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Our gas-fired 60 gallon Rheem performance water heaters is just about 10 years old. I've never replaced the anode because I'm an idiot and didn't realize that needed doing until recently.

Should I bother trying to do that now? Or is the risk of an uber-rusty tank interior and inability to fit a new one too high? I also worry about the potential that the decade-old one just won't budge. I've seen plenty of videos of people wrestling with these.

For what it's worth, I have no obvious symptoms of rust at this point. I fill a tub with water and it's not even yellowish. (Looked bluish more than anything.) I don't get detectable rotten egg smell. Water heater heats well, cycles well. (It makes the water so hot we've always got it set at the lowest setting, just above "hot.") There's no visible corrosion at any of the fittings or underneath.

I'd suspect it's plenty rusted in there, but no idea how to check how much. We have pretty hard water, so it's probably scaly too.

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  • If you opt for "well enough alone" do some pre-shopping around and start sinking money into "the next water heater" fund.
    – Ecnerwal
    Jan 30 at 15:58
  • @Ecnerwal would it be risky to test to see if the anode bolt was too tight to remove? If he would get it moving would it leak at the threads until a new one was properly installed? Can there be a clearance problem if the existing anode still has some length to it? Should he get a solid anode rod or one of the chained ones that can be fed in at an angle? What is the recommended thread sealer for a replacement anode rod? Jan 30 at 16:04
  • So you are saying you have low clearance over the water heater? Jan 30 at 16:30
  • about 3' to the ceiling, 15 inches until I'm into the exhaust (it bends right over the anode)... That, at least, I could disassemble
    – user122950
    Jan 30 at 16:35
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    Please edit you question to provide extra information. Comments can get deleted. Jan 30 at 23:31

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So long as the anode has material remaining, there should not be any rusting to speak of. Rusting starts when the anode runs out of material. Changing the anode provides new material to continue stopping rust, or you pull the anode out and half of it's still there, so you can put it back in and check back in 5 years.

Depends on your water...

As for doing it .vs. leaving it to eventually rust the tank out and have to replace it in a hurry, that's entirely your call. If it won't budge, you can decide to retreat, or you can use a bigger wrench, or you can call a plumber...

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  • What kind of thread sealer do you recommend for the new anode rod or a reinserted old rod? Jan 30 at 16:33
  • Mikey pipes has some good youtube anode replacement videos. He uses a 1 1/8" socket on a breaker bar. uses pipe dope to seal. I am going to look into powered anode - corroprotec - when I get around to doing mine. Jan 30 at 17:44