Too weak to apply the force required to turn a stuck valve


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Old 12-25-17, 05:52 PM
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Too weak to apply the force required to turn a stuck valve

Hi! I have what I hope is an easily resolved problem-- I need to turn a cold water valve in the basement and it's too difficult for me to turn (I have a bad back which prevents me from exerting my normal force). It' s a standard circular faucet valve that you would have in a basement for the water or for the heating system for that matter. I have the same type valve outside, to turn the water on for a garden hose: Here's the type I mean:

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Anyway, I assume that the solution involves using the lever principle-- increasing the turning radius from the inch or two it is presently, to perhaps six inches. My impulse is to try to use a screwdriver to accomplish that, but I just wanted to hear from DIY people to make sure there's no better way, and also to give me tips on how to do it-- exactly where and how do I insert the screwdriver (or whatever tool you guys recommend) to avoid breaking either the screwdriver or, especially, the valve!
 

Last edited by PJmax; 12-25-17 at 06:22 PM. Reason: added pic from link
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Old 12-25-17, 06:13 PM
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Use a pipe wrench or an adjustable water pump pliers.
 
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Old 12-25-17, 06:25 PM
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It shouldn't need to much force to operate. If it's fairly old it may be tight.
X left you a few tools to try. You do want to go gently so as not to break the handle off.
 
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Old 12-25-17, 06:33 PM
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Take 2 machine screws that will fit through the holes in the handle. Only need to be about 1 1/2" long. Thread a nut on each one about 1/2" up. Insert the screws in opposing holes and thread another nut on. Snug the nut's/screws so you have 2 screws sticking up about 1" above the handle directly opposite each other. Use any lever you like to turn the handle by inserting it between the screws.

If the back thing is going to be an ongoing issue, you could easily make a portable adjustable wrench with common materials. Basically you want an oversized watch case opener wrench or adj face pin spanner wrench. Kind of expensive to buy, but a simple alternative could be made with wood or bar stock and machine screws and nuts.

Heck, they probably already make something like this for folks with bad backs or limited mobility.
 

Last edited by Gunguy45; 12-25-17 at 10:17 PM.
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Old 12-25-17, 07:50 PM
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A quick additional question: I seem to remember bad things happening (in my childhood) when valves were opened up, things involving violent blasts of air being driven out of the pipes by the restored flow of water. So I was thinking of first turning on the faucet in the bathroom just a little, and then going down to the basement and turning on the valve there (assuming I’m able to turn it!) very slowly. Is that the right way to go about it?
 
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Old 12-25-17, 08:05 PM
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Yes..... you could do that. It certainly couldn't hurt.
 
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Old 12-26-17, 03:45 AM
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If that valve has not been turned in a while, expect possible leaking both in the washer area and the stem.

Rule of thumb...All valves should be turn all the way off, then all the on then backed off about a quarter turn. Do this about 4 to 5 times a year and you'll never have a bad valve that leaks or hard to turn.
 
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Old 12-26-17, 07:08 AM
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I think these are what X is referring to:

https://images.search.yahoo.com/sear...g&action=click
 
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Old 12-26-17, 06:12 PM
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Gunguy45says, "Take 2 machine screws that will fit through the holes in the handle. Only need to be about 1 1/2" long. Thread a nut on each one about 1/2" up. Insert the screws in opposing holes and thread another nut on. Snug the nut's/screws so you have 2 screws sticking up about 1" above the handle directly opposite each other. Use any lever you like to turn the handle by inserting it between the screws."

A splendid remedy, gunguy45 (I get the feeling 'splendid' isn't a word used much around here, but your remedy deserves it!): Straightforward in conception, simple in execution...and cheap! What could be better???? After purchasing the necessary machine screws and nuts (yes, I didn't have them already: I never claimed to be a DIY, just an admirer of those who are!) I followed your perfectly laid-out assembly instructions to the letter and didn't even drop a nut on the floor and watch it skitter away somewhere under the pool table during the construction process (as would normally happen!). No, everything went flawlessly!

Except it didn't work. I used the longest sturdy piece of metal I had-- a long wrench-- for my lever arm and exerted as much force as my back would permit, and I didn't budge it. And I also got the sense that the valve would break before it ever turned.

Tomorrow I'm having two guys at my house to do some non-plumbing work, and one of them is young and strong-- and with a perfect back-- so I'm going to have him try it, first just with his hand, and then using your method gunguy45.

But assuming he fails, is there some other, more 'out-there' scheme that you can think of? Judging by how stuck it feels (as stuck as anything ever gets!), I think instead of the lever principle, we may need something just this side of quantum entanglement to get this baby turning!
​ ​
 
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Old 12-26-17, 06:37 PM
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First loosen the "packing nut" the hexagon shaped piece immediately below the handwheel. Then try to turn the valve in the opposite direction from what you have been trying. You didn't state whether you were trying to open or close the valve and it is possible you have been trying the wrong direction.
 
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Old 12-26-17, 07:23 PM
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Furd, the valve is closed now (no water comes out of the cold-water tap in that bathroom) and I've been trying to turn it counter-clockwise. Are you sure the next move is to loosen the packing nut? And why are you saying to turn the valve in the opposite direction (i.e. clockwise), after loosening the packing nut? Are you saying that only because you think I've been turning it in the wrong direction?

Can someone confirm that what Furd is recommending is the correct way to proceed?
 
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Old 12-26-17, 07:45 PM
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loosen the packing nut and try to loosen the stem from the body. turn it counter clockwise. Furd thought maybe you might be trying turn the wrong way.
 
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Old 12-26-17, 07:52 PM
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If someone is coming tomorrow don't worry about it. I'm sure they will be able to turn it for you. This isn't rocket science.
 
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Old 12-26-17, 08:08 PM
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I didn't know if you were trying to open or close the valve. Sometimes it works to try to move the handle the opposite way even though it is backwards. Loosening the packing nut helps IF the nut has been turned down too tight and is gripping the stem.

Sometimes the valve is so thoroughly jammed, either open or closed, that it will break before moving. This is especially true of gate valves. Be sure you know where the main shut-off is before really horsing on the stuck valve.
 
 

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