your wakeup call. You should be removing your anode rod about every three to five years and replacing it with a fresh one. If you don’t then it ceases to protect your tank and you end up with a tricky business trying to get the rusted mess out. Anode rods can become severely seized over time and not want to move with hand tools.
An impact wrench is just the thing for removing your anode rod. It has the power necessary to get the job done, but there are some precautions you should take if you are planning to remove your anode rod with an impact wrench.
Impact Wrenches Are Great for Seized Anode Rods
To remove your anode rod, you’ll need to “break” the nut that holds your anode rod in place. There are a few ways to achieve this. If you have a breaker bar available, you may wish to try removing the nut this way. If a normal breaker bar isn’t enough to remove your anode rod, that means you’ll need something more heavy-duty.
Here are the 2 chief benefits to using an impact wrench to perform this heavy-duty task:
Fits into Tight Spaces
Impact wrenches are more compact than a breaker bar since they do not rely on leverage to create force. This means you will be able to remove your anode rod even if you do not have much room to do so.
You can buy corded or cordless impact wrenches. While cordless impact wrenches cost more, they are easier to fit into hard-to-reach places. This will make the awkward job of removing your anode rod from a tight space easier.
- 1/2 inch cordless impact wrench has up to 700 ft-lbs of max torque and 1200 ft-lbs of max breakaway torque
- DEWALT 1/2 inch impact wrench has a compact design of 8-13/16-inch in length
- Multi-speed control of the battery-powered impact wrench is made for a variety of applications (0-400/ 1,200/ 1,900 RPM)
- 1/2-inch Anvil with detent pin (also available with hog ring)
- CLASSIC CHOICE: Lightweight and easy to maintain, this impact wrench is a reliable choice for auto hobbyists and professional mechanics alike; It provides dependability and durability at exceptional...
- RELIABLE PERFORMANCE: The 231C Air Impact Wrench delivers a maximum torque of 600 foot-pounds, and offers enough power to install and remove stubborn bolts, lug nuts, and other hardy fasteners
- ADJUSTABLE POWER: Its adjustable power regulator lets you easily adjust power output needed for your task at hand; The twin hammer mechanism helps ensure efficient performance with impressive...
- COMFORT + CONTROL: At 7.3 inches in length and weighing only 5.8 pounds, it’s compact, ergonomic design minimizes stress on your wrists and hands; The contoured handle makes it easy to carry and...
Less Physically Demanding
Removing an anode rod with an impact wrench does not require much effort in comparison to removing it with a breaker bar, which relies on some level of physical exertion. While you may be able to get the job done over an extended period with a breaker bar, an impact wrench will speed up the process and allow you to exert less effort.
Air or Electric Impact Wrench for Anode Rod Removal?
When choosing what impact wrench to use to remove your anode rod, you two main options. There are air-powered and electric-powered impact wrenches, and both have their upsides and downsides.
Electric is Preferred
Using electric in this case is preferred because electric offers a cordless options. This means you will be able to fit into tight spaces. Even with a corded variety, the cord will be thinner and less clunky than the hose from an air impact wrench.
The main downside of using an electrically powered impact wrench is that it will usually be slightly less powerful than an air variety. However, for the purpose of removing an anode rod, electric should be able to get the job done, so this is likely not of much concern.
Downsides of Using Air
Using air comes with a few notable downsides, which I will list here.
- Convenience – If you decide to use an air impact wrench to remove your anode rod, that means hauling an air compressor down to your basement if it is not already down there. Additionally, there will be a hose running from your air compressor to the impact wrench which can be clunky and annoying.
- Noise Level – Most air compressors are pretty noisy when running, which can be a nuisance for you and whoever is in your house while operating your impact wrench.
If you have an air compressor stationed in your basement and prefer the extra power an air impact wrench provides, the DP Dynamic Power 1/2″ Impact Wrench (amazon link) remains affordable while getting the job done. This wrench boasts 480 ft lb of torque, plenty to beat just about any nut.
For the best overall option, try the M12 Fuel Stubby 1/2″ Impact Wrench (amazon link). This wrench is incredibly compact and cordless, making it great for getting in tight spaces. It also boasts a 250 ft lb of torque, and it has 4 different speed settings so you can set it on a lower speed to remove the nut.
