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How to Fix a Shower Arm or Head Pipe That's Broken Off at or in the Wall

Updated on April 13, 2016
The infamous shower head.
The infamous shower head.

My shower head pipe broke off inside the wall and I wanted to fix it.

It turns out that the solution is extremely easy, and I'm going to tell you exactly how to do it.

Materials and Tools Needed:

  • No. 10 flat file (tapered) . . . typically means "ten inch"
  • Flashlight
  • Hammer
  • Pliers
  • Replacement shower head pipe / arm
  • Teflon tape
  • Eye protection

Difficulty Level: Easy
Time Required: 30 Minutes

After years, and years, and sometimes even decades, all that water passing through your shower head arm slowly wears it down, erodes it, and will eventually cause it to become rather brittle.

It is therefore inevitable that one day you will go to adjust its angle and snap! That head is going break off, most likely inside the wall, and water is going to start spewing itself all inside your wall.

You'll panic, get flustered, start fussing around with it, and then think . . . I can't believe I have to call a plumber.

But before you tuck your tail between your legs and call the ass-cracked mechanic of the water-world, you decide to see if you can do it yourself.

This is what a flat file looks like. Go to a hardware store and buy one. Make sure it is a number ten (No. 10), and make sure it is tapered!
This is what a flat file looks like. Go to a hardware store and buy one. Make sure it is a number ten (No. 10), and make sure it is tapered!
Teflon Tape is used to create a water-tight seal between threaded fitting in plumbing related matters.
Teflon Tape is used to create a water-tight seal between threaded fitting in plumbing related matters.

Where to Start

Let me preface the rest of this article by saying I am not a plumber and I hate plumbing-related issues. In all senses of the term, I'm your average homeowner that likes to try to DIY first, then call help if that fails, then hire a professional.

The weakest part of the shower head pipe happens to be the threads (threaded nipple) that screw into the copper fitting inside of your wall. So when it snaps off, or breaks, it will almost always leave the threads inside your copper fitting. This is the problem we need to solve.

Luckily for all of us the chance that you broke the copper fitting is fairly slim.

There will be a small hole in the wall, tile, plastic frame, or whatever, right behind the metal ring on your shower head pipe (which is designed to hide the hole). If you can pull the whole pipe free, do so now.

Get a flashlight and peer in there. (Oh yeah, if you haven't turned the water off to your shower, you really should, lol.) You'll see the copper fitting, and you may or may not be able to determine much else.

It will likely be corroded, pretty nasty looking, and the edges between the fitting's threads and the threads of the broken piece will likely be coated and sealed with white Teflon tape.

Here is where the solution gets very easy.

Fixing It Step-By-Step

Follow these simple instructions and you'll be good to go:

  1. Make sure you have all the supplies listed above. They can be found at any hardware store. Make sure the flat file is a No. 10. (This number typically means the file is ten inches long). The Teflon tape will be in the plumbing section. Both items are very inexpensive.
  1. Make sure the old shower head pipe and arm is removed and that you can see into the hole in the wall.
  2. Put the flat file straight into the hole. Put on your protective eye wear (better safe than sorry). Then, with the hammer, tap it into the fitting. Don't be afraid to hit it pretty hard. The idea here is for the tiny metal grooves on the edge of the flat-file to "bite" into the broken section of threaded nipple. When done hammering, you can remove the eye wear.
  3. Take the pliers, about a hand's width away from the wall, grab onto the flat file and turn slowly, applying even pressure. You will feel it start to turn. Once you've turned it a little bit, grab the flashlight and watch carefully while you rotate it with one hand.
  4. You should be able to see the broken piece rotating (this means it's working). If the file is just grinding along inside the fitting, tap it in harder with the hammer and try again. NOTE: If you want to protect the file, wrap the area you're going to grab with the pliers with a small towel or shop rag.
  5. Rotate the flat file with pliers until the old piece comes free.
  6. Wrap the Teflon tape around the replacement shower head pipe / arm's threaded nipple you intend to put into the copper pipe fitting. It should probably get about 4 to 5 turns of the tape to cover the whole nipple about two strips deep.
  7. Carefully line up the replacement pipe with copper fitting. Screw it in. Turn until fully hand-tightened.
  8. Put the metal ring back on. Re-attach the shower head to the other end of the pipe.
  9. Now you must check for leaks.
  10. Make sure you do not skip this step. With your face up against your shower wall, with a flashlight, turn the shower on and make sure your repair job is not leaking. Be patient. Stay there for a few minutes. NOTICE: You'll need to temporarily slide the metal ring forward so you can see your connection into the copper fitting. That is what you're checking for leaks.
  11. If it is leaking remove the fitting, remove the teflon, and start again at Step 6. If it fails again, and you are still getting a leak (even a small leak) then you may have damaged the threads in your copper fitting . . . .call a plumber.
  12. If it is not leaking, let it run for about ten minutes and come back and make sure it is still not leaking.
  13. Done!

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What About Bolt Extractors, or Inner Pipe-Wrenches, or Any of That Other Stuff

In short? They suck and many times do not work. How do I know? I bought them, and tried them, and they did not work at all! Not even slightly. It was at this point I started to get discouraged ...

Me and my buddy tried all sorts of ideas. We had these failed tools, cold chisels, screwdrivers, hack saw blades . . . we tried everything.

Finally, I sent my buddy home to go enjoy his life and I called a friend (who happens to be a seasoned master plumber). He gave me the instructions I've shared with you in this article and saved me tons of money and a big headache!

I thought to myself, "This tip is super valuable, and I'm sure people run into this all the time . . . I should spread the word."

And here we are! I hope this article helped you solve your problem.


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    • Dave 2 weeks ago

      It Worked! I did have to break a piece off the end of the file so it would not hit the back of the elbow. Thanks!!

    • Ed 3 weeks ago

      Water followed studs in kitchen ceiling calling a plumber,how much will they charge

    • Matt 3 weeks ago

      It worked!!

    • Jon 4 weeks ago

      Sweet!!! After also having no success with the internal pipe wrenches, extractors, chisels (same list of failed tools as the author's), the tapered file worked.

      Helpful tip: My file was too narrow at the tip to make solid contact with the inside of the broken pipe (the tip was hitting the back of the 90-deg fitting that the shower neck threads into). I scored the file with a reciprocating saw with the file held in a vice. With the score line right at the edge of the vice, I broke the tip of the file off with a hammer, making the new tip of the file a better size for wedging into the broken pipe.

      If this author was here I'd buy him a round with the money saved (or at least with the refund from Home Depot for the tools that didn't work!)

    • mary 5 weeks ago

      THANKS so much! This worked great! Appreciate the post!We are not DIYers but were able to fix this with your suggestions!

    • cmdviola 5 weeks ago

      I'd like photos or diagrams.. I think I am ready to try it, but the bathroom shower is in another town and i'd like to see some pictures of this fix so i can look in my memory and "see" if this seems like the correct solution.

    • Bill 7 weeks ago

      SCORE! Worked like a champ. Thanks for the tip. My wife was picking out new tile already, whew.

    • Matt 2 months ago

      Add me to the W column for "Worked for me!" Thank you so much!

      Let's be honest, it's this kind of stuff that the internet was made for.

    • Eric 2 months ago

      Had to scrummage for the perfectly sized file and when I did find it, it worked like a charm.

    • Chuck 2 months ago

      Didn't work and got worse, broke the file and a broken file piece is in shower arm.

    • M kern 3 months ago

      Thank you saved me a ton of time locking for an extractor.

    • Gary 4 months ago

      Elderly neighbor's grandson ran into this problem while helping his Grandpa by installing s new shower head.

      Used the Internet and found this fantastic solution. Ground down a file to get a good fit. A few minutes later I presented him with the copper thread ring as a 'reward' for stepping up to help his 90 year old grandpa.

    • Brian 4 months ago

      Awesome article. You just saved me a ton of time. I was ready to cut the wall open to replace the elbow. Thank you!!!

    • John R 5 months ago

      Thank you for this article. It worked just as you and your reviewers said. Definitely worth the effort and small expense before calling a plumber or other contractor. Thanks again.

