Fix for eternally spinning gate valve handle - SailNet Community

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  #1  
Old 10-13-2007
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Fix for eternally spinning gate valve handle

From reading other threads, I believe the head on my boat has a gate valve freshwater intake. My problem (which I think others have had) is that when I try to open or close it the handle just spins and doesn't seem to do anything. I know everyone will probably say to get hauled out and replace it with a ball valve or whatever, but I plan on getting hauled out next summer and would like to wait and do something like that at that time (the valve is closed right now anyway). My question is if anyone knows some kind of short term fix for getting that valve open and closed so that I can use the head. I gotta go real bad!
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Old 10-13-2007
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The brass stem on the valve is rounded off so the square socket on the knob doesn't grip it anymore. It should be replaced. In the meantime, take the knob off and use a small itty-bitty pipe wrench on the end of the stem to open and close the valve when you really gotta go. Also, you could save your gray water in a dishpan and dump it down the head for flushing or scoop a bucket of the water you're floating in to flush the head and don't even mess with the gate valve.
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While it may be possible that the valve handle to stem connection is the problem, I think it much more likely that the problem is within the valve body itself. Gate valves have a threaded stem and this is what the gate rides up and down on. Lack of exercise can cause them to set up and over-tightening can cause the gate to warp and prevent operation. You may, on occasion, be able to remove the bonnet complete with gate and effect repairs. The problem with that is the same as with installing the ball valve you really need-water ingress.

You might loosen the packing gland and then see if you can get the gate to open. If the gate/threads are damaged you may not be able to get it to re-close. That could be a seaworthiness issue at some future point!

Pop a plug in the thru hull from the outside and change the valve out. Have all conceivable materials ready to hand when doing so.
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Old 10-13-2007
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It's your life, buddy.

I had a galley gate valve fail on me when the under sink door closed, sending a spatula hanging on a cuphook into the wheel (which looked fine). The wheel AND stem cracked...must have been very thinned out, and I had to head to a Travelift at top speed, pumping and steering, to get lifted out. I already had the replacement on board...just hadn't got around to it. $175 for the haul and 45 minutes of concentrated pipe work and Teflon taping later, all was well, but it took some time for the undersides of the floorboards to dry out.

Anything below the waterline is not worth putting off and gate valves have no place on a boat, except perhaps as above the waterline bleeder valves. You can't tell if they are on or off, and they are cheap, dodgy things.

If you absolutely can't change it now, dive on the hull and bung in a wooden plug into the intake. I did that to change a scupper valve one year, and just after spinning on the new valve on the thru-hull, I used a rubber mallet and a
dowel to hammer out the bung (which I recovered, BTW, with a net). Even in the three seconds it took to pull out the dowel and turn off the ball valve, an impressive and intense fountain of water played over the engine compartment. Water pressure sub-surface is a powerful thing. Don't find this out the hard way.
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Old 10-13-2007
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That bung should have been large enough to where there great deal of it outside the through-hull fitting. A couple of side wacks with a mall would have loosen it enough for you to take it out with your fingers.
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I know it's not what you want to hear, but you should replace the valve ASAP. A friend of mine had his boat sink in its slip because of a bad gate valve. The cost of raising your boat, fines for enviro damage, THEN paying to replace the valve doesn't sound like fun. It would be less expensive to just haul and do it right sooner rather than later.
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Old 10-14-2007
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I agree that the valve should be replaced ASAP; but if it's not possible to dive and install a plug you might want to install a vent loop (vent 12" above heeled waterline) on the line from the pump to the toilet bowl to prevent a siphon. This does not protect against failure of the thru-hull, valve, or line from the valve to pump; but at least you wont have a worry of the toilet flooding.

Another option would be to re-route the water intake to either your sink drain or non-pressure fresh water supply (with check-valve and anti-siphon); and block off the line that goes to the gate valve at the valve. If you do this you also must realize that any failure of the valve or plug on the line will allow flooding.
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