The little pieces of plastic tubing that come on the handles of 5-gallon plastic buckets always seem to age and break, leaving bare wire handles. Replace the old tubing with sturdy PVC pipe and your handle will outlast the bucket.
I use the old buckets mostly for working with cement. A good handle makes carrying the heavy buckets a lot more enjoyable.
Step 1: Removing the Handles
The ends of the wire handles have a sort of double bend to them. One bend takes the wire into a hole in the side of the bucket, and the other bend to the side keeps the wire from coming back out the hole.
The wire is springy. To forcefully remove the wire you need to grab what you can of the wire at the first bend with a pair of pliers and give the wire a twist. That lets you slide the end of the wire back out the hole.
To get what's left of the old plastic off, beat it with a hammer, cut it with snips, or use a hammer and chisel. Sometimes you can just rip it apart with pliers.
Step 2: Cut the PVC Pipe
Look through your scrap pile before cutting into new lengths of pipe. I use 1/2" diameter Schedule 40 pipe.
The wire has a sort of recessed area where the new handle will fit. Cut the pipe to a length that fits in this recessed area.
Step 3: Bend the Wire
The pipe section you cut won't fit over the bent end of the wire, as it must to get where it is going. Grab the end with pliers and bend the 90 degree angle to about 45 degrees. The pipe should now slide over it.
After you get the pipe section in place, bend the end of the wire back to 90 degrees, the way it was to begin with.
Step 4: Replace the Finished Handles
When you are ready to put the new handles on, you have to do in reverse what you did to remove them. The first end easily enters its hole. You have to grab the second end with pliers, and twist it to insert the tip of the wire back into the final hole.
You should now have no further problem with the handles. Also, because of the increased diameter of the pipe, carrying the buckets will be a lot more comfortable for your hand.