Water heater drain spigot - Fiberglass RV



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Old 06-22-2019, 12:38 PM   #1
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Name: Steve and Rosemary
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Water heater drain spigot

I was going to flush out our water heater on our relatively new-to-us Bigfoot 5er since we didn't use it last year (the water heater, not the Bigfoot). However, one of the previous owners put a small hose spigot with a ball shut-off valve in the drain plug (instead of a plug or rod) and I think the two metals have made it seize. Any advice on how to break the seal without ruining the water heater?

I'll try to post photos later today, but suffice it to say, there isn't a lot of room for leverage. I'm wondering if there are chemicals of some kind that can help loosen the corrosion (if that's what it is) on the threads.

Thanks!
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LUCINDA 1989 Bigfoot 5th Wheel | Steve, Rosemary, Maude Pod & Tripawd Hope
'Glass trips: Moab 03/10 * The Swell 5/26/11 * Antelope Island 12/21/11 * Strawberry Res 6/12 * Whitney Res 6/14 * Uintahs 7/15 * East Fork of Black's 6/16 * St Mary-Ennis-Lava 6/18
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Old 06-22-2019, 12:58 PM   #2
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No chemicals, like penetrating oils, will be able to get into the threads past the pipe dope that was used for sealant. The best thing is to come up with a some kind of a wrench to get ahold of the bib and force it to turn. This might be a pipe wrench or a large pair of Knipex slip joint pliers. Don't worry about saving the hose bib. You might have to take the burner out to get a better grip on it.
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Old 06-22-2019, 01:07 PM   #3
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Someone had posted comparison results of various penetrating oils, and the winner was a 50:50 mix of Acetone & ATF. Let us know of your results.
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Old 06-22-2019, 01:11 PM   #4
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Perhaps a temperature change might help. Either run it and then try, or use a heat gun. Maybe if you use the heater for a while to get it warmed up, then run water till its cold through the valve. But be very careful of hot water and pressure!
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Old 06-22-2019, 01:43 PM   #5
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Name: Jack L
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Most water heater tanks are aluminum and if someone put a brass valve into aluminum you have a difficult situation at best. Aluminum and brass react very badly when combined. Stainless steel and aluminum get along well so if you can get the old valve out it would be best to replace it with stainless. Another way to deal with a situation like this would be a stainless steel reducing bushing into the tank threads and then a brass valve into the stainless bushing. The bushing acts as a barrier between the brass and aluminum.. As far as getting the old valve out and reusing the tank, cutting the old valve off, drilling out the remainder of the valve that is still in the tank, and rethreading the tank would be one possibility. I would apply heat to the brass valve first, but that might not help. Hopefully you will not have to be purchasing a new water heater.
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Old 06-22-2019, 02:10 PM   #6
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Stainless and aluminum don't get along very well either. This has caused lot of problems around boats.

Often, pipe fittings are hard to get apart just because they were overtightened or because a poor type of sealant was used and it has glued the fittings together. Whatever the reason, you just have to apply enough torque to break it loose, and then it will come out

If you want to retain a hose bib as the water heater drain, and you don't like the one you have, get a plastic one. These are common on household water heaters and can easily be found at hardware stores as replacements. Some RV water heater have plastic plugs in the drain port. You can get threaded plastic plugs at the hardware store, but probably only PVC ones. These are not good at hold the pressure under the heat of the water heater and should not be used.

I don't see why you can't flush the water heater with the existing hose bib. I put a brass one in a trailer I had and used it for that for years. It was brass and I never had any problem. In the winter I left it open to winterize. At the beginning of the next season I would hook up to city water and let the open bib blast for a while before closing it.
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Old 06-22-2019, 03:35 PM   #7
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Hi all,

Thanks everyone for the tips and advice. I have attached some photos (hopefully) in the event that they help. I'm not sure what material the spigot is made of but it looks like there's some green build up on it which would indicate copper to me. Would that be right?

Last fall, I tried heating the spigot up with a hair dryer but was unsuccessful. A heat gun would be better, of course, but I was worried about damaging something else. Is there anything there that I can damage with a heat gun?

As far as flushing goes, I am able to flush the water out, but I'm concerned that there's a bunch of mineral deposit stacked up in the bottom of it. I wanted to be able to insert something so as to squirt some of that sediment out.

Lastly, I don't feel like a spigot such as this is necessary so I was going to get a plastic plug to replace it. That said, maybe a plastic spigot would be a good alternative.
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20190622_134932.jpg   20190622_134946.jpg  

20190622_135003.jpg  
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LUCINDA 1989 Bigfoot 5th Wheel | Steve, Rosemary, Maude Pod & Tripawd Hope
'Glass trips: Moab 03/10 * The Swell 5/26/11 * Antelope Island 12/21/11 * Strawberry Res 6/12 * Whitney Res 6/14 * Uintahs 7/15 * East Fork of Black's 6/16 * St Mary-Ennis-Lava 6/18
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Old 06-22-2019, 03:57 PM   #8
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The fitting screwed into the tank is copper.

Since you can't unscrew it the way it is, cut off the copper pipe just outside of the copper male adapter that is screwed into the tank. Then reach in with a socket and fit it onto the male adapter. Then fit an extension and ratchet or breaker bar, and break the fitting loose. I 1/2" drive breaker bar and 6" extension would be perfect and will remove it.

The pipe can be cut with either a plumbers hacksaw (the kind without the loop handle that clamps the blade to a handle, or with a dremel tool.

After draining the tank, you might be able to heat the valve with a soldering torch, while holding it with pliers, and slip it off the copper pipe. Then reach in with a deep socket to get on the male adapter.

