Broken drain lever

Discussion in 'Shower & Bathtub Forum & Blog' started by mckern, Sep 28, 2008.

  1. mckern

    mckern New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2008
    The bathtub drain lever separated from the mechanism and the plug now prevents the tub from draining. I've tried to fish it out with a stiff wire, bent into a hook, and it seems that I am able to hook the plunger, but I can't get it to budge from its position. Neither WD-40 or Liquid Wrench helped. This evening I rinsed the oil from the pipe (water poured into the overflow pipe runs right up through the bathtub drain) and I've been spraying silicone lubricant into the overflow pipe--no luck so far.

    I know I'm not the first to post this problem and it may be unrealistic to look for a new piece of advice, but there's no way I can work a plumber into this month's budget. (Unfortunately, the access panel is behind a radiator that is too heavy for me to move, so I'm looking for more solutions for fixing this from inside the tub.)

    Extra question: if I understand things correctly, the attached picture illustrates what I'm dealing with. But this design makes the overflow pipe useless--i.e., the plunger blocks the overflow pipe. So, what am I missing?

    Thank you for any advice/info.
     

    Attached Files:

  2. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

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    Dec 15, 2007
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    Service Plumber
    Location:
    Connecticut
    Use a piece of coathanger wire!
     
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  4. Mike Swearingen

    Mike Swearingen New Member

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    The top of the brass plug has a crosspiece in it that can be hooked from above. As Redwood said, you just need a stronger fishing wire to snag it out. Leave about a 1/4" width in the hook to fit down into the plug and catch a crosspiece. Once you catch the plug, pull the wire out with a pair of channel locks for a better grip.
    Good Luck!
    Mike
     
  5. mckern

    mckern New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2008
    I'm using a wire that is significantly heavier than a coat hanger--perhaps better described as a very thin rod--and my "hook" is really more of an "L" a little over an inch long. This morning I went to the hardware store to see what I was trying to catch and it appears that my hook is too big to catch that loop (although it DOES catch on something).

    I'm going to try again with a wire hanger, bent as instructed. Any thoughts on whether the silicone is better than the oil?

    Thank you for the advice.
     
  6. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

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    Dec 15, 2007
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    Service Plumber
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    Connecticut
    I'd clean it and grease it with waterproof grease.
     
  7. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

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    Aug 31, 2004
    Occupation:
    Plumber
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    plug

    Copious amount of WD-40 down the overflow and into the drain opening. Then go to a welding supply store and buy a section of 1/8" brazing rod. Bend a "V" in the end and an "L" at the other end pointing in the same direction as the V does. Slide the V down the overflow opening far enough so it is completely through the drain plug. Then rotate it and pull it up. Keep trying until the V catches the plug. Then take a hammer or pliers, and rap upward on the L handle. Tap gently at first and keep increasing the force. Once you get the plug to move upward 1/16" it will pull out.
     
  8. mckern

    mckern New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2008
    Thank you for posting. I saw this advice (presumably also from you) in response to a previous question, which is why I started with the "small rod" I mentioned before. It's 3' long and appears to be 1/8" diameter. I bought it at my neighborhood Ace--so I'm guessing it's not a "brazing rod."

    The short leg of the "V" is just over an inch long and it's actually more "L" than "V"--I can't get the angle any tighter in this short length. I can catch something with the L/V hook (about 14" down), but the upper "L" behaves too much like a wire to rap on it. The hook eventually pulls out of whatever it's caught on. (The same thing happens with the coat hanger.)

    I went through 3-4 oz of WD-40, then about 1/2 gal of vinegar to get rid of any corrosion, then another another 4 oz of liquid wrench. A couple of days ago I rinsed all that out (dawn detergent until the water was running through pretty clear) and switched to silicone spray.

    Should I get the brazing rod--would it be better than my existing rod? I like the flexibility of the coat hanger, but it doesn't seem strong enough.

    How much variation is there in the mechanism? For example, the pictures below from hammerzone.com show a second loop, which may be easier to hook than the one on the plunger. Can I count on this or are there other designs that won't have this loop?

    FWIW, from the layer of rust/corrosion on the inside lever, I suspect that this mechanism broke a long time ago and the plunger just recently slipped to block the drain. (We are shower people--no one has tried to close the drain in the 7 years we've lived here.)

    Someone suggested that I try muriatic acid to get rid of any corrosion that the vinegar couldn't dissolve. Any thoughts on this?
    (I've worked with muriatic acid and I'm familiar with the necessary precautions.)

    Thanks, again, for all advice.
     
  9. mckern

    mckern New Member

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    Feb 22, 2008
    picture for previous post
     

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  10. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

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    wire

    Your wire is too stiff to bend into a "V". A brazing rod is brass and can be bent into a sharp V, which you need so it will grab the plug's bail and not slip off. It will also make a firm "L" at the top so you can tap against it.
     
  11. mckern

    mckern New Member

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    Feb 22, 2008
    Thanks for the clarification re brazing rod. I'll find a welding supply store and I'll try again tonight.

    Bridget
     
  12. mckern

    mckern New Member

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    Feb 22, 2008
    I need to move on to the next option because hooking the plug and pulling it back up the overflow pipe appears to be a lost cause. I suspect that I was simply catching on the inside of the pipe, just below where they join.

    Here is the view from the access panel. Assuming I can disconnect and move the radiator that is in the way, I'm not sure about next steps.

    I'm guessing that I need to cut the overflow pipe about where I've drawn the blue line and again several inches above so that I can remove that section of pipe and the nut just below the lower cut; fish out the plug and replace the missing section with PVC--slightly smaller or larger section so there is a bit of overlap.

    I have a pipe cutter, but I'm not sure that I can cut completely around the overflow pipe, given the position/bathtub.

    So, am I on the right track?

    Thanks,

    Bridget
     

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  13. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

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    Plumber
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    Cave Creek, Arizona
    tub

    You already have the overflow plate removed, so all you have to do is loosen the top slip nut and lift the tubing out of the tee. Then you will be able to reach in and extract the plug. you either did not make the "V" tight enough, or you are grabbing the plug but are not pulling hard enough. You can tell if you have the plug by pushing the wire down, rotating it 90 degrees and then pulling it up. If it slides past whatever you had grabbed, then you had caught the plug.
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2008
  14. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    Retired Systems engineer for defense industry.
    Location:
    New England
    The nut near the blue line should loosen, and the pipe going into it will pull out. You might need a new washer to seal it back up again, but they're cheap.
     
  15. mckern

    mckern New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2008
    Thanks, guys, I'm glad to know that I won't need to cut and remove pipe. From my limited view of the space, it appeared that the overflow pipe was a continuous piece attached directly to the tub (i.e., that pulling it out would require lifting the tub).

    I'm going back to attempting to hook the plunger. HJ sounds like the reliable voice of experience re this method, so it's worth at least one more try.

    Bridget
     
  16. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    Sep 2, 2004
    Occupation:
    Retired Systems engineer for defense industry.
    Location:
    New England
    If you unscrew the overflow from the tub (could be a nut, or some screws), and loosen that compression nut, that pipe will pull out of the fitting. You might need a new gasket when you reinstall it. But, better to try to hook the stopper through that overflow.
     
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