drdiy

Removing Stuck Screws / Electric Water Heater Problem

In Removing Stuck Screws, Water Heater Problems on November 28, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Q:

I have a couple of screws I’ve been trying to loosen and remove, but to no avail, the only thing I have accomplished is to damage the head of the screw. I had to hacksaw them out. Any tips for next time?

A:

You need to loosen up! If the slot on the screw is too narrow or worn you may be able to widen and reopen it by using a hacksaw.

Since heat makes metal expand, I’ve had a lot of luck by heating the head of the screws head with the tip of a soldering iron. The screw expands and when it cools back down it loosened up enough to work it free. Applying heat and letting it cool down while working the screw each time may have to be repeated a few times.

Another tip, which usually works, is by lightly hammering an old screwdriver in the slot of the stuck screw. Obviously make sure you hit the screwdriver handle square and evenly. The shock may vibrate the screw enough to loosen it.

Always make sure that the screwdriver tip fits the screw slot perfectly. Too big or too small will strip the slot.

Remove all paint or oil from the screw slot. I usually tap the screwdriver into the slot sideways knocking out the paint.

Once clean, if you can move the screw even a little bit, work it back and forth with the screwdriver, you many be able to break it free. You can get extra leverage by using a square shank screwdriver and a wrench. Put the wrench securely onto the shank, and while holding the screwdriver with one hand and on the obstinate screw, turn with the wrench.

Once a screw has been backed out a few turns but the head is starting to disintegrate, you can grip it with lock-joint pliers and unscrew it the rest of the way by turning with the pliers. Of course you’ll ruin the screw but you’ll accomplish what people are always asking you to do and that is to loosen up.

Finally, there is an excellent, inexpensive product called “Screw-Medic” from Myro, Inc. You will find it at hardware stores. It makes stripped, worn and damaged screws work like new. It works on all types of screws. You just put a drop or two of it onto the screw and somehow (don’t ask me how) it dramatically increases torque. “Screw-Medic” prevents the screwdriver from slipping off those damaged, worn and stuck screws.

Q:

I have an electric water heater but no hot water, what could be the problem? Could it be a blown fuse?

A:

It could very possibly be because of a tripped breaker or blown fuse. It could also be a bad heating element or thermostat. First, if you have no water period, make sure it’s not turned off. Next, check around on the floor under the tank for signs of leaking because that’s always a sign of trouble. Before you get too far into it, look on the data plate and try to determine the age of the tank. If it’s older than ten years, don’t get a sentimental attachment to that hot water tank and don’t spend a lot of money repairing or replacing parts.

If you have an electric heater, check the breaker. If the breaker has tripped, reset it and see whether it trips again. If so, you may have an electrical problem. If the breaker is still open, find out whether there’s no hot water at all or only a limited amount. That’s a sign that the bottom-heating element may be worn out while the top one is still working.

Another quick test you can do is to raise the setting on the thermostat to see whether the heating element comes on. If they don’t, it may mean the thermostat is worn out. Beyond that, it’s best to call a plumber.

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