When you say you can get into a kernel as root do you mean:
1) you are using a boot disk of some sort to mount the disk where the install is locate
2) you are using runlevel 1 to get root without a password at reboot or
3) you are able to log in as root with your standard root password but can't log in as a normal user any more?
We can help you better if you explain how you are getting root.