Dealing with Seized Pipe Plugs

by Steve Teer, Nash Field Service Technician

Remove pipe plugs and studs with ease using THE BEAR SOLUTION, a trick taught to me many years ago by a millwright in Denver nicknamed “The Bear.” This trick will work with plugs or studs, but for simplicity’s sake, we will only refer to a plug. 

Have you ever applied heat to the body around a pipe plug (thinking, of course, that it will expand the body away from the plug) and then use too much leverage on the wrench, twist off the head of the plug and make more work for yourself? Next time, try this…

  • Get a squirt-bottle of water and a rosebud tip on your torch.
  • Get your crescent wrench, pipe wrench or channel locks ready and have the water bottle within reach.
  • Heat the plug only, not the body, until bright red. This will not expand the plug and break the body - don't worry. 
  • When the plug is red hot, quench it with water. It will cool off rapidly and be steaming.  Wait about five seconds and then use your wrench. You will find that you can remove the plug easily.  This works great with twisted off plugs as well, even if you only have a broken off piece.  If it doesn't work the first time, let it cool down and repeat the process - but make it a little hotter.  It will come out the second time. 
  • If the plug break is even with the body, grind it down to the good metal, even taking off some of the body.  Make it concave so that you can weld two flat washers or a nut to the plug. Tack weld these on both sides. Use the above method and you will get that plug out with ease. 

Next time you see someone trying to remove broken pipe fittings using the old method, show him this trick. It’s a tip that can’t be beat.

Thanks Bear.