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pcampbell 01-13-2009 08:58 AM

Replacing shut off valves with broken off handles
I am trying to find the shut off valve for my outside faucet for the winter. I've got a bunch of mysterious shut off valves in the basement. Each one when I went to turn broke off.

Should I have loosened the packing nut a little first?

They look like this, but no where near as nice:

Can I simply remove the packing nut (with the water shut off upstream and other faucets, etc. opened to drain the water in the pipes), and go find another valve with the same size nut and stem or am I going to have to change the entire fitting?

Mike Swearingen 01-13-2009 09:26 AM

If the stems are so corroded that they just snap off, you can almost bet that the seats that seal against the washers are too.
I would replace all of them with good quarter-turn ball valves.
If you don't care to solder and all of these valves are clearly visible at all times, you can simply use good compression-fitting ball valves that are installed with two wrenches (one tightening, the other as back-up).
You can find them at almost any plumbing supply. Also get some emory cloth or sandpaper to clean up the ends of the copper pipes before installing the compression fitting ball valves. You don't need any teflon tape or pipe compound with compression fittings. The threads don't seal them, the brass ferrule ring does the sealing when compressed onto the pipe by the nuts on the valve.
Good luck!

pcampbell 01-13-2009 02:34 PM

Thanks... Looks like I just needed a little gentle force. I loosened the nut a little, and was able to work both the hot and cold free. Now one does not have a knob - might be able to extract the screw off or???

What happened is actually the SCREW on the stem snapped, not the stem itself. I know it is probably OK to be able to shut it off with locking pliers but ??? I prefer to have the knob I guess.

Mike Swearingen 01-13-2009 03:37 PM

You can use a small screw extractor, but those cost about $20 bucks per set, and you can buy a new ball valve for less.

WaldenL 01-13-2009 03:44 PM


Originally Posted by Mike Swearingen (Post 212089)
...but those cost about $20 bucks per set, and you can buy a new ball valve for less.

True enough, but then you have the screw extractor to use elsewhere, always a handy thing to have around (or borrow a neighbor's) where the ball valve you can only use once. :wink:

Nestor_Kelebay 01-13-2009 04:50 PM


Originally Posted by Mike Swearingen (Post 211908)
If the stems are so corroded that they just snap off, you can almost bet that the seats that seal against the washers are too.

I agree that Mike's suggestion to replace the valves with ball valves is a good idea, but theres good reasons why I can't agree with the above statement.

Small valves like this are cast out of BRONZE, not brass. The stem and screws will be made of brass, but the valve body itself (including the seat will be cast out of bronze).

Bronze is much more water resistant than brass. Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin, whereas brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, and zinc is a highly reactive metal. It's that zinc content that results in brass corroding more rapidly than bronze or pure copper. And, depending on the amount of zinc in the brass, it's properties will change. Brasses with a high zinc content machine well, and it's these kinds of brasses that will be used to make the brass washer and handle screws. Brasses with a lower zinc content will be used to make the valve stem.

It's the different zinc content in the brasses used to make screws and valve stems that's the reason why the screw on an old water valve will often crumble under the force of the screw driver when you try to remove it, but the lower zinc content spindle will still be strong.

And, it's the fact that the valve body is made of bronze that's the reason why the valve body itself is never deteriorated or crumbly like the screw or spindle. And, the copper piping is the most corrosion resistant of the lot.

PCampbell: I think your best bet is to take that valve down to some of the homecenters and hardware stores where you live and see if you can find new valves with the same thread on the bonnet nut so that you can just replace the cartridges and handles in the existing valve bodies. Look on the handles for any indication of who made these valves.

PS: The "word" for copper in ancient Egyptian heiroglyphics is the same "Ankh" symbol that was used for eternal life, or life after death. The ancient Egyptians were undoubtedly well aware of copper's natural resistance to corrosion.

PS2: That natural resistance to corrosion of copper comes from the fact that copper "rusts", but the oxide film it forms is highly impermeable and as it grows in thickness, it better and better protects the underlying copper from further oxidation. This is why new copper piping is kinda orangy gold, old copper piping is brown. Copper oxide is brown in colour.

Ya gotta know this stuff to get your DIY'er armbadge in plumbing.

DUDE! 01-13-2009 04:52 PM

Or just "park" your small vise-grips there and you'll always know where they are

pcampbell 01-13-2009 05:24 PM

So...if I shut off the water up stream, unscrew the packing nut, will the stem pull out???

DUDE! 01-13-2009 05:27 PM

in theory yes, then you can replace the washer on the bottom, sometimes I get'em out easy, sometimes, tug and tug and they won't budge, maybe I just haven't had to do enough of them.

Nestor_Kelebay 01-13-2009 07:43 PM


Originally Posted by pcampbell (Post 212135)
So...if I shut off the water up stream, unscrew the packing nut, will the stem pull out???

No, don't touch the packing nut.

Unscrew the valve stem a bit to ensure the washer isn't tight against the seat.

Then put the closed end of a wrench (if possible) over the "bonnet nut", which is the 6 sided thing that screws into the valve body.

Sometimes the bonnet nuts on valves can be on awfully tight (but it prolly won't be on this kind of valve). If it is, slip a pipe wrench on to the back side of the valve body to hold the valve body steady while you break loose the bonnet nut. Then unscrew the bonnet nut.

Look for a gasket between the bonnet nut and the valve body.

DUDE! 01-13-2009 08:18 PM

I stand corrected, oops, sorry, I would like say that this is a very good example of why I like this site, Nestor to his credit (thanks) was able to give the correct advise and didn't throw me under the bus, I appreciate that.

4just1don 01-13-2009 10:52 PM

Nestor as usual had GREAT advice. One more thing,stick your finger in there as well as looking and make sure the seat is smooth and not cracked, pitted, or tracked!!!

Nestor_Kelebay 01-14-2009 12:05 AM


Originally Posted by DUDE! (Post 212227)
and didn't throw me under the bus, I appreciate that.

Naw, throwing someone under a bus is for "girly men".

Now, this puppy you could use anywhere, not just at a bus stop...

geegwong 08-18-2014 04:36 AM

I have the same problem….
most of my stem is intact.

I was wondering if I could File down the Stem, to make it Square, so I could use a New Handle, When I need to shut off the water to the house? The handle would then NOT be permently attached, unless I use JB weld or something like that…

Is there any dangers? Metal Fatigue? Etc?

I'm just not ready to call a plummer…

The 1/4 Turn Valve is on my wish list.

oh'mike 08-18-2014 06:10 AM

Why not? Worth giving it a try----but the old valve is not dependable and should be replaced as soon as possible.

It sure is nice to see so many names from the past---Nestor--:)

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