How to Operate a Sewer Snake

By Dee Davies

Unless properly cleaned out, clogged pipes can lead to flooding in the home. Using a plunger or chemical drain opener might not effectively remove the blockage. Before calling a plumber, use a drain snake. Drain snakes--also known as drain augers, plumbing snakes and sewer snakes--clear stubborn blockages. Drain augers are cables with a corkscrew-like hook at the end to grab or push through blockages. When a small, manual drain snake is not powerful enough or long enough to clear a clogged pipe, use a powered sewer snake.

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Step 1

Plug the machine into an appropriately grounded outlet. If an extension cord is required, use a heavy gauge cord to prevent overloading the sewer snake motor.

Step 2

Mop up any standing water in the area. Never operate an electric drain auger machine while standing in water.

Step 3

Verify that the ground fault interrupter is in working order. Make sure to reset it properly. Do not use an outlet with a damaged or non-working ground fault interrupter. The ground fault interrupter shuts off the electric current in case of a malfunction.

Step 4

Put on a pair of heavy-duty leather work gloves. The cable gets slippery and it can pinch skin. Keep all loose clothing away from the cable so the cable does not snag the material.

Step 5

Place the machine as close to the drain as possible. If unable to place the machine within two feet of the drain opening, run the cable through a length of metal or PVC pipe. This prevents the cable slack from whipping around and causing damage or injury.

Step 6

Insert the cable into the drain opening. Feed it into the drain until it meets with resistance. Pull out another foot of cable. Allow the cable to form an arch.

Step 7

Tighten the thumbscrew that is located where the cable exits the machine. This screw prevents the drain auger machine from feeding too much cable into the drain at once.

Step 8

Flip the machine's switch to the forward position. Use both hands to guide the plumbing snake cable while using one foot to operate the foot switch.

Step 9

Allow the machine to push the cable forward. Do not rush the cable, since this will cause slack in the cable. Too much slack results in the cable whipping. Forcing the cable can result in damage to the sewer snake machine, damage to the pipe and bodily harm.

Step 10

Stop the machine once all of the arched cable is in the drain. Loosen the thumbscrew and pull out another foot of cable.

Step 11

Tighten the thumbscrew and turn the sewer snake machine back on.

Step 12

Repeat the process until the blockage has cleared.