How to Replace a Water Heater Coil

  • 1-2 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 75-120
What You'll Need
Plumbers wrench
2 Heating coil
2 "O" rings
What You'll Need
Plumbers wrench
2 Heating coil
2 "O" rings

When the water heater coil goes out the water doesn’t heat up in the hot water heater and you are left with a cold shower. You could call a professional, but it is relatively easy to replace the coils yourself using some simple household tools and a few inexpensive replacement parts. Be sure to write down the brand and model of your hot water heater and take it to the hardware store with you so that you get the correct replacement parts.

Step 1 – Safety First

Shut off the power to the water heater at the breaker box. Turn off the water valve to the water heater. If there is no individual shut off valve, then turn off the main water line valve.

Step 2 – Drain the Water Heater

Drain the water out of the heater by pulling out the drain plug. Have a bucket handy to catch the water.

Step 3 – Remove the Panel

Take off the panel covering the upper heater coil. Now remove the leads on the coil.

Step 4 – Take out the Coil

Use a plumber’s wrench to unscrew the water heater coil. Turn it in a counterclockwise direction.

Step 5 – Remove the "O" ring

Now take out the "O" ring and inspect it. Even if it looks like it has not deteriorated these are inexpensive and so it is a good idea to replace it anyway.

Step 6 – Install the New Coil

Put in the new "O" ring and then using the wrench twist the new coil on clockwise. Hook up the leads to the new coil.

Step 7 – Replace the Cover

Now replace the cover that goes over the upper heating coil being sure it is well secured.

Step 8 – Remove the Lower Heating Coil

If you have a dual coil water heat (all but small water heaters are usually dual coils), then move down to the lower heating coil. Take off the plate over the lower heating coil. Remove the electrical leads attached to the heating coil. Remove the coil by twisting it off counterclockwise.

Step 9 – Replace the Heating Coil

Put in a new O-ring before the new heating coil. Replace the heating coil twisting it on with a wrench. Hook up the electrical leads and replace the panel over the lower heating element.

Step 10 – Turn on the Water and Power

Now turn the water back on so it can fill the water heater by opening the shut off valve. Vent air from heater by opening hot faucet near heater until water runs out. Once this is done go to the breaker box and turn back on the breaker that powers the hot water heater.

Step 11 – Test the Water Heater

Wait for about 30 minutes. Then turn on the hot water in a faucet in the house and let it run. Test the temperature of the water on your wrist. Make any adjustments necessary on the water heater.

Repairing the water heater yourself saves you from paying a plumber’s bill. But it also gives you more plumbing experience so that you have the confidence to tackle other household plumbing projects.