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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Broken Drain Plug Removal

The head of the nylon drain plug on my water heater broke off while removing it to drain my Atwood water heater. Is there a trick to removing the remainder of the plug without damaging the threads? Hopefully I'm not the first person to ever experience this. Any ideas?
Les, (White House, TN)

I have seen this problem before Les, so you’re not the only one! And it’s basically caused by someone tightening that plastic plug a little too tight and possibly using an incorrect sealant on the threads. Over time, exposure to the heated water has caused it to be nigh impossible to easily remove. Another factor is that exposure to UV radiation degrades all plastics making them brittle and more prone to breakage. If the head is totally broken off, you’ll have to drill a hole through the center of the plug and use a tool commonly called an “easy-out” to remove the plug (see photo). Also called a screw extractor, easy-outs are available at any hardware store and come in various diameters. You’ll want one about half the diameter of the plug; the larger the easy-out, the less force is required to back the broken plug out. The flutes on the easy-out are “left hand” in that when tapped into the hole in the plug, they will grip and embed themselves into the edges of the drilled hole. You can then easily use an adjustable wrench or socket to remove the plug. After removing the remnant of the plug, turning the easy-out in the opposite direction while holding the plug will cause it to release its grasp. Using an easy-out will also keep you clear of the soft aluminum female threads on the inner tank of the water heater. Clean any left-over sealant from the drain opening threads and install a new brass plug. Be sure to use a fresh water approved sealant on the male threads of the new plug…..and don’t over-tighten!


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