By AJ Danboise

Water heaters can last a long time, but not without developing some problems along the way. Often, you can tell something isn’t quite right by strange sounds or if the water is too hot or too cold.

In many cases, you can fix common water heating problems yourself. If, however, you have a leaking tank, a professional repair or replacement is in order.

Water Heater Troubleshooting

Leaking Tank

If you notice water pooling around your water heater, this is a clear sign that a replacement is in order. Many times, corrosion is to blame. If your water heater is corroded, it’s time to start thinking about a water heater replacement. Consider a tankless water heater since it doesn’t utilize a storage tank and thus avoids this corrosion problem.

Poor plumbing may also be to blame. The fix may be as simple as tightening or replacing the pipes carrying water to your storage tank. So, before you think about replacing your water heater, contact a professional plumber for a full diagnosis.

Do not ignore a water heater leak, even if you think that it is very minor. Small problems can lead to much bigger issues if they go unaddressed for too long. Make sure that this is not the case with your water heater.

Water Isn’t Hot

If you turn on the hot water and it’s lukewarm or cold, one or more of the following conditions could exist:

  • All the hot water in the tank has been used up. It takes time to recover from a full bath or washing cycle. If this happens a lot, consider investing in a larger tank or a tankless water heater, which can provide limitless hot water supply. Contact a professional plumber for proper water heater sizing.
  • The thermostat has been lowered, switched off, or damaged. Turn the thermostat on, and up to around 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything hotter and the water can cause burns.

If turning up the thermostat doesn’t lead to more hot water, you may need a professional plumber to replace the thermostat assembly.


You will notice a drain valve near the bottom half of the tank. This is used to drain the water heater of accumulated sediment (dirt and mineral deposits). It’s important to drain your water heater at least two times a year.

Sediment buildup reduces the water heater’s efficiency and lifespan. If you are experiencing higher than normal water heating bills, it could be a signal to drain your water heater and schedule a professional plumbing inspection.

Pilot Light Is Out

Your water heater should come with instructions for lighting the pilot. If you don’t have the owner’s handbook, you can probably find an online version. Never attempt any water heater repairs or replacements on your own. If ever in doubt, contact a professional plumber.

Thermocouple Issues

The thermocouple’s job is to shut off the gas flow if there is not enough heat from the pilot light (such as when it is out). This prevents gas flowing into the home.

If your pilot light goes out, the thermocouple will shut off the gas. If you relight the pilot light, but the water heater still isn’t working, you may have a broken thermocouple.

Rumbling Water Heater

Some common causes of a rumbling furnace are:

  • Mineral deposits and sediment that gather at the bottom of your tank can cause rumbling sounds when heated up. Mineral and sediment buildup is worse in homes with hard water. One potential solution is draining the tank of sediment. To help slow down this process, consider investing in a water treatment system.
  • A leaking or malfunctioning dip tube could be releasing cold water into hot water, causing a rumbling sound. Cold water from your main should enter the tank at the bottom, not the top. If cold water gets deposited at any other point than the bottom, a rumbling sound could emerge from the mixing with hot water.
  • An old water heater will start to make strange sounds, regardless of how often you drain it of sediment. If your water heater is over 10 years old and rumbling, contact a professional right away before it starts leaking.
  • A worn down anode rod can lead to tank line corrosion. Sacrificial anode rods last around 3-5 years. If you hear loud or multiple popping sounds when heating up, you may need to replace the anode rod.

Pressure Relief Valve

You water heater should have a temperature and pressure relief valve at the top of the tank. The relief valve allows pressure and steam to escape the tank in the case of a malfunction or pressure buildup.

The relief valve acts as a safety mechanism. It is designed to discharge if:

  • Internal pressure exceeds 150 psi.
  • Temperature exceeds 210 degrees Fahrenheit.

These situations are very dangerous, which is why the pressure relief valve is there to prevent an explosion. If you notice your relief valve going off frequently, shut off your water heater and contact your utility company. To make sure your pressure relief valve is working properly, it’s a good idea to test it about once a year.

To test the temperature-pressure relief valve, simply place a bucket underneath and lift the handle until hot water drains out of the discharge tube (about 5 seconds). Wear close-toed shoes and stand back to avoid contact with hot water. If no hot water drains out or if leaks after snapping back, contact a professional. You’ll need to replace the valve. It’s the only thing protecting your water heater from exploding.

Warning: Never cover the pressure temperature relief valve, especially for those using a water insulation blanket.

A working water heater is critical to your home. You use it every day for bathing, washing dishes, laundry, and other uses. When your water heater stops working, it can cause serious problems and inconveniences.

Water heaters should be inspected by a professional every year to make sure they are safe and efficient for years to come.

If you have any questions about your water heater or are ready to schedule professional service, don’t hesitate to contact the professionals at AJ Danboise Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electrical. Our expert technicians are available 24/7 and work on all water heater models and types.

Contact us today for expert water heater troubleshooting and repair in Farmington Hills, MI and the surrounding area.

For all your plumbing, heating, cooling and electrical needs, you can count on AJ Danboise Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electrical! Schedule service online or by giving us a call at (248) 477-3626.

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