warning signs hot water heater going out
Kristina Davis

Are you aware of the different warning signs hot water heater going out?

This information is crucial and knowing it can keep you prepared for whatever nuisance your hot water tank might give you.

So, I worked up and tried to scour the web for the most obvious signs that your hot water tank is failing.

The most common signs that your water heater is failing to include tank water leakage, inconsistency in water temperature, noises emanating from the heater, natural wear and tear (age), and lower water pressure.

Why Do Hot Water Tanks or Heaters Fail?

why water heater fail

Before discussing the warning signs, let me first go over some of the culprits responsible for the failure of your water heater.

The most common ones include, but are not limited to:


Probably the first and most common factor why gas hot water tanks fail is because of their age.

Most manufacturers put a sticker or a label on their machines to let users know when it was installed.

What if it doesn’t have the sticker?

Simple – go online and type in the manufacturer along with the serial number.

That should tell you the date when it was manufactured.

The typical lifespan or life expectancy of gas hot water heaters would be about a decade (10 years). 

To give you a more approximate range, it works well between 6 and 13 years, with, of course, proper care and maintenance.


the rust

Rust inside the water heater is the number one cause of discoloration or odd colors of the water coming out of your showers, faucets, and bidets.

And yes, stainless steel can rust up and oxidize, too. Don’t worry, though, this won’t happen for years!

However, you need to take note of this because most people think that just because it’s made up of stainless steel, it’s already going to be safe from any type of rust.

Loose Parts and Components

If you know some electrical machinery and equipment, then you should have the idea that if there are loose parts, there’ll be trouble.

loose parts

Check everything from nuts and bolts to the assembly and heating elements and see if there are any loose connections.

Most of the time, loose parts and components will be evident because you might hear noises when it’s vibrating, as well as inactivity in certain components and functionalities.

Broken Thermostat

Thermostats are among the most important components in a gas hot water heater.

So, you will know that it’s broken because of uneven or inconsistent temperatures.

And since the purpose of a water heater is to provide you with hot water, over time, this damage can influence the entire machine, leading to irreversible hot water heater damage.

6 Warning Signs Hot Water Heater Going Out

six warning signs

Hot water heaters are among the most used electrical equipment inside your home.

They’re toggled every day, they’re used hours after hours, and water is involved.

Here are 6 of the most common and widespread warning signs that your water tank is about to go out.

Warning #1: Dirty or Discolored Water

Water odors aren’t normal – and they should never be in your home.

I know the smell of discolored, dirty water when I sense one, and if this is the type of water coming out of your shower or your faucets, then you should be alarmed.

What you have to do in this case is to first find out if the odor or discoloration is because of the heater.

To test it, open both cold and hot water.

If the odor and discoloration are present in both cold and hot water, then it’s most likely not because of your water heater. 

Otherwise, if hot water is only where the discrepancy is, then it is your water heater.

Warning #2: Natural Wear and Tear

wear and tear

Akin to all other machines and equipment, hot water heaters go through the natural wear and tear process, too.

Don’t worry, though; it’s normal!

Even the newest and most advanced models of hot water heaters naturally go through this process.

This is simply because they’re used for a few hours per day. What you need to do is to consider replacing your current water heater with a newer model.

Moreover, if it’s old, chances are, it’s taking up more energy than it should – so it’ll just be right to replace it with a new one.

Warning #3: Leakage From the Water Tank

a leakage

Leakage is never good. In fact, for any household appliance, leaking is part of the subtlest signs that something’s not right.

More often than not, a leaking hot water heater usually means that there is a failure somewhere inside the tank.

If you suspect that the leakage is coming from the water heater:

  1. Turn the gas valve off.
  2. Check that the pipes and tubes are tightly connected/attached to ports.
  3. Inspect other areas and components like screws, connectors, and inlets.

If the leakage is rooting from within the tank, then the only solution is for you to replace your water heater.

Warning #4: Concerning Noises and Sounds Coming From the Heater

noises and sounds

I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear sounds from inside any of my appliances, I immediately conclude that something’s wrong – and most of the time, my hunch is always right.

The sounds you may hear can range from dripping, cracking, popping, and banging to gurgling, whining, and boiling.

Different sounds have different meanings, yes, but I’m sure to tell you that the most dangerous and most concerning of all is when you hear a boiling or gurgling sound.

Oftentimes, the sound would be because of whatever solid component inside the tank. It could be buildup and condensation.

And the reason why I said that hearing boiling sounds are the most concerning is due to the fact that pressure and temperature could build up inside the tank, too.

Contact your local professional immediately when you hear any of these sounds and don’t waste time trying to troubleshoot this issue yourself.

Warning #5: Reduced Water Flow or Lower Water Pressure

reduced water flow

Among the variables always checked when inspecting hot water heaters is the water pressure.

Why? – Because the pressure translates to how the flow of water should be.

If you noticed the water flow degrading or slowing down after a few uses, then there could be scaling or sedimentation within the tank.

What you want to do is first check the pipes and valves to see if the issues are coming from these.

After so, check the tank and inspect it from the inside, Look for scaling or any other type of buildup.

NOTE: Do this at least once a month or once every three weeks if there are more than 5 people living in the household.

Warning #6: Temperature Inconsistency

inconsistency in temperature

Before, I thought that it was weird to wait for a few seconds for the water to get warm.

As it turns out, this is normal – what’s not is if you feel hot water this minute and in the next minute, it’s already too cold.

Fluctuations in water temperature are never near normal. In fact, you could be facing a bigger issue that’s critical and can worsen over time.

In case you’re wondering, the inconsistency in temperature is often caused by bad thermostats or heating elements. In some instances, the thermocouple could be the culprit, too.

Be sure to check all of these out and in case you don’t have experience in doing any of it, contact your local plumber now.

So, this is your complete guide on how to know if your water heater is going out.

the temperature inconsistency

You may or may not be experiencing all of these at once.

But you need to note them all to have a full and better understanding of the further steps you need to take in fixing and resolving the issues.

Final Words

Now that you’re aware of the warning signs hot water heater going out, don’t be surprised if you notice 1, 2, or even more of these, especially if you haven’t been maintaining your equipment well.

Just because you’re experiencing any of these doesn’t mean you have to replace your heater immediately.

Sometimes, it’s resolvable with your own 2 hands without the help of a professional!

On the contrary, if the work is too much or too complex for your understanding, don’t think twice about contacting your professional plumber.

You could be worsening the situation instead of making it better.