How To Recoil A Drain Snake (3 Step Guide)

Last Updated On September 19, 2022
how to recoil a drain snake

Did you successfully clear a drain clog using a drain snake, but aren’t sure how to recoil the cable? There are different plumbers snakes on the market, and some are easier to recoil than others.

Let’s talk about how to rewind your auger like a skilled plumber.

In this PlumbingNav guide, we will cover:

  • What you need to know about recoiling a drain snake
  • How to recoil a plumbing drain snake (3 Steps)
  • Tips for recoiling specific drain snake models

What's In This Guide?

      What You Need To Know About How to Recoil A Drain Snake

      A plumber snake (also sometimes known as a toilet auger) uses a long wire cable called a “snake.” It often has a pointed auger head to make its way through your plumbing pipe when you have drain clogs. The head helps break up the blockage. 

      It is a sure-fire way to deal with a clogged toilet or slow tub drain when boiling water, the best drain cleaners, and plungers don’t work.

      The auger cable is made of flexible metal allowing it to feed and bend through your drain pipes without causing damage, or catching while making turns. There are different plumbing snake models you’ll encounter, which means the snake cable will both feed and recoil in different ways depending on the setup.

      Here is what you’ll encounter while using a manual plumbers snake or toilet snake vs. electric models when it comes to recoiling the auger cable.

      Watch: Recoiling a Hand Snake

      As demonstrated, some models feature a cable keeper to prevent the wire cable from escaping the drum container when it reaches the end of its length. If this is the case, all you need to do is feed the cable wire back into the drum when finished.

      Do you wind the drain snake clockwise or counterclockwise?

      Technically, most plumbing snake cables enter the toilet or sink drain in the clockwise direction. This means you’ll recoil the snake and return it counterclockwise. However, some models do not require directional specifics. If you wind it back in the opposite direction, you’ll simply need to remember the direction to extend it next time.

      Did your drain snake cable leave the drum completely?

      Without a cable keeper, the wire will slide out when extended beyond full reach. The cable keeper acts as a lock to prevent this from happening. Without a cable keeper, you’ll first need to reseat the drain auger cable in the drum before recoiling it again.

      To do this, push the wire cable back into the drum with the goal of it beginning to wrap counterclockwise. If it’s catching the container drum, consider giving it a slight kink or bend so that it’s trained to “wind” as you push the remaining cable back inside. (Shown in the video above.)

      If your snake has a broken recoil spring, you’ll need extra patience and possibly a replacement part. Reach out to the manufacturer’s customer service or parts department if this is the case.

      Watch: Recoiling an Electric Snake

      We are big fans of powered units, and we review the best electric drain snakes here. Some of these units recoil all on their own, as seen in this video.

      If your model doesn’t feature an automatic recoil, simply feed it back into the drum in the counterclockwise position. The first loop is the most important, so aim for the outermost edge.

      This covers most models you’ll encounter. We’ve typed out the general steps below for easy reference.

      How To Recoil A Plumbing Drain Snake (3 Steps)

      Step 1: Insert Cable Into Drum

      Insert your cable back into place through the front opening of the drum container. If your model has an open back, you can guide it manually into a counterclockwise and recoiling position.

      If the auger has a solid back without a hole, you can kink the wire at the edge before you enter through the spout. Kinking a slight bend will help you avoid hitting the back of the drum in order for it to wind properly.

      did you know how to recoil a drain snake

      Step 2: Shape Wire To Fit Container

      Shape the wire around the edge of the drum container as soon as it enters the tool. In most cases, it will begin to recoil as force is applied from pushing additional cable slack in. If it doesn’t begin to wind, don’t force it. You don’t want to create kinks and other unnecessary bumps in the wire that can damage the tool or hinder its effectiveness.

      Ensure you shape the wire at least one full circle around the outside edge of the container before continuing to wind it up.

      Step 3: Feed All Wire Into Container

      With the end of the cable back into the proper place, you can now feed the remaining wire into the container like you normally would after a job. The wire should wind itself in the container drum automatically. Ideally, it will wind in a counterclockwise motion. However, most drain snakes don’t require cable being wound in only one direction.

      Tips for Recoiling Specific Drain Snake Models

      How to recoil a Cobra drain snake

      See the following instructions on how to recoil a cobra drain snake according to the user manual:

      • Loosen the chuck and remove the existing cable from the machine.
      • Uncoil the new cable completely. 
      • Carefully insert the cable into the drum and continue doing so until installation is complete. 
      • Tighten the chuck.

      How to recoil a Husky drain snake

      For a canister drain snake like a Husky drain snake, you will use your hands to push the cord into place and into the drum. Once secure, you will rewind the wire cable as normal. 

      Husky is one of the easiest brands to work with when it comes to installing or recoiling a new wire. 

      How do you rewind a Ridgid snake?

      In order to rewind a Ridgid brand drain snake, you will need to remove the screws from the back of the container. Feed about a foot of the new wire through the guide tube and secure the wire with the cable clamp screw. Reattach the back of the drum and recoil the rest of the cable into place.

      Bonus Tip: Apply Wire Sealant to Your Cable

      Want to keep your cable in tip-top condition? Apply a wire sealant specifically designed for cables, such as Snakeoil. This will prolong the life of the auger cable by preventing rust and maintaining flexibility. You can actually perform this step after every use, but especially when installing a new wire.

      Broken Cable? Don’t worry. There are lots of replacement options

      Final Thoughts on Properly Rewinding Your Plumbing Snake

      We hope this article helped you figure out how to recoil a drain snake so it’s ready to go next time your drain cleaner doesn’t cut it. These devices work great when you need to break up a clog in your toilet drain, kitchen sink, shower drain, or clear debris further down your drain line.

      FAQS For How to Recoil a Drain Snake

      How do you recoil a drain snake?

      To recoil a drain snake, you insert the new cable through the hole in the back and guide the wire around the outer perimeter of the auger’s drum. Once you establish a foundation around the edge of the container, you will retract the wire back into the machine as normal. 

      What do you do when a snake won’t go down the clogged drain?

      Snake cables can break if you force them into a space they can’t adapt to properly. 

      Some people add additional pressure when the snake appears stuck trying to turn a corner or when encountering an unexpected blockage. Do not let your impatience get the best of you. Forcing a snake down the drain may damage it or the pipe. 

      Feed the cable into the drain cautiously and slowly, gently adjusting it as necessary until you get it at the right angle. If snaking a shower, be sure to remove the shower drain cover for full range of motion. If you have a combined mechanism, see this article if you need help removing a drain stopper for better access.

      What are the different replacement auger cables to choose from?

      The 3 main types of wire you can choose from are:

      • Inner core – strong but also heavy and slow
      • No core – small and exclusively designed for small pipes
      • Double wound – strongest and lightest but not great for tight turns

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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.

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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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