    • Cletus 5 months ago

      After purchasing two tools that didn't work...the old trusty file at the bottom of my toolbox worked! THANK YOU!!!

    • David 5 months ago

      Worked for me Thanks. Saved a plumber service call.

    • BJ Black 5 months ago

      Ended up doing something similar with a kitchen sink water spray that broke at the handle (leaving plastic threading in the hose). I scored the plastic with a box cutter (carefully!) and shoved a 1/2" wood-boring drill bit in there. The flutes wedged in there nicely and turned easily.

    • jeffepops 6 months ago

      This procedure appealed to me, but after having no success with the cam-based ez pull, I visited my local pro plumbing supply. They sold me a "stubby" reverse screw-type extractor for $14. It did the trick. Since I didn't have a #10 file with teeth on the sides, I didn;t get a change to test your method.

      But the stubby extractor seems to be a good alternative, as well.

    • Janet 6 months ago

      Thank you SO much for writing this article. We were ready to call our very expensive plumber, but with less than $10 worth of parts plus five minutes, we were done. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!

    • pj 6 months ago

      worked like a charm! thanks

    • Greg Hopper 6 months ago

      Perfect - fantastic tip! Less than five minutes to work up the nerve to tap it in hard enough. Unscrewed right out. The elbow was about two inches behind the surface of the tile, and the file was the ideal tool for this job.

    • Jerry 7 months ago

      Worked great! Used an 8 inch file. Thought I was going to have to call a plumber. Thanks for sharing such an easy solution!

    • Greg 7 months ago

      Tried everything else too, hack saw, 2-kinds of pipe extractors, among other things, even though I had it buggered up pretty good the File Worked just fine.

    • Tm 8 months ago

      Thank you for the article. Awesome!!!!!

    • txbowhunter 8 months ago

      The 10" file may work perfectly fine on a metal shower arm, BUT not on the plastic arm. I used an 8" tapered file on it and it worked PERFECTLY!!! I've been in the property maintenance field for over 25yrs and NEVER had this problem before now. Yes I have ALL the normal tools to remove broken pipes/nipples and such, NOTHING worked and I had NO intention of tearing up the wall. I searched for a easier solution and found MANY ways to fix it and they basically all said to use the file... THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS EASY TIP!!!

    • andy 8 months ago

      thank you....I work in a building with over 100 units and encountered this problem for the 1st time. I read your suggestion and it worked perfectly! Saved me lots of time and effort! Thank you!

    • novice 9 months ago

      Thank you so much for sharing expert's knowledge!!! I was getting ready to remove tiles, but I am so glad I ran into your instructions. Thank you!!

    • stevo 9 months ago

      This is genius. I spent over an hour trying to use a pipe nipple extractor and this worked in 15 seconds. Awesome!

    • Fred 12 months ago

      Your guide saved me a lot of hassle! I was prepared to start ripping drywall apart. I'm glad I searched Google a little harder for a solution and stumbled across your write up. THANK YOU!!!

    • Time Spiral profile image

      Time Spiral 18 months ago from Florida

      Glad to hear you had success with your method!

    • Brett 18 months ago

      Was going to try this method, but picked up an Irwin EX-7 extractor at the local hardware store (under $15). Used my dremel to cut-off about 1.5" off the tip of the extractor. One needs to cut off the tip of the extractor otherwise the tip of the bit will hit the pipe behind the nipple and not be able to grab the threads. Was able to remove the broken thread in about 30 seconds.

    • ed 20 months ago

      Worked great!!? Took 5 minutes. Thank you!!

    • Time Spiral profile image

      Time Spiral 20 months ago from Florida

      Thanks to everyone who tried this and then took the time to let me and the readers know that it worked!

    • James 21 months ago

      Worked like a charm - thank you!

    • Rich Schager 21 months ago

      Worked perfectly. Big Thank You!

    • Tim 22 months ago

      This worked amazingly well. Thank you so much!

    • Melody Colon 23 months ago

      You are awesome! I showed this to my roommate and she thought seems too easy....we tried and it worked perfectly. Fyi my roommate is 65 and took her less than 5 mintues.

      Thanks very much

    • Brian 2 years ago

      I normally don't comment, but this DIY saved me so much time—not to mention helping me not make this a bigger project than it needed to be—I had to express my thanks. Thank you.

    • Sheryl Huckabay 2 years ago

      After a week with no upstairs shower, Christmas next week and no plumber in sight, in desperation I searched for a solution. Found this GREAT tip and fixed it myself while hubby was at work. He will be so happy! Pretty empowering for a female to be able to tackle plumbing issues....now to celebrate with a glass of my favorite wine! THANK YOU!

    • Debbie in FL 2 years ago

      As soon as I get my hands on my neighbor's file, I'm going to try this. I was able to get the two prior arms out without a hitch by first checking in the hole to see if it was a ragged tear. If so, you're probably in luck with just a pair of needle nose pliers. I grabbed the piece that was sticking up and then twirled the needle nose pliers until it pulled all of it out of the threads. Then you just have to get the metal off your pliers. Teflon tape, watch for leaks and you're set to go.

    • PVS 2 years ago

      After fussing with this repair for a couple of hours, did the google search and found this site and tips. Went to Lowes for the #10 file (for $10). Did the techinique as described, and completed the repair. Worked perfectly. Thank you "Time Spiraling".

      I suspect the reason the file works so well is that it is focusing the pressure in just two small areas (the sides of the file) vs distributing the pressure across the entire pipe?

    • Will 2 years ago

      Great tip worked like magic!

    • Ed 2 years ago

      The information about using a file to remove the broken piece of shower pipe was great. What I thought was going to a long horrible process, took about 5 minutes using the fie and wrench. awesome information!

    • Nikki 2 years ago

      DONE! 15 minutes and 15.00!

    • bruce 2 years ago

      Worked like e charm. I had to grind a new taper on my ten inch bastard file, but it was amazingly effective. Thanks!

    • Art 2 years ago

      It worked!

    • Alan 2 years ago

      Thank you, saved me money and time, already had the file.

      thanks again.


    • Russell 3 years ago

      You are the man. Just as you said I thought last night I was going to have to rip out sheetrock. I tried your fix. Worked like a charm. Thanks a lot!

    • Robin 3 years ago

      Thanks! The hubby is out of town so I tried this myself. I am an average DIYer and this was very easy. $15 and about 30 minutes later, the shower is working again! And to think I was considering a call to the plumber!

    • Allan 3 years ago

      I had to return to a local hardware store to buy a replacement flex hose which goes between the tap and the toilet tank and I shared this idea with the owner. He said that he had seen this many times before and he showed me a cold chisel. The idea is identical as the chisel is a very tight fit. He hammers it in and then uses a box end wrench to rotate it. He said the advantage is when you hammer a file in, the tip can bend while the chisel won't. Not sure of the chisel number but the blade is between 1/2 inch and 5/8 inch wide.

    • Allan 3 years ago

      The plan worked like a charm. The broken piece in the elbow came out. I had to file a groove wide enough for one side of the flat file to get a grip and then hammer lightly to wedge the 10 inch file in place. Without the groove, the file was not able to get enough of a grip and it just made the hole bigger. Once it has a solid bite, out it came. Also, I did use WD40 but on the inside and let it sit over night. I don't know if it helped but it didn't hurt. Another tip is to use an adjustable wrench to rotate the file. Its easy to turn and does not damage the file. As so many others have said, THIS WORKS AND IS A LOW COST SOLUTION.

    • Allan 3 years ago

      I live in South East Asia and my toilet shutoff tap started leaking. The leak became a small stream so I bought a replacement tap. When I tried to remove the flexible hose that goes to the toilet tank, the entire tap disintegrated leaving a short piece at the wall. The tap looks like its made of cast zinc. I have been a DIY'er for years and this idea is well outside the box. I would have looked for a tool that fits inside like a stud remover but half inch and probably not found it. We have an Ace Hardware close by so I will try this and feed back.

