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Thread: about tightening packing nut on old main house shutoff valve

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member carlegeo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2011

    Default about tightening packing nut on old main house shutoff valve

    a. I have an old gate valve (not a ball valve) outside the house that turns
    off water to the house (its right at the house, not at/near the meter at the street)

    the pipes from meter to house are galvanized; its an older house from the 50s.

    c. I've turned off that valve a few times in recent years, for some work to be done,
    and there were no leaks at it when turning it back on. But its been about 6 years
    since it was turned off and on at all.

    d. a few weeks ago I turned it off to look at something, and when turned it on,
    a very small drip happened - about 8 ounces a day.

    e. more recently had some minor work done and when turning it on,
    this time its a bad drip of about a drop per second or two.

    f. I've read about tightening the packing nut as a first step
    to possibly solve the drip

    BUT am concerned that in doing that, I might upset some other parts
    of the connection of it to both the pipe coming up under the ground
    from the meter, as well as the part that connects to where the pipe
    goes into the house, and since its galvanized, I realize this could be a big problem
    and expensive one to say the least.

    or perhaps in trying to tighten packing nut the entire valve could crumble or collapse,
    and there is no other main shutoff valve for the house.

    =======> Are the above concerns/risks valid if will just be trying to tighten the packing nut ?

    =======> If its ok to try this, does the valve need to be shut down (water turned off
    at this valve) to do it, or is it ok to do it with the valve in the open position ?

    =======> I am not able to any more steps like changing the packing or washers,
    not to mention replacing the valve, though I guess the same concerns
    with upsetting the galvanized pipe and related connections might
    be valid if that work was to be done too ?

    thanks - carlegeo

  2. #2
    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Bothell, Washington
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    With little effort you can snug the bonnet nut around the stem. It's a small nut and won't need much. Just a snug.
    If it still seeps, then replacement will be in your future.

  3. #3
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    San Diego


    You can shut the valve off gently, and back up the bonnet nut . I like to apply some silicone grease down in there, snug the nut up a little, and run the valve open/close a few times, then if necessary a little more snugging on the nut. There is no way you should have to put enough "gorilla" into that procedure that it would affect any other part of the system.

    Gate valves ARE prone to the stem breaking if you torque it closed to tight, so at some point...replacement could be in the picture. For now, see if you can stop that drip.

  4. #4
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Cave Creek, Arizona


    Tightening the packing nut will NOT cause any other problems, NOR can it be so tight that it will break the valve's stem. Your only problem will be if it has already been tightened as far as possible, because then you won't be able to stop the leak unless you add some "packing' inside the nut.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

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