How To Make A Plumbing Snake Turn Corners

Last Updated On September 19, 2022
How To Make A Plumbing Snake Turn Corners (1)

Need your plumbing snake to turn corners to reach that drain clog? Your plumbing snake is one of the best DIY plumber tools around, and you don’t want to get it stuck in a curved pipe. Worse yet, breaking it off is a bigger problem than a blocked drain. Learn more about your drain snake’s capabilities and limitations in this article.

In this PlumbingNav guide, we will cover:

  • How to make a plumbing snake turn corners the right way
  • What to do when a plumbing pipe doesn’t cooperate
  • Drain snake won’t make the pipe turn? Follow these tips. 

What's In This Guide?

      What You Need To Know About How To Make a Plumbing Snake Turn Corners

      First, we are going to lay out some basics. This will help with vocabulary and equipment terms before we get to the “how to” steps.

      Manual Snake Vs Electric Toilet Auger

      Manual snakes use a hand crank to extend the cable into the pipe. Some come with changeable tips, but others are fixed. Manual plumbing snakes are less sturdy and often shorter than electric augers. They are a common choice for dealing with a kitchen sink, bathtub drain, or clogged shower drain.

      These often don’t require much cable length, but all will require that you turn a corner while snaking. For a nearby bend, having “a feel” while using the crank will come in handy. You don’t want to force it. However, a hand snake may not have the length to reach deep into your sewer line or the power to break up a tough clog in the main line.

      Electric augers tend to be the preferred choice, especially when dealing with a large drain pipe. They are usually much longer with sturdier cable wires, and are the preferred choice when trying to snake a drain from outside

      They also provide much more power, pushing through the clog at the desired speed. Augers cost much more and take up more space, but they are an essential tool for anyone looking to handle simple plumbing tasks themselves. 

      Both of these types are designed to turn clockwise, but you may find some exceptions depending upon how you recoil your drain snake after use.

      Overwhelmed with your options when choosing an electric auger? We do the work for you in our review of the best powered electric drain snake

      Pipe Material 

      Many people assume a drain snake is safe on all pipe materials, especially compared to caustic drain cleaners that use harsh chemicals. While a plumbers snake is mostly safe, it’s important to understand that it can damage your pipes if they are old, cracked, or made from soft material. 

      Pipes ideally offer both flexibility and strength. However, most pipe materials can’t offer both adequately depending on the age of your home.

      Zinc pipe, in particular, may get damaged by your drain snake, and water will only provide a little bit of resistance. If the snake scratches at the protective coating or punctures the pipe, you’re looking at much more expensive repairs than drain cleaning. Today, most homes have PVC drain pipes that last a long time. They provide the flexibility and strength required for making these tight corners. However, some houses may not have had the option or budget for that option.

      did you know How To Make A Plumbing Snake Turn Corners

      Clog Location: Estimate Length and Corners

      Your snake can only reach so far down your drain. It’s also good to know that not every model is safe to use on every drain type. Choose the best plumbing snake for the job for success, and also to avoid damage.

      Some DIY plumbers feed the snake down the clogged drain and assume they’ve reached a clog when it stops moving forward only to later find they never reached the clog at all but a corner (or vice versa). This is likely a turn you need to make tho.

      Before making assumptions, use a plumbing endoscope or a sewer camera locator to find the exact location of the clog. 

      When you have properly located the clog, you need to measure the distance from the drain entrance to the clog to ensure that the plumbing snake can actually reach it. 

      Some snakes only reach 10 feet while others can reach as deep as 50 – 100 feet into your pipes. If you first pinpointed the clog distance, you can better know if you’re hitting a corner turn while extending the cable.

      How to Make Drain Snakes Turn Pipe Corners (5 Steps) 

      Here is a video overview if you’ve never snaked a drain before. This one features a bathroom sink:

      Step 1: Access Nearest Drain

      The less space you have between you and the blockage, the less chance of obstruction along the way. 

      Despite the location affected by the clog, consider the drain opening in your home that gives you the most direct access to the clog. 

      For deep clogs in the drain line, you may need to find an access point outside at your cleanout. Alternatively, you may use a floor drain. 

      Shallow clogs will be easier, so start by using a sink drain or the closest access point to the problem. There will be fewer turns to reach the debris.

      Step 2: Feed Snake Into Drain

      Slowly feed the snake into the drain either by hand or with low power. Pay attention to how it reacts as you feed it inside your plumbing pipe. Turn it clockwise, and estimate its extended distance as you go. Manage slack to about a 4 to 6 inch length from snake to drain opening.

      Step 3: Maneuver to Turn Corners 

      When you do estimate yourself at a corner before reaching a clog, turn the drain auger clockwise and operate the snake in reverse at low speed. If no forward progress is made, you’re going to switch directions. This is similar to rocking your car back and forth when trying to get traction.

      Turn the crank or run the plumbing snake in reverse to force the head to flap back and forth. As the head wafts in the pipe, it will eventually get the proper angle and find its way around the corner. Aim for hugging the opposite side of the perceived corner so it can follow the curve of the turn.

      Step 4: Proceed to Clog

      After you successfully maneuver the turn, you will find the snake feeds into the plumbing much more easily. 

      At this time, move forward as usual until you reach the actual clog. 

      Step 5: Clear Drain Clog

      When you reach the clog (and you’re sure you got past any corners), utilize the snake at full power. You may need to “park” on tough clogs and allow the plumbing snake to fully dismantle or chew up the debris.

      When done, clean your snake and properly dry it before putting it away for the next DIY plumbing task. 

      Drain Snake Won’t Make The Pipe Turn? Follow These Tips!

      How to get a drain snake around a rigid pipe corner

      A rigid pipe corner presents unique conditions since the rigid corners can cause damage to your snake while also being relatively vulnerable themselves. 

      If possible, use a toilet snake with softer cable made for all types of pipe. 

      Can’t get snake down floor drain

      If you can’t get your snake down a floor drain in the basement, don’t put more force on your cable than necessary. Additional force may only break your snake.

      Instead, try again using gentle, gradual motions like in this video:

      If you don’t get results after a couple of attempts with a functional and powerful snake, you may need to try an alternative method, such as a professional plumber. If you used a manual snake, you can try again with a more powerful electric snake to see if that does the trick before calling one.

      If a snake didn’t resolve the issue, try using Drano Max Gel or a Natural enzymatic drain cleaner.

      FAQS On How to Make Plumbing Snake Turn Pipe Corners

      How do I turn my plumbing snake into a corner?

      To make your plumbing snake turn a corner, slowly operate it in reverse when you reach the corner. As the head rotates in reverse, it will bobble back and forth until it finds the right angle. 

      Operating the snake as normal (clockwise) may keep it turning in the same place and build tension in the cable. Instead, move it forward, then backward, aiming for the outside bend of the turn.

      How do you unclog a 90-degree pipe?

      To unclog a 90-degree pipe use a snake designed for tight corners that features softer wire cable and the proper settings. If you don’t have an adequate snake, use a liquid drain cleaner with chemicals instead. 

      Which way do you turn a plumbing snake?

      Normally, you will crank or power a snake to operate in the clockwise position. When maneuvering a turn, go counterclockwise at low power or hand strength.

      How do you navigate a drain auger?

      Drain augers feed into your drain slowly and gradually. Do not fully power it on until you’ve reached the clog. Look for drain augers with extra features that contribute to simple feeding and operation, such as automatic recoiling.

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      About Plumbing Navigator

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      We write about “all things plumbing,” helping you navigate common questions, repairs, and the best plumbing products on the market.

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