    • Justamomist 3 years ago

      Thanks. I suspect we have a bit of "Chicken Little Syndrome" going on. I'm going to attempt this fix in small steps. First step will be verifying there is no leak.

    • Time Spiral profile image

      Time Spiral 3 years ago from Florida


      You need to check for leaks. Follow steps 9-12.

      If I understand you correctly, the metal ring that covers up the hole is loose, and that's all? Sometimes the metal rings screw on, sometimes the just sit there, and sometimes they're bonded with silicon or something like that.

      If you can verify that there are no leaks at the arm and the fitting inside the wall, and the shower-head works, then you're probably fine to use the shower. If the metal ring won't stay in place, and this annoys you, you can (a) replace the whole shower head assembly, and this is easily done without knocking down the wall, or (b) fix it to the wall with some simple silicon gel.

      However; if the man of the house (as you called him) is suggesting that the wall needs to come down, you may want to verify what he suspects the issue is. Maybe it's not the connection that he thinks is leaking, but something else, deeper in the wall, or maybe down by the valve. Who knows. If there is any doubt, or disagreement, then you may just want to call a professional and have him clear things up for you. Risking serious water damage is not worth it.

      Hope this helps!

    • AmyW 3 years ago

      We have been living without a shower for about 5 years because I am told my the man of the house that we must rip out the entire wall in the adjacent bedroom to fix the shower. Here's the thing, the shower head is not broken. The pipe is not broken. The attachement that makes the arm of the shower head seal to the wall has detached. I just spins loosely around the arm of the shower head and I don't see what if anything it attaches to. I would love to fix this myself. I don't see that part of the fix above.

    • vkaufman 3 years ago

      amazing. simply amazing. I can cancel the $95. service charge for the guy I had coming out on Monday. Thanks.

    • Larry 3 years ago

      Time Spiral,

      Thanks a ton for this information. It worked like a charm and you saved me serious plumber bills. I appreciate it!

    • Time Spiral profile image

      Time Spiral 3 years ago from Florida

      Excellent comment, Kent. Thank you for the input. I will update the article to reflect your suggestions (which I agree with).

    • kent 3 years ago

      this is a good simple solution.the only two things i would like to mention is that the fitting in the wall is made of brass not copper that is why you are able to get fairly rough when hammering the file into it.the second thing and most important is to wear protective eyewear when hammering the file because the file is very brittle(a piece of the file could break off when hitting it).remember hand files were not made to hammer on.

    • dave 3 years ago

      great solution!! worked perfectly, thanks for your help!

    • Chuck Ferguson 3 years ago

      Thank you so much for sharing this info! I went from worried about tearing up my shower wall in a major project, to completely fixed in about 30 minutes!

    • Joe Biron 3 years ago

      unbelievably simple and elegant solution. The guy at the (big box store) had a convoluted recommendation involving hacksaws and blowtorches. Your solution took 1 minute. Awesome. thank you!

    • cckrobinson 3 years ago

      Worked perfectly! I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to replace the elbow which would have envolved cutting a larger hole in the wall. I love the internet.

    • Time Spiral profile image

      Time Spiral 3 years ago from Florida

      Bestwife, that's awesome! Thanks for the reassuring tip for your fellow readers, and those who may be skeptical.

    • bestwife 3 years ago

      Worked so awesome! This makes me the best wife in the world. I have a picture to share. If you are in any doubt while at the store about the 10 inch tapered file and decide to buy a back up tool, save yourself the time and money. The file works, I have proof.

    • Rick 3 years ago

      Thanks!! Worked just as described. You saved me a plumbing bill and gave me handyman cred.

    • Steve 3 years ago

      Amazing!! Thanks again for such a simple solution to what, at first, seemed like a complex problem. I am indebted to your DIY skills and for not having to get the landlord involved...

    • John 3 years ago

      Unbelievable!!!! Worked in 10 secs!!!! Way to go! Thanks for the tip...you the "man"!

    • Paul 3 years ago

      Did what you said and in 5 min had the broken piece unscrewed. Thanks a bunch!!!!

    • Teawjawntag 3 years ago

      We used to find at the top of life although these days I've truly built up any level of resistance.

    • Amanda 3 years ago

      Thank you SO much for this. I wanted to surprise my husband and install the raincan shower head we'd bought but not installed (it's been sitting around for 4 months) - thought it would be a quick job, and as soon as I started to loosen the old shower head, the threads sheared off and left 90% of them inside the elbow. I was cursing myself for trying to undertake the installation, and now we'll need a plumber. Found your tip, bought a #10 file, and it came out on the first try. You're the man.

    • Jennifer 3 years ago

      You are the best. The broken pipe stared at me for a month while I tried to figure out how I was going to pay for a plumber. I found you're article and I had it fixed in 2 days!!!! Thank you for sharing this information.

    • Steve D 3 years ago

      YES this works great! Took a few tries, - different angles with the file, and it took some elbo greese after I pounded the file in, it turned! And all is good now. Excellent tip. Thanks much.

    • Ross 3 years ago

      You are the man.. I fiddled for an hour with needle nose, vice grips, screw drivers.. Never once thought about a file. Broke away 15yrs of build up! Thanks a ton!

    • Chris P. 4 years ago

      You saved me! I had tried everything else (internal pipe wrentch etc.) and this is the only thing that worked. Took about 6 tries but worked like a charm. Thanks again!

    • Bob 4 years ago

      I'll add my success story to those above. I was able to remove the broken piece in less than 5 minutes. Thank you very much.

    • Mike A 4 years ago

      Not only was your suggested fix perfect and actually as easy as it sounded, your description of my initial disbelief and frustration was dead-on! Many thanks for such a simple common sense solution (that I'd have NEVER come up with on my own) to what first looked like an expensive problem!!

      Even better, it got me major points with the wife (even after I made sure to give credit to your site)...

    • pat 4 years ago

      hi-just went to hardware store bought 10inch file and it worked like a charm(it has to be 10inch!!!!!) thank you so much for advice-pat 09/30/2012

    • John H. 4 years ago

      Best DIY tip I've ever used. Goat to hero in less than 2 minutes. Had to break about 1/2" off the tip of the file so that it wouldn't hit the back of the copper elbow, but small price to pay. THANKS SO MUCH!!

    • Terri 4 years ago

      5 hours later and $100 worth or useless tools, I see your website! Thank you so much! I almost cried when the thread came out of the hole in the wall...It was sunday and gonna be costly to call a plumber...you are a life saver! thank you thank you thank you!

    • Mr Not Handy 4 years ago


      After Buying a fancy Nipple extractor and working on it for an hour or so, with no luck, googled my problem and tryed it with a 8" flat file, I was done in 2 minutes. Beautiful.

    • rcarson 4 years ago

      Living in southeast Georgia and googled my problem and you are AWESOME! I was able to fix the problem as you said in no time.... Wished I had noticed the pipe was cracked earlier because now I'm spending the rest of my time cleaning up soaked carpet and floor boards in the closet that is behind the shower, pew it stinks... Using my Carpet cleaner, a big fan and carpet fresh to dry out the closet, I should have it all back to normal soon. Thanks, You Rock!

    • Vanessa 4 years ago

      THIS WORKED AMAZINGLY!! It literally just took 1 minute to unscrew the broken nipple. everything is fixed, no leaks, ingenious! thank you so much!

    • dlem27 4 years ago

      Amazing!!! TS for President! Man! I'm serious as a heart attack right now. This work 100% EXACTLY as you said. Right down to me not hitting the file with the hammer hard enough then reading where you said not to be afraid to do it harder. It came out when I hit it harder. It took Exactly 30 minutes like you said it ALL of it worked perfectly. I'm sure a but crack plumber would have charged me $200 to do what I just did. The file cost me $6.97 at home depot and the shower arm cost $9.84. Just that and 30 minutes of my time. I had my laptop right here in the bathroom and read your instructions step by step. Done, Easy and No leaks! Thank God for the internet man and than God for your blog. For anyone who is wondering... it WORKS! I now feel exactly the opposite as I did before I Googled this. HAPPY.

