Removing a stuck water heater element can be a tedious task. The water heater element threads into the water heater like a screw. You really only have two options when the heating element is stuck. The heating element has flat sides that a socket will fit over. Most of the time, using a heavy-duty socket wrench will remove the stuck element. If that does not work, you may have to drill some holes in the heating element. Before you begin any work to remove a stuck water heater element, you should already have the water heater empty of water and the power turned off. If not, do so before going any further.
Place the 1 1/16-inch socket over the head of the stuck water heater element. Use only a 6-point socket, because a 12-point socket will not grab the flats on the head securely.
Secure the ratchet to the socket with the handle pointing to your left.
Hold the socket securely with one hand. Tap the handle of the ratchet with a hammer. This will usually take several taps, but the stuck heating element will begin to turn.
Continue using the socket wrench to turn the water heater element counterclockwise until you can pull the element from the water heater.
Remove the terminal screws completely from the stuck water heater element. Drill ¼-inch holes where the terminal screws came out of the heating element. Drill the holes deep enough to securely insert two 16-penny nails.
Insert a nail into each hole, leaving enough of the nail out to match the width of a crowbar.
Insert a crowbar between the nails. Use the nails to turn the water heater element counterclockwise. The crowbar will use the nails as leverage while you use the crowbar as a handle to turn the stuck heating element.
A 3/4-inch drive electric impact wrench can be used when using the socket method, but you do not want to twist the element head off. If you use an impact wrench, just hit the trigger quick and release. Do not hold the trigger as you could twist the heating element head off, leaving most of it in the water heater.