Or just leave it as it is. But you cannot pass a wire through that kind of valve. And if a large piece of sediment gets to the valve, it will clog. Too bad it's not a ball valve.

BTW, a heat gun is not going to help you here.

If you want to be rude about it, just grab that valve with a pipe wrench or large channel lock pliers and twist it until the pipe breaks. It will either unscrew or it will break off and allow the socket to go on the fitting. Quick, no torch or saw needed.
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Old 06-22-2019, 03:59 PM   #9
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Success!

A few moments after posting the photos, I decided to go see if I had either of the recommended wrenches (I have a pipe wrench somewhere but it wouldn't have fit anyways. In lieu of finding one or both of them, I opted to use the good old set of vice grips we have.

I clamped them on where you see the number 2 in the attached photo and I was FLOORED that it turned with almost no effort at all. You must realize I fooled around with this thing for a few hours over the course of 2 days last year.

Anyways, I ran into a small blue problem in the form of the handle which was not going to allow me to turn the spigot any more than about 1/4 turn. So, I moved the vice grips over to where you see the number 1 in the photo below. It was a little tricky getting it out, but only about 20 seconds of being smarter than the whole set up.

Then, I was back to the #2 location and a few turns more and I was able to get it out by hand! I'm looking forward to giving this thing the deep clean I know it needs but I might also keep the spigot for the future.

Thanks to everyone for your suggestions. As always, this forum and its members give me the confidence I need to try things out.
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LUCINDA 1989 Bigfoot 5th Wheel | Steve, Rosemary, Maude Pod & Tripawd Hope
'Glass trips: Moab 03/10 * The Swell 5/26/11 * Antelope Island 12/21/11 * Strawberry Res 6/12 * Whitney Res 6/14 * Uintahs 7/15 * East Fork of Black's 6/16 * St Mary-Ennis-Lava 6/18
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Old 06-22-2019, 04:04 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Raspy View Post
The fitting screwed into the tank is copper.

Since you can't unscrew it the way it is, cut off the copper pipe just outside of the copper male adapter that is screwed into the tank. Then reach in with a socket and fit it onto the male adapter. Then fit an extension and ratchet or breaker bar, and break the fitting loose. I 1/2" drive breaker bar and 6" extension would be perfect and will remove it.

The pipe can be cut with either a plumbers hacksaw (the kind without the loop handle that clamps the blade to a handle, or with a dremel tool.

After draining the tank, you might be able to heat the valve with a soldering torch, while holding it with pliers, and slip it off the copper pipe. Then reach in with a deep socket to get on the male adapter.

Or just leave it as it is. I don't see why it is preventing you from flushing the tank.
Thanks for all this info. I'm glad I didn't have to go to these efforts after all, but, for me, it's good to know how I would have had to do it.

As far as flushing goes, I'm able to flush it fine. But, there is a little piece of metal in the spigot that would prevent large pieces of mineral build up to come out. I'm confident that this water heater has a healthy layer of it because even after several flushes over last summer, it still had a very strong rotten egg smell. In order to get it as clean as possible, I want to have the ability to get one of those sediment spray-outer-wand things in there. With this spigot, I'm not able to get the wand into the tank.

Thanks again for your tips and advice!
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LUCINDA 1989 Bigfoot 5th Wheel | Steve, Rosemary, Maude Pod & Tripawd Hope
'Glass trips: Moab 03/10 * The Swell 5/26/11 * Antelope Island 12/21/11 * Strawberry Res 6/12 * Whitney Res 6/14 * Uintahs 7/15 * East Fork of Black's 6/16 * St Mary-Ennis-Lava 6/18
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Old 06-22-2019, 04:19 PM   #11
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Name: Jack L
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That unit probably had a nylon plug from the factory and a previous owner changed it to this valve set up. Clearance is limited, as you have already seen. A Camco 11703 RV water heater drain valve will help with clearance but it still is brass so corrosion issues will still be there.
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Old 06-22-2019, 04:47 PM   #12
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Name: Steve and Rosemary
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Utah
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So, what type of plug do most people use? What are the pros and cons? Should I do a brass Camco plug, a nylon Camco plug, or should I try a plastic hose spigot as recommended earlier? My biggest worry is the inability to get it out when I need to but I'm sure there are issues I haven't yet come across. Our last trailer didn't have a water heater so this is my first experience.

Thanks again, EVERYONE!
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LUCINDA 1989 Bigfoot 5th Wheel | Steve, Rosemary, Maude Pod & Tripawd Hope
'Glass trips: Moab 03/10 * The Swell 5/26/11 * Antelope Island 12/21/11 * Strawberry Res 6/12 * Whitney Res 6/14 * Uintahs 7/15 * East Fork of Black's 6/16 * St Mary-Ennis-Lava 6/18
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Old 06-22-2019, 05:01 PM   #13
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Name: Ed
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Originally Posted by Steve and Rosemary View Post
So, what type of plug do most people use? What are the pros and cons? Should I do a brass Camco plug, a nylon Camco plug, or should I try a plastic hose spigot as recommended earlier? My biggest worry is the inability to get it out when I need to but I'm sure there are issues I haven't yet come across. Our last trailer didn't have a water heater so this is my first experience.

Thanks again, EVERYONE!
Your basic, inexpensive nylon plug. Does the job and doesnít react with any metal. Just be careful getting it started so you donít cross-thread it.
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Old 06-22-2019, 05:04 PM   #14
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A nylon plug will eliminate any issues of corrosion. Every plastic valve I've seen from Camco is listed as plastic, not nylon and is shown as a drain valve replacement for fresh water tanks. I would be concerned about using it for hot water under pressure.
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