    • dlem27 4 years ago

      TS, Your write up was ME this morning. panic, got flustered, started fussing around with it, and then think ... I can't believe I have to call a plumber. Now, I can't wait to go get the file and other tools after reading your article and all the responses. I'll give it a shot and let you know. Thanks in advance!

    • Jon F 4 years ago

      Thank you, worked like a charm. I needed to grind down a larger file, but it still worked.

    • Rob 4 years ago

      This tip was awesome. Saved me from calling a plumber and opening up the wall. Took me approximately 15 minutes from start to finish. It only cost me $8.00 for a new elbow and plumbers tape. Thank you so much....

    • Jeannette 4 years ago

      Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Had just gotten finished replacing tub faucets in kid's bath and then mine(the diverters were no longer working).. and so proud of myself (got tired of waiting for my husband to replace them..)when I tested the one in my bath and was moving the shower spray away from me the whole arm popped off..water everywhere. Wasn't I surprised when I realized that not only had the arm come off but part of the pipe was still inside! and sheared off so nicely there was nothing to grip with pliers...I was determined to figure it out on my own..plumber, holes and dollars are an absolute last resort. (My dad did it all...from auto repair to home repair..there was little he couldn't figure out on his own). I may not have the knowledge he did, but I'm willing to try and can read and follow directions with the best of them! After trying a few ideas of my own.. unsuccessfully, I turned to the internet and googled. What a surprise to see that I'm not the only one this has happened to! Went right to Lowe's for the 10" file and a new pipe. Followed your directions and shower was back in shape in less than 10 minutes! Can't thank you enough!!!!

    • HoneyDo King 4 years ago

      I didn't think this would work in my particular situation without destroying the threads. There was only a wedding ring size piece of pipe left way in the back of the brass fitting. I messed with it for hours before reading your post. Since I already had the file, it took me longer to write this comment then remove the "wedding ring" perfectly without damage to the threads. Thanx to you and you Master-advisor

    • Bonanza87W 4 years ago

      This worked like a charm. In 20 seconds I had the broken nipple removed. Saved me a lot of time and aggravation!

    • TC in GB 4 years ago

      Worked Like a Charm!! It slipped the first try. Gave it another good two pops and kept some pressure on the teeth by pushing on the file toward the pipe when turning. This seem to help it keep its grip and it came off on the second attempt. You really saved the day with this post...BTW - Mine broke off trying to change out a shower head followed by a mild panic that we were going to need to call a plumber ($$$) and visions of holes being cut in the sheetrock or marble wall.

    • Bill in vegas 4 years ago

      Thank you! what a Great write up you are the BEST really made me look like a pro in front of my wife but I had to fess up and tell her the truth Thanks again Bill in vegas!

    • Rich 4 years ago

      That was EASY!!!! Thanks

    • Rob 4 years ago

      Thanks for posting, I had the exact problem and your solution worked so well

    • SJ 4 years ago

      F'ing awesome. As many others, I was about to open the wall (or worse yet, start my bathroom remodel early) and found this. Took some time, but worked perfectly. I was concerned with the rest of the plumbing, so it was a couple of small taps with the hammer, turn till it slipped. Few more small taps with hammer, turn till it slipped. Gave it one or two good ones and it grabbed well enough.

      Remember folks, 'lefty loosey' :D

    • Bobbyhill4x4 4 years ago

      Thanks for the advice, it worked great but I started to rip into the wall before researching the issue on the Internet. I guess it's best to do your research first, thanks again!

    • Time Spiral profile image

      Time Spiral 4 years ago from Florida

      I love seeing all these success stories rolling in! Thanks everyone.

    • Alex 4 years ago

      Another happy average Joe!!

      10" flat file from homedepot did the trick, it was 2 minute work. Was thinking about removing drywall, calling the plumber before I googled and found this site. Thank you!

    • Dennis 4 years ago

      It really did help. BUT, because the brass L shaped fitting behind the shower wall was so SHALLOW, the file could not fit straight in, but, for my application, had to be set in obliquely, at an angle. There was only 1/3" remaining of shower-head chrome pipe in there. It twisted out easily. As you said. Thank you.

    • Korey 4 years ago

      I know most of the comments on here are raving about how useful it is, but I'm gonna add one more. I'm pretty worthless at this DIY stuff, but I spent more time in the store looking for the 10 inch flat file than I spent getting it to work. What an incredible trick for getting out that old thread! This was a fast, easy, and cheap fix, thanks to the advice in this post! Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go grab a beer and sit my plumber's ass on the couch!

    • Danny Sheridan 4 years ago

      Thanks a million!!

    • dan 4 years ago

      My fitting was broken off inside the wall. After I read this article, and found the right file it tool minutes to fix.

      Thanks for the idea. I was afraid I would need to tear open the wall.

      Very cool.

    • Damon 4 years ago

      Article was great, i picked up the stuff suggested for the job. but before i tried the hammer and tappered flat file, i figured there was enough sticking out that i figured my needle nose plyers could grab. turned it the wrong way and tightened it up a bit at first. then went the other way and got it out after several turns. advice was greatly appreciated though.

    • Justin 4 years ago

      Tried above and the file broke off inside the pipe.

    • guest 4 years ago

      Thanks so much. It works perfectly, finally something from internet that help me directly.

    • kLock#10 4 years ago

      3minutes...thank you!

    • Newbie 4 years ago

      I was trying to replace the shower arm pipe. I grab the shaft of it and turned counterclockwise, it slipped even with a towel wrapped around it. Then tried grabbing the tip of the pipe, ...., the opening of the pipe is no longer round in shape and I'm stuck with it. I don't know what to do now. Please help!!!

    • mt3123 4 years ago

      Worked like a charm, too bad you overpriced plumbers

    • Joe C. from Upstate N.Y. 4 years ago

      Wow! I had to buy the 10 inch file for about 7 bucks. I prayed before I did this, because if it didn't work I would have to call a professional plummer. My first 2 times I was going the wrong way, then my third time I went counter clock, towards my left. It loosen up and out it went. I was amazed. I did have to give it a good whack with the hammer. I was afraid to ruin the pipe groves if I hit it too hard. The whole thing worked out great and took about 20 minutes. Great advise, Thanks

    • Time Spiral profile image

      Time Spiral 4 years ago from Florida


      It sounds like you damaged the valve handle. If you're not comfortable working with plumbing, I recommend calling a plumber. However, you could probably snap a few pictures on your phone, go to Home Depot, and ask one of the associates in the plumbing department to point you in the right direction.

      Typically these types of repair jobs are very simple. Good luck!

    • Terrance 4 years ago

      I broked the thing to start the shower with or it came out in dont know what it is called its the the to turn on the shower you push it in then the shower come on in dont know what it is called to get another one any hints? or help advice?

    • NOTAPLUMBER 4 years ago

      I am eternally grateful.

      It works like magic!

      It took me less than 10 minutes until I found the right force to tap the file.

      I am 75 years old with somewhat injured right shoulder.

      If I could do it nobody can have an excuse.

    • Time Spiral profile image

      Time Spiral 4 years ago from Florida


      I'm terribly sorry to hear that about your husband. But, I'm so very happy that my article was able to help you out!

    • Oldspicegirl 4 years ago

      OMG-my husband used to do all this stuff but he died of Cancer in November. When my daughter broke off the pipe behind the shower head all i saw were dollar signs. Not only did this help me fix the problem myself, but it also gave me the confidence to not live in my house afraid that something will happen; i know now that I CAN DO IT! I can't thank you enough!

    • Pim 4 years ago

      Flat tapered file solution worked perfectly for me. Problem solved in 5 minutes. Saved myself NZ$70 on a plumber and/or on buying the "easy pull" tool or other tool

    • Don 4 years ago

      Also had great success using this method, only with a toilet connection rather than the shower. Used a 8" files for the 3/8" pipe and it worked perfectly.

    • Jim 4 years ago

      Work like a charm! Had to get Lowes #8 file instead of #10. Everything else worked as it said and got it out in less than 3 min. :)

    • Sigi 4 years ago

      I tried your trick and, unfortunately, it did not work for me, although I banged and banged that poor file. The pipes are just so very old and corroded and are not giving in.

