Stuck shutoff valves - clean, replace? How to prevent?

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JimLS

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We have hard water and a softener but still have some stuck shutoff valves. I have heard that cycling them 2 or 3 times a year is recommended to avoid this and have done that on some but others in remote locations have been missed. What's the recommended frequency?

I have read of adding a couple gallons of vinegar to the water heater tank and running that through the pipes until it is smelled at the faucets, letting it sit for some time, and then flushing. Seems like a good plan but I would like some confirmation of that. I know vinegar works good for plugged shower heads and such like.

But this doesn't get the cold valves. I could rig up some sort of similar tank or even route the water heater output to the cold side somehow I suppose. Have thought of shutting off the water and pouring a bit of vinegar into the shutoff valves but I would need to do each one. Maybe a little easier than replacing them all (they are soldered on) but still tedious.

Any good options for this? I have read some "loosen the packing nut" and "apply penetrating oil to the stem" recommendations but I am fairly sure the issue is deeper in the valve.
 

James Henry

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Sounds like these are gate valves and plumbers hate gate valves for this very reason. sometimes you get lucky and your able to break the stem free, other times it just creates a leak and it's almost impossible to get replacement parts for discontinued valves. I don't know how many valves your talking about but if it's just a handful I would purchase some sharkbite valves and couplings and have them in hand and then test the old valves to see if they still work. You can always solder on some new ball valves if able to.
 

JimLS

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Sounds like these are gate valves and plumbers hate gate valves for this very reason. sometimes you get lucky and your able to break the stem free, other times it just creates a leak and it's almost impossible to get replacement parts for discontinued valves. I don't know how many valves your talking about but if it's just a handful I would purchase some sharkbite valves and couplings and have them in hand and then test the old valves to see if they still work. You can always solder on some new ball valves if able to.
Not sure how you thought they were gate valves - they aren't. Some are 1/4 turn ball valves. Some are the common type with washer (not sure what they are called but they were standard before ball valves and cartridge faucet valves became common). Many of them are the individual fixture shut offs like under a sink.
 

James Henry

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That's the problem without pictures, I thought you were talking about your main line. They make shark bite stops for fixture shut offs too. Same procedure applies. If you can find the same brand shut off sometimes the parts are interchangeable and you don't have to unsweat the body. Or install new compression stops.
 
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WorthFlorida

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For vinegar to work dissolving mineral deposits, I find that the part must soak in 100% vinegar for hours, may be a whole day for it to do any good.

A few gallons of vinegar in a 40 or 50 gallon water heater wouldn't help much. If anything it might loosen mineral deposits from the WH and get lodge in the faucets aerators. Besides, it will not be that easy to pour vinegar into it. If you replace stops valves or shut offs, do use 1/4 turns stops and ball valves. They are less likely to get stuck due to hard water deposits. As far as what to do and how to do it all depends on your skill level, tools and type of pipe.
 

Marlinman

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We call these "Add-A-Stops" The female compression on the stop fits where your supply line fit. Attach the new stop on your old stop and attach your supply line to the new stop.

dahl-s317.jpg
 

JimLS

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We call these "Add-A-Stops" The female compression on the stop fits where your supply line fit. Attach the new stop on your old stop and attach your supply line to the new stop.

dahl-s317.jpg
That's interesting! Since the existing stops aren't leaking that could be added to restore the ability to shut off.
 
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