Did you break your sewer drain snake attempting to clean your drain pipe? While preventable, the problem happens to plenty of DIY plumbers learning how to use plumbing equipment properly. You’re not alone!
No matter the cause (or the person who caused it), let’s discuss a solution to getting a broken plumbing snake out of a drain pipe.
In this PlumbingNav guide, we will cover:
What you need to know about broken drain snakes
How to get a broken sewer snake out of a drain pipe
Tips for retrieving a lost, broken, or stuck plumbing snake in your drain pipe
What's In This Guide?
What You Need To Know About How To Get a Broken Snake Out of Drain Pipe
A broken snake in your drain pipe can throw a wrench in your DIY plumbing plans, but you can resolve the issue. Don’t fear the worst just yet. First, we need to cover the different types of snakes you might have stuck and some key parts. This will help you find the right solution for retrieval.
A drain snake consists of a pointed head connected to a strong yet flexible cable that “slithers” through your plumbing to the location of a clog and then dissolves it at the source.
There are two types of snakes: manual snakes and electric augers.
A manual snake pulls the material of the clog in towards you while an electric auger disrupts and pushes the clog through into the sewer line. Manual snakes rotate using a crank, while an electric auger generates much more power through electricity. Augers also tend to be stronger and much longer, and have more torque which can snap a stuck head.
A powered auger is often used for a stubborn drain clog or sewer clog deep in your plumbing system. A hand snake is more appropriate for a clog inside your home at your kitchen drain or bathroom drain. However, some inexpensive snakes are generally plastic or low-quality cable wire, making them susceptible to damage.
Even the most careful professional plumber may one-day find their plumber’s snake broken off inside of a pipe. Of course, you can’t just leave the cable and auger head in the pipe. The remnants can lead to a larger drain clog and damage your pipes. It can also cause sewer line or septic tank failure. But how can you access something deep in your pipes? Let’s talk about that.
How To Get Broken Plumbing Snake Out of a Clogged Drain Line (5 Steps)
We will now describe some steps below, along with some videos to help you get the broken snake out of your drain pipe. A special note tho…
Everything is easier when you can see what you’re dealing with. We highly recommend renting or buying a sewer camera or plumbing boroscope. These are small enough to advance down the drain alongside the snake cable, and will give you a visual display of where it’s stuck.
You can also use this visual aid to properly hook the lost or stuck portion of the snake. If you don’t have one of these devices, you can learn more about a sewer camera locator, here.
Watch this DIY guy get his stuck snake out of the tub drain:
This method will help you retrieve a stuck cable when you simply need a grip to “work it back” toward yourself while recoiling the drain snake. However, if it’s further down and broke off while trying to turn a corner, you’re going to need an accompanying tool for the assist.
Step 1: Attach a Claw to Auger Cable
If you can’t reach the snake with your own hands, you will need to find some sort of tool to grip the item for you, such as a hook or a clasp.
If your auger didn’t come with the claw attachment, you may be able to purchase it from the manufacturer. You must be careful to buy the correct attachment for your auger model.
Keep in mind that some augers don’t allow you to switch out attachments and only have solid heads.
Alternatively, you can buy specialized snakes with claws already attached, made specifically for retrieving items that fell down the drain, such as lost keys or broken pieces of your old snake.
As a last resort, you may have to get creative and make your own grabbing mechanism using items from your garage. Be mindful not to use a component that may damage your pipes or also fall loose in your pipes.
Step 2: Guide Snake Through Pipes and Grip Foreign Object
Feed the hook into the nearest access point until you reach a blockage. The first blockage you experience should be the snake as it must have broken before the original clog.
Carefully angle the hook so that you get a proper grip on the snake. This may take numerous tries. If you have a sewer camera with a locator, you can use this visual reference point to help guide you.
You will know when you have a grip on the broken snake due to the additional weight and resistance.
Step 3: Retract Auger
Now, you will need to carefully pull the hook with the snake back outside of the pipe.
This may not prove easy if the snake is in an odd position, was stuck turning a corner, or you don’t have as sturdy of a grip as you originally thought.