      IS there any lubricant to loosen up the grip/

    • Phil 5 years ago

      I worked for me too! So simple. I thought I'd have a big project or costly tools. Thanks for the post.

    • David 5 years ago

      Thanks so much. I broke the shower pipe this morning and thought I was doomed . I search through google and found your post, this was a life saver. I bought the file and followed your directions and was finished in less than a few minutes. Thank you thank you!

    • Truroyal 5 years ago

      This article just save me a hundred and fifty bucks!!!! Great information and it really was simple. Thank you so much!!!!!

    • Robert F. 5 years ago

      Thanks for the help!

    • Rence12 5 years ago

      OMG thanks so much for this post , I broke the shower arm getting ready for work and as I moved the shower head bammmmm it snapped,good thing we have 2 showers.

      So I went to work thinking about it all day about how I was going to fix it,so I read all these post about using extractors , easy outs, and then I bumped into this site , I couldn't believe it, A FILE.?then I kept reading on how many people had success using the file, so on my way home I stopped at Home depot, and spent $20 on a file and a set of extractors just in case, well i read where I was supposed to use a #10 file , well I didn't see where it said # 10 , I kept seeing only as in 8" 10" etc..... So I got a 8". Oh and I bought some lubricant too.

      So I get home and tried the extractors first and just like a lot of other post , they didn't fit, so I thought " here we go " so I thought let me try my file , well it was too small, so now I'm thinking " oh no , what am I gonna do now? So I found and old file that my dad had, and it was too long before it actually grabbed the broken piece of pipe, so I broke off about an inch enough just so that it would fit but not go in too far, well I started tapping on the file, and at first it started to slip , it wouldn't grab, so I remembered where someone wrote to go ahead and give it a good it a few hard taps, well right when I thought the file had a good grip I got my wrench and started turning ,slow at first , nothing happened , but I didn't give up , so I just kept Turning slow and then I saw it move, so I kept turning with my wrench on the file it started to turn, and BANG! It just started coming out, the rest is history,

      So again thanks for these types of posts , the Internet is such a powerful tool, I wanna thank everyone so much and I'm a plumber too at a community college, now I can take this trick with me and pass it on. Don't be afraid to try this before you go and buy all these tools extractors etc......

    • Dick 5 years ago

      I hire people for everything that needs doing around the house...if I can do it anyone can.

      It was amazing...worked like a charm. THANK YOU!!

    • RetiredVetMK 5 years ago

      I can't believe how easy it was; I had gone to Lowe's and purchased all this stuff they said I needed; the guy at Lowe's also offered to repair the dry wall-

      I got home and looked at everything.it was too much- I have destroyed other parts of the house..my wife found your information and printed it. Iused my great-grand father's file...over 90 years old..

      It worked exactly as you said...BIG thanks!!

    • Time Spiral profile image

      Time Spiral 5 years ago from Florida

      What a nice comment, DrM. I'm so pleasantly surprised at how helpful this article has turned out to be.

    • Tom Q 5 years ago

      Worked perfect, very much appreciate the lesson in plumbing basics.

    • Jeremy Colombe 5 years ago

      Thanks! Well done!

    • DrM 5 years ago

      THANKS! It's redundant but true .....when it breaks you are overwhelemed then you realize this must have happened before to someone and you find your article just by asking the question and its done.......what a great surprise. You brougth great relief to many by taking thre time to write it out and perfectly understood...Have a great day


    • Wayne 5 years ago

      Worked great! Very glad I found this page.

    • Vicki 5 years ago

      Well, I prayed for the best, but initially the file broke. I then managed to get the threads out a few at a time when attempting to use the pipe nipple extractor again and was thrilled! However, on further examination, the pipe in the wall is cracked through the threaded end =(... Thanks for the advice tho, i appreciate it just the same. I think it would work if my pipes weren't so old.

    • Terrie 5 years ago

      Same as Matt above. I was worried about pounding it in to hard so I tapped it lightly and got nowhere. Two hard hits with the hammer (not full strength, of course, but good solid hits) and it twisted out easily. I can't thank you enough.

    • Matt 5 years ago

      Thank you! Once I got up the nerve to knock the file into the pipe, it worked like a charm. Thank you! I can't even begin to explain how I went from utterly depressed to ecstatic.

    • Wilson 5 years ago

      I spent overnight trying to get rid of the pipe. When i read your advice i went to home depot first thing in the morning to get the #10 flat file and in less than a minute i was able to get rid of the pipe. Many Thanks! Brilliant advice!

    • daviddwarren22 profile image

      daviddwarren22 5 years ago

      Thanks for the details, helpful hub.

    • Panho 5 years ago

      You are a super star , you saved me a lot of time and money! Worked great thank's again .

    • Time Spiral profile image

      Time Spiral 5 years ago from Florida


      I'm not a pro. If you're genuinely worried about doing damage, call a pro.

      The fitting that holds the shower head pipe is usually mounted up against a stud. The "weak pipes" as you call them are most definitely perpendicular to the shower head pipe fitting. Putting tapping pressure into the fitting will transfer most of the tapping energy into the stud directly behind the fitting, and not the pipe. I think it's worth a shot, but remember, I'm just some guy, and not a plumber.

    • Gerry 5 years ago

      I have not tried this repair yet, as the pipes in the wall are still thin copper, so I imagine that with having sulfur water over all these years, that everything still in the walls are extremely fragile. My shower head pipe broke off in the wall this morning as I was trying to remove the shower head. I have changed all the rest of the plumbing to plastic, at least everything not inside a wall. Do I risk doing more damage with this procedure with fragile pipes affected by sulfur for decades?

    • Fast Lane 5 years ago

      Thank you so much!!!! I thought i was going to need to tear into my tile. This saved me a bunch of time and money!!

    • fraser 5 years ago

      thanks. its worked

    • oz, 5 years ago

      Yup, it worked. I had to deal with half inch PVC so I used a #8 file instead, tapered of course. And a large crecent wrench (no teeth) prevented messing up the file. A little sketchy at first and the pvc made an "i don't want to go" sound right as it starts to loosen. The philosophy behind this method is solid.

    • leejad 5 years ago

      Worked great, thanks!!!

    • Chuck B 5 years ago

      I was all prepared to call a plumber, having tried several unsuccessful procedures recommended on other sites. This worked so smoothly I couldn't believe it. Save me $$$$. Thanks.

    • Wolf 5 years ago

      This worked like a charm!!!

      The hardware store sold me two different tools and none worked.

      Thank you soo much for posting this--this technique is brilliant!

    • GBShaun 5 years ago

      The old #10 file trick. Time Spiral, thanks a million. You saved me countless hours of tearing down walls,.. which was what i feared i was in for after the screw-extractor /easy-out totally failed.

    • Jerry 5 years ago

      Thank you for the information to fix the broken off pipe in the shower your suggestion worked perfectly

    • Mel 5 years ago

      Thanks. I broke it last night while changing the showerhead in our new home. Decided to google it for the hell of it and found this article. Tried it this morning and it worked on the first try. Thanks so much saved me the cost of a plumber or at least the cost of the photo to hide a poor DIY patch job on the wall in opposite bedroom that I expected to have to go through to solder on a new fitting. Wall of shower is ceramic so I couldn't go through that way.

      Thanks again, this tip could work in so many applications, just a matter of finding the right file size. In smaller pipe sizes I could see a three corner file working too as it has an extra edge to bite into the nipple.

    • Davey B 5 years ago

      This technique worked, thought after a had firmly tapped it into

      the broken shower nipple, that it was just spinning but after a couple of half turns I could see that the ol'e cottonpicker was coming right out! Shaa-zam I did modify a nicholson brand 8" file by removing about 1 3/8 of the file off the end. So thankyou for sharing this great method that your Florida plumber told you of.

      Davey B

    • Fried Chicken 5 years ago

      This technique worked like a charm for me, too!

      Thank you so much!!