What Size Impact Wrench Socket for Anode Rod?
You will more than likely need a ½” impact wrench with a 1 1/6″socket. Some wrenches come with socket sets, but you can also purchase these separately. Consult with your water heater’s user guide to make sure this size will work, but it is the standard, so it should.
You must make certain that the impact wrench you purchase is a 6-point rather than a 12-point socket so that your socket doesn’t end up damaging the nut itself.
Tips for Using Impact Wrench for Anode Rod
There are a few considerations when removing an anode rod with an impact wrench that will help the process go smoother. Some of these were derived from the YouTube video below, which shows the process of removing a stuck anode rod with an impact wrench in detail.
Wear Safety Gear
You will want to be properly protected from any debris that may come from the anode rod as you work at it. The impact wrench may shake off some rust and impacted material into the air, which could get into your eyes if you are not protected.
Safety glasses and gloves are recommended for this reason. It doesn’t cost much to be properly protected, and you can find all you need on Amazon.
- Scotchgard anti-fog coating has an active ingredient that bonds to the lenses to help keep them clear longer than regular coatings, based on 3M internal testing
- Designed for challenging situations such as hot and humid conditions, indoor and outdoor work, physically demanding tasks, and climate-controlled areas.
- COMFORT: Low profile protective eyewear provides soft nose bridge and padded temples for added comfort
- ANSI Z87: Meets the High Impact Requirements of CSA Z94.3-2007 and the High Impact Requirements of ANSI Z87.1-2020.
- DEWALT tough Coat hard coated lens provides tough protection against scratches
- DEWALT Xtra clear anti-fog lens coating provides tough protection against fogging
- Soft, dual injected rubber conforms to the face to provide a high level protection from dust and debris
- Adjustable, elastic cloth head strap provides a comfortable fit
- HIGH PERFORMANCE TASK SPECIFIC WORK GLOVE - The number one selling Ironclad work glove
- HAND SAFETY - Thermoplastic rubber knuckle protection provides impact and abrasion protection across the knuckles
- SECURE FIT - Adjustable Hook and Loop Closure provides a secure custom fit for ideal performance
- SWEAT MANAGEMENT FEATURE - Terry cloth sweat wipe conveniently located on the back of the thumb allows you to stay focused on the job at hand with one wipe of the brow
In the safety vein, you also need to ensure that your water and electricity are disconnected from your water heater before you begin the process of removing your anode rod. This is very important. Make sure to turn the breaker box off before you begin and drain your water heater with a hose except for a small amount of water to stabilize the heater while you work on it.
Secure the Water Heater When Using Impact Wrench
Since impact wrenches are so powerful, they may end up shaking the entire water heater if you do not have it secured properly. One way to stabilize the water heater is to keep a small amount of water inside while you work on it.
Make sure your water heater is properly mounted using mounting brackets to secure it to the wall or floor. It should be secure enough that there is no movement when you try to shake it. If it seems too loose or you do not have brackets holding it in place, you can purchase them here (amazon link) or tighten the ones you already have.
Only Use Impact Wrench to Loosen Bolt
An impact wrench should be used in short pulses to slowly loosen the nut that fastens your anode rod. If it is used on full blast, it may damage the anode rod or the nut the fastens it. You will want to pulse the impact wrench just enough to get the nut loose and then remove it the rest of the way with a less powerful tool.
Removing the nut the full way with the impact wrench could also cause the nut to fly off too fast. You will want to be able to control the speed, and once you have the nut loosened with the impact wrench, you should be able to do the rest with a breaker bar or socket wrench.
A breaker bar is a long bar attached to a socket that you crank to remove a nut from a bolt. This has some power behind it, while a socket wrench is about as powerful as the user. Which one of these is best for this job depends on how far you have removed the nut already.
Anode Might Break
If the anode rod is fully used up and corroded when you are removing it, parts of it may break off into the water heater. This creates a hassle as it means you must do a few flushes of the tank to get the pieces out.
If the pieces are too large to remove by flushing the system, you should try to fish them out by hand (only once the water is cooled or emptied!) or with rope or wire. Just make sure not to damage the interior of the tank in the process. However, if you are not able to fish out the pieces of rod, they should not damage the tank and they will deteriorate over time if left in the tank.
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