Plumber's snake stuck in pipe

Discussion in 'Drain Cleaning' started by handymanmatters, Sep 30, 2006.

  1. handymanmatters

    handymanmatters Junior Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Overland Park, KS
    Anyone have advice on the best way to go about removing a plumber's snake that's stuck in a 4" drain pipe? We have no idea what it's stuck on, or even how far down the pipe it is, since a previous handyman got it stuck. When he couldn't get it out, he just cut it off about 1 ft outside the cleanout fitting and left it hanging there! :eek:

    Any advice is appreciated. Thanks.
  2. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    Is the C/O inside or outside the house?
  3. handymanmatters

    handymanmatters Junior Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Overland Park, KS
    The cleanout is in the garage.
  4. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,293
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    snake

    What size is the snake's cable? If it is a handyman's I assume it is 1/4" or 3/8" diameter. If so about the only way it could get that tight would be i fit is wound up inside the pipe. The only ways to remove it would be to dig up the pipe, or pull the snake with a winch until it either breaks loose, or snaps in two. If it snaps you would still have to dig it up.
  5. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    If it is 1/2" cable or larger you can attach on to it with a piece of 3/8" wire rope and 3 - U clamps made for wire rope. Make a loop at the other end of the wire rope with 2 - U clamps and attach it to a comealong attached to a trailer hitch and ball then try winching it out. If your concerned about it snaping you can drive the vehicle to pull it out instead of winching the comealong.

    Like hj said if it snaps in the pipe you will have to dig it up.
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2006
  6. is the pipe stopped up???

    Is the pipe stopped up ?????

    if their is no problems with the drain i suggest you

    leave sleeping dogs lie....'


    if you have to get that cable out of there you might want
    to call a professional drain clenaing company and see
    what they can do to help....
  7. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    It is extremely difficult to get a snake stuck in a drain if there is nothing wrong with the drain. If the cable gets hung up on broken pipe or roots the liability is not on the plumber. Most drain cleaning companys have you sign a contract B4 they start and in it you will find a clause that states such. I have the same clause in mine. I once had to put my machine in the back of my truck and tie the doors shut with the cable hanging out between them and drove away to pull a stuck cable out of a line. Luckly it worked. I'm not going to be liable for something I can't see. I'm about that close( = )to not doing drains anymore. There just a pain.
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2006
  8. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    14,798
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    I'm thinking that when a homeowner calls with a problem, and the worker tries to fix it, that the worker is doing their best working with the existing conditions.

    Is there something in the pipe and fittings that is catching the snake?
    Were the right fittings used before?
    Did someone drop a 2x4 down the vent pipe?

    Is it the worker? or the home? that is causing the problem.
    I've had a few tough jobs myself, most of them by undersized plumbing or bends that were too tight.
  9. handymanmatters

    handymanmatters Junior Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Overland Park, KS
    Thanks for all the input.

    Yes, perhaps the original craftsman should be held accountable, but apparently this work was done over a year ago, and that craftsman is nowhere to be found.

    We've talked about using a come-along or the truck to pull the snake out, but we were hoping to find an easier way. I guess that's still a lot easier than digging up the pipe.

    I found another suggestion online, in an old thread in another forum. Someone suggested putting the end of the cable in the chuck of a hammer drill and trying to back it out that way. I'm thinking there's way too much flexibility in the snake for the hammering to have much impact, but it's a simple enough solution that it's probably worth a try.

    Thanks again!
  10. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    What size is tha snake/cable?
  11. handymanmatters

    handymanmatters Junior Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Overland Park, KS
    I believe it's a 3/8" snake.
  12. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    14,798
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    Using a drill and reversing it may work alright.
  13. 3/8" cable in a 3 or 4" drain has the capability of turning back around and corkscrewing. Meaning, too small a cable for that size pipe. A risk inherited that I take myself when my access to the main through a floor drain with no basement toilet or base of stack to attack from.

    Physical injury is likely if you try stretching that cable to remove it. I've only had a few break on me and you have no control of where that cable is going when it basically ricochets out of the drain.
  14. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    A 3/8" snake in a 3-4" pipe should come out with no problem even if it balled up. They are flexable enough, unless it is caught on something.
  15. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,293
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    snake

    Maybe, but a local plumber tried to snake a friend's sink drain and got his snake stuck just like this one. He told my friend that he, (my friend), had to get it out of the drain and if he didn't the plumber was going to charge him the cost of the snake. I dug up the exterior cleanout, removed the snake which was tangled in a ball of roots, (he had snaked all the way through the sink drain and was stuck inside the main 3" line). I snaked the roots out, which were the original problem anyway, not a stopped sink drain, and left his tangled up, kinked, snake in the yard for the other plumber to pick up.
  16. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,293
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    gas

    Well, it was years ago when gas was less than a buck, and his office was nearby.
  17. ToolsRMe

    ToolsRMe New Member

    Messages:
    145
    Location:
    CO
    I am not a professional plumber.

    I have no idea how much it would cost to dig up and remove that pipe. I can't imagine that it would be less than a few hundred dollars.

    Having said that, perhaps you could contact a drain inspection company. You know, the one with the camera.

    Have them run the camera down to see what the cable is hung up on.

    Like people here have said, maybe it's a busted drain pipe or tree roots or a ball of gold coins. Who knows.

    By running the tv camera down your drain you'll know. The operator should be good enough not to get his camera stuck on whatever is hanging up the snake.
  18. speedball1

    speedball1 Retired plumber

    Messages:
    43
    Location:
    Sarasota Fl.
    Hey Guys,

    I've been reading your answers and looking for a reply that mentions a retrieval tip,(see image). This tip augers into the broken cable and you can then pull it back. Of course if it's all balled up like a bunch of snakes then digging up the pipe might be the only recourse but a retrieval tip is worth trying first. regards, tom

    Attached Files:

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