    • Time Spiral profile image

      Time Spiral 5 years ago from Florida


      Haha. I'm happy to hear that! Finding problem solving articles pretty much rocks. You're welcome, and thanks for the positive feedback.

    • Zach 5 years ago

      A buddy of mine had a party, and his shower head ended up getting ripped off, leaving the threads inside the pipe. Well we ended up finding this article and fixing it ourselves. Saved him a whole bunch of money, and also we got it fixed before his parents could find out. Couldn't have worked any better! Thanks a ton man.

    • Taylor in TX 5 years ago

      Awesome help. Thanks. It was late at night and all I could find at the 24 hour place was a variety pack of files all 8in. The flat tapered wasn't working b/c it was too skinny and was hitting the back of the pipe before it could get a good grip on the fitting. Tried another file in the pack, no idea what it was. Curved on one side, flat on the other with sharp edges. Worked in seconds. The 10 obviously works better according to comments, but the concept worked great even with another file. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    • HH 5 years ago

      WOW this actually worked! Thank you so much! My shower head was plastic, so I can confirm that this technique works on plastic as well!

    • ROHN 5 years ago

      THIS WAS GREAT ADVISE, at first i was scared to really hit the file really hard for fear of making the problem worst then i went back and re-read your advise and hit that sucker harder and it caught the broken piece and i was smiling and dancing all the way


    • Jim 5 years ago

      Great advice, it took me longer to find my file, then to remove the broken piece and replace it. Thank you for taking the time to post this awesome tip. Remember righty-tighty, lefty-loosey, unless it’s a left hand thread.

    • Chip 5 years ago

      Thanks my friend, worked great. I just didn't find your web site fix until I had cut out some of my drywall. I might still have enough if there is a 3 inch ring at the hardware store, but thanks again...

    • Time Spiral profile image

      Time Spiral 5 years ago from Florida


      Thanks for the compliment, buddy. But, I did not come up with this idea, just the idea to author an article about it. Read the last paragraph or so where I describe where I got the idea, how I implemented, and thought to write the article. Thanks again!

    • Rick 5 years ago

      Man you are a freakin genious. How in the world did you think of using a flat file.. I lost sleep over how I was going to fix this. Worked like a charm. It took all of 5 minutes. My wife, my daughter and myself all started yelling in amazement when I pulled the remainder of the threads out from behind the wall......YOU ARE THE MAN!!!

    • F. Kirby 5 years ago

      Thanks for the tip on the file method of removing the broken shower arm in the wall. It worked like a charm. I tried every method there is. I even went to a plumming shop and they told me the only way was to use a pick and pinchnose pliers and dig it out,so their you are. What a money saver. Thanks for the great tip, F. Kirby

    • Michael 5 years ago

      You are a genius, worked perfect. Before this i was reading how to replace tiles, you saved me a great deal of time and Bad Language.....

    • Time Spiral profile image

      Time Spiral 5 years ago from Florida

      These are the stories I like to hear. Keep em' coming, guys!

    • ED 5 years ago

      I had already emptied a cabinet in the other bathroom with the intention of opening the wall behind it. I decided to look for a better answer. Boy, what a great tip. It took longer to walk to the garage for a file and hammer than it did extract the broken pipe threads.

    • Donna & Jim 5 years ago

      Dude, you ROCK!!! This just saved us from the certain financial ruin that would have resulted from calling a plumber.

    • Toph 5 years ago

      this was a fantastic method, so easy to do. The file and shower replacement total was $47.00, thanks for saving me some money. Being out of work, this means a lot.

    • Kifferj 5 years ago

      Bingo, the #10 file fixed the problem the very 1st try. The Harbor Freight extractor tool did not work at all. Thank you for the posting and more power to the DIY'ers!

      So, after the headache of locating the leak, for $37.00 my family now has a new Shower head, shower arm, and a 10" file to go in the tool-box. Thanks again!

    • Joe 5 years ago

      Just broke my shower head arm off at the thread yesterday. Found this posting and went down to my local hardware store to look for #10 flat file. After hearing my story, the person who helped me told me that using the file for this purpose have a good chance of ruining it. He then went to his little box of loaner tools and took out a "saw-off" Hanson ST-7 Screw Extractor that was modified for exactly the purpose. I "fit-check" it with the broken shower pipe and it went in about 1/2 inch snugly. This should work because I only have 1 inch pass the threads before hitting the end of the elbow of the pipe in the wall. I took it home and tried it and it worked great. I do have to hammer it in a lot more than I thought I need to (about 1/4 inch) and have to apply even pressure and turn it perpendicular to make it work. The techniques provided by Time Spiral's posting really help even when I ended up with a different tool - just cannot beat a free loaner! They do not call themselves "helpful hardware men" for nothing! I found the "unsaw-off" version of the Hanson ST-7 extractor on Amazon for $5.60. So if you want to try this alternative method and your local hardware store does not have such a customized tool available, you can DIY.

    • Mike 5 years ago

      Regarding my previous post...IT WORKED VERY VERY WELL! I just completed it in under 10 minutes. Thanks for your time and thoughtfulness in posting this Time Spiral!!!!

    • Mike 5 years ago

      Last night I broke the shower head pipe off trying to simply take of the old shower head. It ruined my night and I've been concerned about it all day because I don't want to have to pay a bunch of money to get it fixed. I now just said "praise the Lord" after reading this fix. What ruined my day yesterday, will make my day today if this works and I am pretty confident that it will. I will let you know. THANK YOU SOOOOOOOOO MUCH FOR POSTING THIS!!

    • Dave 5 years ago

      You saved my sanity.. And my Children's Lives. Spigot busted off in shower. I assume from kids standing on it or something. I was sure I was going to have to call a plumber but with your guide I was able to extract the broken piece exactly as you described. Thank you so much!

      PS this method was used on PVC pipes. Worked just as well . Awesome !

    • Bob 5 years ago

      Ditto...This tip was great. I was going to look for a screw/nipple extractor when I ran across this article...worked perfectly and literally too 2 minutes to get it out. Unfortunately, it had been dripping for a while so I am replacing a section of sheetrock but I really thought the pipe was going to slow me down. Thanks for an excellent suggestion.

    • Time Spiral profile image

      Time Spiral 5 years ago from Florida


      Wow, awesome! I'd be interested to know if this is common knowledge amongst your plumber buddies. This article has been somewhat of a phenomenon for me. Thousands, and thousands of people have read this article since I published it. The response has been resoundingly positive.

    • Chris 5 years ago

      Being in the HVAC trade for 25 years i have removed many broken pipe threads from pipes,but my technique has always been to use a hacksaw blade to make cuts and then remove threads with a screwdriver which has always worked for me but which was also very tedious.Well,when my shower arm recently snapped i decided to look for an easier method which is how i stumbled onto this article.Let me tell you,i had the old threads out within a minutes time.That #10 file worked like a magic trick.Great advice.Thanks.P.S.Can't wait to talk to my plumber friends to see if they have ever heard of this technique!Thanks again.

    • Goreti 5 years ago

      This was awesome. It worked like a charm. We had no idea what we were going to do but this was simple to follow.

    • Becky 5 years ago

      Thanks a bunch; it worked like a charm!

    • Mega-Jim 5 years ago

      Awesome! Thought I would have to pull the wall apart but this worked like a charm. Had it out in 2 minutes!

    • valudan 5 years ago

      Great article!! I am an avid DIY'r however, I always check the web for this very reason. I was certain that the copper pipe was broken off inside the wall because of the way the shower arm was hanging but wouldn't come out. I saw your article and thought, wouldn't that be great if this was the case.. It was and it worked! I

      did have to grind the end of my file down some to widen the taper so it would not hit the back of the fitting. thanks

    • scoop 5 years ago

      looked for extractors around town,, didn't find one,, came here and found this WOW less than 5 minutes to solve my problem 11

    • Fed up with other methods 5 years ago

      I hate plumbing but hate worse paying someone else to do work that I know I should be able to do myself. I had tried multiple nipple extractors and internal pipe wrenches with no luck. Started to get creative and worried about breaking things even worse. This was perfect, and worked like a charm. Great detail tips, like teflon tape on the file. THANK YOU so much, you saved me a lot of money and pride!!

