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Water Heater Nipple Stuck


water heater nipple snappedIf you’ve ever been working on a water heater and one of the nipples won’t budge, you know it can cause panic. Generally, try some penetrating oil, get a larger wrench or use a cheater bar to extend the levering action. This may cause the nipple to snap off which will make anyone weak-kneed.

It may look bleak seeing the broken nipple lodged in the water heater, but there are ways to remove it. There are nipple extractors, but I like to use a combination of tools to remove the broken nipple.

Take a hacksaw blade out of the frame so that you are holding just the blade. It usually won’t cut you, but use it carefully anyway. Some heavy gloves will help grip it and protect your hands. You are going to place the blade into the middle of the nipple and cut from the inside of the nipple towards the threads on the outside of the nipple. You must take great care NOT to cut through the threads. The goal here is simply to weaken the wall of the nipple so that you can collapse it. Check your cut regularly to make sure you don’t hit the threads. Once you have cut to a depth you feel comfortable with, use a chisel and hammer and hit the edge of the nipple inward at the point where you made the cut. This is the weakest part of the nipple. As you tap on the nipple you will see it cave inward along the cut line. Continue this until you can grab the metal and twist it out, or just keep hitting the nipple along the perimeter of the opening until it is weak enough that you can pull it out.


I won't say it worked like a charm, but I eventually got the nipple out. I tried cutting in 4 differnt places and carefully tapping with the chisel - no joy, it just kept breaking off small pieces. Finally, I just said well maybe I'll have to rent a 3/4 in tap and stuck the chisel (a modified nail set) in the biggest crack and whacked it. Buggered up a couple of threads at the top, but it did come out and the new nipple will thread in. For the hacksaw, I wrapped the top in a paper bag, then duct tape for a handle - worked pretty good.  
Posted @ Friday, February 08, 2013 3:55 PM by John
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