If you experience a lot of resistance that causes the auger to become unstable, you will need to support the auger by attaching weights or tying it to something solid, like a tree. Use caution, and don’t use excessive force.
Do not secure the machine yourself as you may not anticipate the amount of strength required to stabilize the auger.
Don’t be surprised if your item falls as you pull it out. This process can take time and some ingenuity. It may also take numerous attempts. As long as you make some small progress over time, you should keep trying.
However, some situations just don’t allow for a DIY solution. If your attempts don’t produce significant results after a couple of hours, you may want to give in and call the professionals.
Step 4: Dispose of Old Snake
Hopefully, you didn’t retrieve the snake in hopes of using it again. In most cases, the original damage that broke the snake in the first place and the trauma of removing it from the hard pipes will cause damage that you can’t come back from.
Summary Tips for Retrieving a Lost, Broken, or Stuck Plumbing Snake in Your Drain Pipe
Help, I lost a snake down my drain!
Don’t panic! It’s not a great situation, but you don’t need to call for plumbing service yet!
We highly recommend using a sewer camera to identify the problem and access the best tools to retrieve the drain snake. Such tools can range from attaching a grip to a different auger and providing support as it pulls the fallen snake out of the pipe, or securing an electric auger to something stable to override the tension.
How to get a broken snake out of a drain pipe.
Your drain pipe or main sewer line is hard to access from a drain (hence the need for the snake in the first place). If it’s deep within your system, you might access it better from the drain outside.
Locate the broken snake pieces by feeding a sewer camerainto your drain pipe. With the location of the broken snake identified, use this information to guide you as you use your gripping tools to retrieve the broken pieces.
My plastic drain snake is stuck in the bathtub!
If you got your snake stuck in the tub drain, you won’t have as much trouble as if it gets lost in a drain line.
Gently pump or rock the snake at different angles to see if you can dislodge the snake as it’s probably caught in a localized clog or turn.
If you can pull the snake out, you will likely bring a large portion of the clog with it. If you’re not so lucky, pour drain cleaner down the drain to break up the clog enough to get the snake loose.
If the snake is caught in a turn, you may experience a more stubborn situation. In this case, you need a better grip and more power. Since the snake is caught near the drain opening, it’s easier to access.
Attach a vice grip (such as the homemade hook used in the video below) to the end of the snake sticking out of the drain.
Watch this man get a “stuck” powered drain snake from his drain:
How to Prevent a Plumbing Snake From Breaking Inside a Drain Pipe:
Prevent broken snakes before they happen by adhering to the following tips:
Start with low power and increase power gradually only when necessary
Use a protective coating on the auger cable with every use
Perform the appropriate research before attempting a new task
Use the right auger for the job
Maneuver and turn corners carefully
Read your product’s user manual and get acquainted with the tool
Keep up on plumbing maintenance
FAQ’S For How to Get a Broken Snake Out of the Drain
How to get a broken snake out of a drain pipe
Since the snake is an obstruction of sorts, using an auger with a claw attachment can get the job done. Don’t expect to get a good grip and remove the snake on the first try.
Can you break a pipe with a snake?
Yes! You can break a pipe with a snake stuck in it if the snake creates a clog that increases pressure levels to the point that the pipe can’t handle it and starts to produce leaks. You can also damage soft pipe material by forcing the snake through the plumbing system, making it jam up against the pipes.
How do you get a snake out of a drain trap?
A drain trap, such as a grease trap or P trap, may have caught the snake for you.
Drain traps are especially easy to work with since they are designed to be accessed.
Simply open the trap and retrieve the snake. Restore as normal once the item is retrieved.
How do you get a snake out of the corner of a drain?
Use a homemade hook to catch onto the snake and contort it until you can safely pull it from the drain.
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About Plumbing Navigator
We write about "all things plumbing," helping you navigate common questions, repairs, and the best plumbing products on the market.
About Plumbing Navigator
We write about “all things plumbing,” helping you navigate common questions, repairs, and the best plumbing products on the market.