    • Rick 5 years ago

      Excellent tip!! it took me less than 3 minutes to remove broken pipe with the 10" tapered file. Took much much longer to put on new shower head.

      Thanks! i now have my shower back.

    • RIch 5 years ago

      This article is a life saver. I was not sure it would work. But figured I would try it, because anything is better than paying a plumber the $200 - $400 I was quouted. When I told the guy at Home Depot what I needed the file for, he did not believe it would work. I cannot wait to go back and return the Easy Out Tools, which I bought just in case.

    • Not a DIY guy 5 years ago

      Not usually a Do it yourself guy, but I just payed a plumber $190 to install a brand new water heater. So after reading your article I went to Lowes with my old nipple in hand and matched it to the recommended 10 inch file. Then purchased some tape and a new nipple all for about $24.

      At first the file kept spinning, so I finally got a hammer tapped it in nice and snug, then with eventually could feel it starting to spin out. Took all of about half an hour.

      The local plumbers get about $60 an hour so you probably saved me quite a bit of money! Kudos and thanks.

    • weekend worriorett 5 years ago

      just fished out (or flat filed out?) my broken thread. it really worked. a small victory against my aging temperamental house.

    • IrishGuy 5 years ago

      Awesome. Simply awesome. Gave my 14 yr old son the file and hammer and let him have at it. He had the busted section out and the new pipe installed in no time. Thanks for the gerat advice!

    • Candy 5 years ago

      Whooowhoo I did it. My husbands going to be so proud. I broke it while adjusting it an wanted to fix it myself, plus he's working nights an he needs his rest when he gets home in the a.m. thank you, u are very helpful.

    • George B. 5 years ago

      Awesome advice! I did this and came right out in 2 minutes! And to think I was about to start tearing out the wall.

    • MP 5 years ago

      I did exactly what JZ did above. Same file and price paid at Lowes. I also bought the internal pipe wrench as a backup. Needless to say I will be returning the pipe wrench because the file worked extremely well.

      Thanks for all the help!

    • JZ 5 years ago

      Works very well with Nicholson 10" general purpose mill file bought at Lowes for $6.97 Model 21839. Spraying some WD-40 will also helped to loose rusty metal and speed up the removal.

    • XL 6 years ago

      Worked like a champ. Just make sure you get the right type of file. I picked up a Kobalt 10 inch tapered file because it was cheaper but the end was too big too fit in the pipe. Went back and got the Nicholson Model 21868.

    • whitton profile image

      whitton 6 years ago

      Great information and step by step guide to fixing a broken shower head.

    • Tom L 6 years ago

      Not having a shower in my bathroom was driving my wife nuts. I tried the EZ outs and they didn't fit, & hack sawing (with no luck). Used the # 10 file, banged the heck out of it, turned it and it worked. I was a hero!

    • Zahid 6 years ago

      As others have mentioned this idea/technique works like a charm. The only change I would suggest is to us a small piece of shop towel or some other rag around the file so that when you grab it with plyers the file is not damaged.

    • Steve L.  6 years ago

      Just used this method tonight to fix a broken shower arm. Tried everything else including internal pipe wrench and hammer and cold chisel and lots of PB Blaster.

      I Googled "how to fix a broken shower arm and stumbled across this page. A real lifesaver. I was skeptic at first but kept reading all the positive responses and decide to give it a try.

      I had several good files but didn't want to ruin them if something went awry. I had worked on it the previous night with very little progress so I decided to give this a try.

      I went to Lowes and purchased a Kobalt 10 inch mill bastard file. It was about $6.00 including tax. I figured I could lose that much if I had to seek professional assistance.

      When I arrived home I went immediately to the bathroom where all my tools were still laid out. I drove the file in and used a pair of pliers but it twisted in the socket. I drove it in again a little tighter and applied the pliers and saw it turn slightly but the file quit biting and began to turn. So I took my hammer and drove it in a lot tighter applied the pliers and saw it start to move. 30 seconds later I had it removed from the wall!!

    • Norman Young 6 years ago

      Let me add my thanks for this tip. It worked almost perfectly. I say "almost" because when I went to Lowe's to get the file to remove the broken portion inside the elbow, none of the files there were sized by number so there was no No. 10 to be had. However, there was a fairly simple workaround.

      Lowe's did have an 8 inch and a 10 inch tapered file, but I could not say positively whether either would work. However, I had the replacement shower arm in hand, so I could hold it up against the blister package to compare, but without being able to compare the files outside of the package, I could not say for sure whether either would work.

      The 10 inch looked like it just might fit, but it was going to be close. It was obvious that the 8 inch would possibly fit as well, but it looked like the taper might be longer than the space I needed to get a tight fit without hitting the back of the elbow joint. Since those were my only two options, I got both at about $5 and $6 respectively, hoping one or the other would work.

      Neither worked out of the box. The taper on the 10 inch was not quite narrow enough, and the the one on the 8 inch tapered to fit about an inch too far down. Fortunately, I was able to break the 8 inch file easily along the grove so that it would fit just right. All I had to do was rest the file on a flat block of wood, position it where it needed to be broken along the diagonal groove, and give it one fairly sharp blow with the hammer. It snapped perfectly.

      $5 was a small price to pay for the sacrificial file to get the job done, and after that, everything else was a piece of cake, so thanks again for putting this page together!

    • tyler m 6 years ago

      It worked again :) thanks a life saver!

    • JB 6 years ago

      Many, many thanks for the tip! I live in an old apartment bldg and wanted to change the shower head. Just slight pressure to remove the old pipe broke the pipe off with the threads inside...the tip you gave worked like a charm with one exception...there was a little play in the pipe where it was mounted...didn't want to hit the pipe too hard with the file for fear of possibly breaking or splintering the pipe and hitting it as I did wasn't enough to properly seat it into the pipe...got a small round file (5/32" I believe) and filed 2 notches opposite each other, then tapped the file into these notches and well IT WORKED!...THANKS AGAIN!

    • nolstig 6 years ago

      WOW!! I thought I was completely screwed. This was the first page I found on Google and in less than 10 minutes I got the old head out. Now I just need to by a new one! You saved me from a week of gym showers and a $$$ plumber bill.

    • Kch 6 years ago

      Works great! I actually had to file a notch in the broken thread so that the file could get a proper grip. It kept slipping otherwise.

    • Time Spiral profile image

      Time Spiral 6 years ago from Florida

      This method has been proven successful for both myself, and thousands of others who have read this article, however, please keep in mind that this is a Do it Yourself article. If you are not having success, and are concerned, please call a professional.

      If you are going to continue trying this method follow the instructions very carefully. Once you have hammered the file into the fitting use the pair of pliers, at the distance from the wall described, and apply even pressure turning the pipe 'very slowly'. Getting that first partial rotation is the most important part. If you are not applying even pressure, or are jerking the file at all you risk jerking it out of place or stripping the threads even more.

      DO NOT USE WD-40! That lubricant will have almost no desirable effect on the teflon bond. Good luck, but this solution is not a 100% fix, and not everyone will be able to implement it correctly. If you're concerned, call a pro.

    • Dane 6 years ago

      Doris, I keep trying it and all it's doing is slowly scraping and filing away at the threads of the arm that broke (not the copper outer fitting). I can't get it to rotate loose at all either.

    • Doris 6 years ago

      THis isn't working for me all it's doing is stripping the threads. Help !!!!!!

    • Wesley 6 years ago

      I used No. 10 flat file and followed all the instructions written here, but the broken piece did not move. I kept hitting hard with the hammer, but the file was grinding along inside the fitting.

      I looked inside the fitting and noticed that the tip of the file hit the back end of the fitting. So no matter how hard I hit with the hammer, the file just did not go in deep enough for it to bite the broken piece. I was concerned.

      I then tapped the file into the fitting at an angle without using the hammer while turning it, and it worked. The broken piece was moving out slowly and nicely. Problem solved! Thank you.

