A plumber snake is a great tool for clearing drain clogs… if it’s working properly and you know how to use it. If your snake isn’t unclogging your drains, it could be because the thumbscrew is loose, the clog is too severe, or the auger is dirty. Or maybe you just need a refresher on how to use a drain snake.
A drain auger (snake) is a simple, inexpensive necessity for every homeowner. But a broken or faulty auger can be extremely frustrating. That’s why it’s important to get your drain snake back in working order. We’ll explain common problems that occur with a hand drain snake and give you some tips on how to get yours through those tricky pipe bends.
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What is a plumbing snake?
A plumbing snake, drain snake, toilet jack, or auger is a slender device used to dislodge clogs in drains. It is commonly used when a clog can’t be loosened with a plunger.
When water won’t drain, use a snake for toilets, sinks and tubs – but make sure you’re using the correct one. We’ll explain more.
How to use a drain auger: Where to start
In theory, snaking a drain or toilet should be easy. You simply push the snake through the drainpipe until it reaches and dislodges the clog. In practice, it can much more difficult… and aggravating, especially if your pipes have a lot of twists.
Start by placing your snake in the right access point. If you’re unclogging a sink, start below the P-trap rather than down the drain. You’ll save yourself some impossible twists. The P-trap is the bending pipe beneath the sink. Loosen and remove this pipe so that you have direct access to where the pipe enters the wall. If you P-trap is full of gunk, you may have found your problem!
If you need to snake a tub drain or a shower, find your plumbing access panel. These drains often have a access point underneath them where you can start snaking instead of attempting to go through the drain.
If you’re snaking a toilet, begin through the bowl but make sure you’re using a toilet auger vs a drain snake. The right tool makes a difference.
Why won’t my snake go down the drain?
Once you insert your snake into the proper access point, begin to manually feed it down the pipe. Contrary to popular belief, the crank on your hand snake is not to uncoil it, it’s to rotate it. More on that in a moment.
Steadily continue to push your snake’s line down the pipe. If you butt up against an obstruction, now is when you use your crank. First, engage the lock so your snake doesn’t retract as you push. While continuing to push the snake forward, turn the crank. This will rotate the head so that it either breaks through a clog or finds its way around a pipe bend.
If your drain snake won’t make the turn, keep trying. Snaking is as much an art as it is a science. It takes finesse and practice to navigate long lengths of pipe. You may need to spend a few minutes pushing and cranking before you reach the next section of pipe. If you don’t make forward progress pull back a short distance and try again.
Why isn’t my plumber’s snake working?
There are several reasons why your plumber snake may not work properly. If your auger isn’t unclogging a clog, it could be because:
- The old clog is still attached. Are you using a drain snake that has been used before? Make sure the old clog isn’t embedded in the corkscrew end. Clean your drain snake before using it!
- The thumbscrew is loose. Make sure that you’ve securely tightened the thumbscrew (the piece that secures the cable inside the drum or handle). If the thumbscrew is loose, the cable will not rotate at all when you twist the handle. The cable rotation is how the drain snake picks up debris, so if it can’t do this, your auger won’t work.
- The clog is too severe. There are some clogs that are too dense for a hand drain snake. If this is the case, you’ll have to either rent a power auger or get a professional plumber’s help.
- It’s the wrong type of drain snake. Toilet auger, small drum auger, and an extra-auger are the most common types of drain snakes. So, what kind of auger should you be using anyway?
What type of plumbing snake should I use?
There are several different types of drain snakes, including:
- Toilet Auger. This is a special auger with a long rod and short cable. This configuration gives you better leverage then a snake to unclog a toilet. It will not scratch porcelain surfaces. It is important not to use any other type of auger with your toilet.
- Small Drum Auger. This is the snake you would use for most routine kitchen or bathroom sink clogs.
- Extra Long Drain Auger. This is the type of plumbing snake you would use for clogs deeply embedded down the length of your drain or pipes.
What to do when snaking a drain doesn’t work
If your plumber snake isn’t clearing the clog properly:
- Clean the drain snake. If you haven’t cleaned it since using it last, the old clog may still be embedded on the corkscrew end. You must clean this end for it to be effective.
- Tighten the thumbscrew. To feed the wire into the drain, tighten the thumbscrew that locks the wire in place. Then, turn the handle of the auger clockwise and push to get the wire into the drain. Loosen the thumbscrew and slide the handle back up the wire. This needs to be repeated, tightening the thumbscrew, turning the handle, and pushing to clear the clog.
- Use a different type of auger. If you’re auger isn’t doing the trick, then it may be time to switch to a different kind. Snaking a toilet? Use a toilet auger. Snaking a bathroom sink? Use a small drum auger.
How to unclog a drain when a snake doesn’t work
A drain snake is your best bet for getting difficult clogs loose. When snaking a drain doesn’t work, it’s probably time to call a professional plumber who has the experience and equipment to unclog the toughest drains. Call the team at Benjamin Franklin today. We can help keep your drains free of obstructions and working their best!
Don’t ignore your clogged drain – it could cause a leak, or even burst a pipe.