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Need some help on a broken valve handle, I'blers. Can you help me out?

I hate that I cannot find a picture of the valve to show you exactly what I mean but I have a 1/4 in compression fit water valve in my utilities closet that leads to the evaporative cooler above.  When I went to turn the handle it turned but the central part that is actually the valve stem (the part that screws in/out) did not.  It is one of the older types with a flat handle and seemingly hollow central stem.  Is there any way to turn the valve on without completely replacing the valve?

edit:
Sorry.  Somehow I always forget one important detail.  It's a valve on 1/4 in copper tubing.  I got some pictures but they look crappy because there wasn't really enough room for the camera so I took them with my phone and found my phone's usb cable.  The valve was there first and the heater and water heater were installed later, leaving very little room to work.
I also tried the vice grip idea.  The brass stem cracked and  part of the stem is gone now.
Even if I do just end up replacing it, I thank you for your input.

Picture of Need some help on a broken valve handle, I'blers.  Can you help me out?
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You're probably just going to end up replacing that valve. I mean I'm not clairvoyant, or anything like that. I'm just saying.

Also I've some clear pictures of a similar valve that I have decided to share.  It's one of these little gate valves that go on 1/4  tubing with compression fittings.  I think I have also heard these called "needle valves", but I'm not sure if that's canonical.

As you can see from the pics, if you've got one that's clean and not fused together by corrosion, the nut surrounding the valve stem unscrews, and you can take the "gate", or whatchacallit valve mechanism out. But I don't know if you can do that, and it put it back together in a way that won't leak too much, or still work as a valve.

Anyway, I stand by my original prediction that says you'll replace it.
;-)
compression-fitting-needle-valve-1.jpgcompression-fitting-needle-valve-2.jpg
Attach a pair of locking pliers, aka Vice Grip(r) pliers, to the stem where the valve handle used to go. The pliers being locked in place become like a new handle for the valve.  I mean it's not all that pretty, but it works.

Image source:
http://j-walkblog.com/index.php?/weblog/posts/vice_grip_as_faucet/
vicegripfaucet.jpg
That photo belongs on the "there, I fixed it" blog...
Ahhh it's soo comforting to see the (WVUSS) West Virginia Universal Socket Set being used in such a way. Brings back fond memories!
Amen! Locking pliers rock!
Just think of how big a hit they would have been back in the days of the inquisition. Of course the inventor would of ended up being the first to test them, involuntarily.
I really like the long nose version, a third hand many times.
+1

A photo of the valve stem and the handle would help. The handle normally fits over either a square stem or one with teeth and is held in place with a machine screw. Often times, the handle is made from steel or a zinc alloy while the stem is normally made from brass. These two dissimilar metals can sometimes produce electrolysis which corrodes or weakens the handle. This process often causes the handle to break. If the valve stem is not damaged, you should be able to take the handle to a hardware store or plumbing supply house and purchase a replacement. If the stem is damaged you may have to replace it. If you can shut off the water ahead of the valve, you can remove it by unscrewing the packing nut that hold the valve stem in place then unscrewing the valve stem from the valve body. Again, you should be able to get a replacement from a hardware or plumbing supply store. You may have to clean up the valve body and valve seat to get a good seal with the new stem. Minerals in the water can produce lime scale or corrode the inside of the valve body.
orksecurity3 years ago
First step is to look at how the handle and the valve stem attach to each other. The handle's usually held on with a bolt, and has teeth that engage grooves in the valve step; if the bolt is loose, those teeth may disengage and the stem may not turn. If this is what you're dealing with, simply pushing the handle more firmly onto the stem and/or tightening that bolt may solve your problem.

If you've stripped out the teeth or grooves (or the bolt threads) , or it's a different design than I've just described, things become more difficult. I hesitate to suggest vice grips; applying too much force could damage the valve or pipes. If you try that approach, make SURE you know where the upstream cutoff valve is (and that _it_ works!) so you can control things should there be a disaster.

A photo really would help us be sure what you're dealing with. Find a friend with a digital camera?