Ruud-Marathon heating element doesn't work

by Valerie

I have an electric water heater, Ruud, Marathon 50-gallon, that doesn't work. Friend of my told my that the problem might be with the heating element. I don't know anything about water heating and before I ask him to check or replace the element I want to be sure that we are doing the right thing. What are the symptoms when the heating element doesn't work? Is it hard to replace it? Is it dangerous? Do we need any special tools? Is it expensive?


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Jun 02, 2010
How to fix heating element on Ruud
by: Mark

Your electric Ruud Marathon water heater is using two heating elements; lower and upper element.

The upper heating element is thermally fused to protect it against dry-firing. The bottom one is usually subjected to the lime build-up and that is why it has the stainless steel incoloy.

Changing the heating elements is not a big deal as long as the power is off. Both heating elements are screw in immersion type. Use the standard 1 1/2" hex socket wrench to unscrew the elements.

Depends on the quality and the manufacturer, you can buy simple heating elements from $10 up. I am not sure about stainless steel and the upper thermally fused.

Here are the reasons why your heating element might got bad:

The bottom heating element is subjected to the lime or scale build up, and that depends on the water hardness. As the heating element is covered with the scale, the scale acts as the insulator so heat is no longer transferred to the water as without deposits. In order to prevent the element failure proper maintenance is recommended at least once a year.

I am not sure do you still have the upper heating element factory installed. My concern is, if the heating element is standard type you might have a dry-fired heating element. The element has to be submerged in water and if not it will be damaged due to the high temperature. You have to buy a new element as this one cannot be repaired. This is why the recommendation is to have the water heater tank always full before you turn the power ON.

Another reasons for heating element failure are the voltage surge or mechanical stress on the tank.

Testing the heating element on any water heater is easy. The goal is to check for an open or grounded heating element.

This is how:

- When working on your Ruud water heater always turn the power off.

- Use the multimeter to double-check is the power off.

- Remove the wires from the heating element terminals.

- Take the probes of the OHM meter and put it on both screw terminals. If there is no resistance the heating element is "open" and it has to be replaced.

To check is the heating element grounded put one test probe on the screw terminal and the other on the steel inner tank. If the OHM meter shows the resistance water heater heating element is grounded and has to be replaced.

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