How to Use an Internal Pipe Wrench

What You'll Need
Internal pipe wrench
Adjustable wrench

Most do-it-yourselfers are not familiar with an internal pipe wrench or a nipple extractor, as it is sometimes called. However, this tool can be indispensible when working in your home, especially on plumbing projects. 

Imagine that you are trying to remove an old shower pipe. As you work to remove the pipe, it breaks off at the wall. What do you do? You could try to pry the remaining portion from the wall with a screwdriver or needle-nose pliers. However, these tools aren’t made for this type of work and often don’t get the job done and become damaged in the process. An internal pipe wrench, however, can be inserted inside the broken fitting and twisted to remove it. They are exceptionally inexpensive. Large ones usually cost less than $10. They can be found at your local home improvement store.

Step 1—Determine the Size of the Fitting

Before you head to your local home improvement store to purchase an internal pipe wrench you want to make sure that you select the proper size. In order to do this, you should examine the portion of the fitting that has broken off to determine the proper size. This should be simple to determine if you measure the diameter of the pipe or fitting. When you go to your home improvement center, you can purchase one internal pipe wrench or a set. 

Step 2—Clamp the Internal Pipe Wrench

Once you have the internal pipe wrench, you are going to insert the non-moving end into the mouth of an adjustable wrench. Depending on the size of the fitting, you may have to purchase a new adjustable wrench. However, unless the fitting is very large, any adjustable wrench should do the trick. 

You should clamp the adjustable wrench onto the internal pipe wrench high enough so that you can get a good grip and twist the wrench with ease.

Step 3—Insert the Internal Pipe Wrench

Once the pipe wrench is securely inside the mouth of the adjustable wrench, you can insert it into the broken fitting. You may have to maneuver it a little bit to get a good bite, however. Once the wrench is inside the fitting and it is catching on the grooves you can proceed to the next step.

Step 4—Twist to the Left

Most pipe fitting will loosen when you turn to the left. However, you may encounter a random fitting set the opposite way. Generally, however, once the internal pipe wrench is inserted into the fitting, you can begin twisting to the left. You should work in a slow and steady way so that the internal pipe wrench doesn’t dislodge. Eventually, the remaining portion of the fitting will release and you can remove the internal pipe wrench from the wall.

There you have it. You can purchase an internal pipe wrench for under $10 and avoid a pricey call to a plumber or even worse, cutting out a section of your wall.