    • Dane 6 years ago

      I've tried the 10" tapered multiple times this week, and have tried to bang it as far into the fitting as I can. Each time, when the file begins to rotate, the threaded nipple remains stationary. The file has been filing or shaving away at the inside of the threaded nipple, but not turning it.

      I've tried putting WD-40 around the broken end of the nipple/fitting, trying to work it into the teflon tape to loosen the connection. No luck!

      I broke down and went back to Home Depot to get the Brasscraft Internal Pipe Wrench Set. All that did was shave away at a bit more of the threaded nipple.

      I can not get the broken piece to turn at all. HELP! I rent and need to fix this before the landlord finds out.

    • Kevin R 6 years ago

      Worked perfect! Thanks so much! Little post like these are what make the internet so great. Your average joe can fix anything through the experience of others.

    • Laura 6 years ago

      I was skeptical at first but after so many people posted this worked I had to try. I had to try it a few times and use a large wrench as a breaker bar but it worked! I have replaced the arm and no leaks! I will pass on this tip for anyone who wants it DIY!! Thanks!

    • Vic in PA 6 years ago

      Just in case anyone wants to see how far you have to drive the file for it to grab the broken shower arm piece check out the photo below. (You may have to copy and paste the link into a new browser window.)



      The tip of the file is sticking 3/8" above the broken shower arm piece.

    • Vic in PA 6 years ago

      Thank you Time Spiral for the awesome tip!

      I'm NOT mechanically inclined, but I followed the instructions on removing the broken piece and it worked! If I can do it so can anyone reading this thread.

      Naturally I didn't have a 10 inch file so I drove down to Lowes and bought their "Nicholson File 10" Flat Bastard Cut File" (item 96698 / model 21868L) for $9.47. (Also bought my new shower arm there.)

      My only tip is to go easy with the hammer. I started with a few hits and turned the file. The file moved, but not the broken shower arm piece. Hit it a couple more times. File moved again, but not the broken piece. Hit it a few more times and then I could see it start to move. The first turn is tight, but then it gets easier and the last few I was just using my fingers to get it out.

      Time Spiral... you made my day! Thanks again.

    • Tim 6 years ago

      Fantastic method. Worked great and removed the broken pipe in less than 1 minute. When I ask the people at the hardware store for a No. 10 file, they did not know what one was. When I told the hardware people what I needed the file for, they thought this would not work and made several other suggestions (EZ Out, nipple extractor).

      One thing to note, when I went over to the store location where the metal files were, I was left staring at an 8 inch long file and a 10 inch long file with no numberic designation (i.e., no No. 10 designatin to be found). Took a chance with the 10 inch file and it worked great.

    • Mtomlinson 6 years ago

      This was a great idea. Especially for some of us who are complete idiots!!! Thank you

    • Tammy 6 years ago

      Oh my god it took 20 seconds to get the piece out once I bought the file. Thank you so much it saved me a bundle hiring a plumber

    • steven s 6 years ago

      well this also happened with me, the pipe had been in there since 1984 so i guess i got alot of use out of it. went to home depot and picked up the 10 inch file, and it worked like a charm. I was about ready to go out and call a plumber, but found this article, you saved me a lot of money thank you for posting it.

    • Steve J 6 years ago

      This worked great. I was fretting going to the hardware store to buy a tool that I would have to only use once or twice to remove the nub left in my shower head and found this. Just remember to put the shower pipe flange on before finishing. I said to myself "put on the ring" but forgot. So I had to undo a leakless job and then put it all together again.

    • Garth75 6 years ago

      Man time spiral you so saved me even though I had to borrow the file from my land lord he even learned a lesson out of this lol. I had been like you said trying a chisal screwdriver I even found out that the back of the pipe is easy access but could not losen the elbow anyways I am so glad I came across this articule you are a life saver

    • Time Spiral profile image

      Time Spiral 6 years ago from Florida

      You're all very welcome! The supporting and gracious comments are extremely appreciated and well-heard.

      Sharing is caring. If this article helps you, vote it up, share it, email it. Pass it along. Thanks again guys!

    • Derek 6 years ago

      Wow. This worked amazingly well. I think someone deserves a Nobel Prize. I tried to extract it using a garden nipple thingy but those are meant for PVC. It took less time to go to the hardware store, pick up a file, and come home and remove it than it did to do it the first way.

      Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    • Ted 6 years ago

      You are DA MAN! Just last week, my wife was adjusting the shower head and SNAP! - the whole shower arm broke off. We were about to go thru the long list of tools noted above, when I found this article...and dang if we didn't have that old, corroded, broken copper fitting out of the wall in 2 minutes! What a lifesaver!

    • Mean Gene 6 years ago

      I did not think this would work. Nothing ever works for me when it comes to DIY. Bought the file, hammered it home, did some twisting...the broken thread came out. Un-believable. Worked like a charm.

    • Pat Dice 6 years ago

      Perfect!!! All the way down to the No. 10 Flat File (tapered).

    • Dick Minor 6 years ago

      Wow -- worked for me--had it out in 2 minutes !!!

    • Ryan 6 years ago

      Absolute life (and money!) saver!! Thanks so much for posting this tip. I'm the un-handiest man alive and this worked like a charm! Note to future fixers: I had to really hammer the file hard to keep it from slipping. Don't be afraid to pound it in!

    • Brian Miller 6 years ago

      Seriously, you saved me a ton of money. I am completely brain dead when it comes to fixing things. I decided to try your way and threw caution to the wind. I can't believe the broken threads actually came out of there and my shower head is replaced. For under 20 bucks. It's freaking awesome!!!

      Thanks so much!

    • Time Spiral profile image

      Time Spiral 6 years ago from Florida

      @Jim and Jeff,

      Excellent tip about including the "tapered" attribute for the flat-file. I've done it, as you can now read above.

      And Jeff, that would be hilarious. Do it!

    • Jeff 6 years ago

      Holy crap. Just had knee surgery, pipe broke. Came across this and 2o seconds done. Ausome tip and yes tapered file. Thank you so much and will let everyone know. My plumber friend was coming to replace everything. I might charge him for your advice. Thanks


    • Jim Beam 6 years ago

      Kudos! Worked like a champ. My only suggestion would be to make sure that you get a TAPERED flat file. I called wifey when she was out and about and told her to pick up the file and sure enough the sides were straight. Needless to say I had to make a trip back to the store.

      No biggie, thanks again!

    • Chachi 6 years ago

      OMG, Thank you SO MUCH. We were beside ourselves and about to spend a bunch of money we didn't have on a plumber.

    • opal 6 years ago

      After sitting on this project for 3 months i finally stumbled across your article.

      this worked like a charm. the only thing i had to do was soak it with CLR. it was so caked on that it wouldn't budge. I took a sponge soaked it in CLR shoved it in the pipe let it soak for a few minutes and tried it again and it came out so easy. I wish i had come across this earlier.

      Thank you Thank you thank you!!

    • crazy4quilts 6 years ago

      Excellent article!! Worked like a charm!! The only slowdown was convincing my DH that the No. 10 file would fit into the pipe inside the wall (20 minutes of discussion). Anyway, he is delighted with the result. Many thanks.

    • AmericanHarleyRider 6 years ago

      Holy smokes, Spiral! Thank you, man!! I thought I was a goner, but you provided the ultimate solution! It worked! Thank you for allowing me to NOT rip out the wall!

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 6 years ago from West By God

      I just sent you a PM asking for the address to send the picts too. They aren't clear as it is hard to hold the camera still when ou are up on the sides of the tub.

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 6 years ago from West By God

      I know PVC is easier. Let me see if I can get some pictures to you in a few.

    • Time Spiral profile image

      Time Spiral 6 years ago from Florida

      @Lady Guinevere,

      Have you ever worked with PVC before? PVC is actually much easier to work with in many ways. However, I'm having trouble visualizing what you're talking about. Can you take a picture and show me?

      I'll gladly help if I can.

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 6 years ago from West By God

      Oh this came to me at the perfect time...only....we don't have copper pipes, we have PVC pipes here. Ours is broke of right at the angle piece that held the shower head. Can you write up how to fix that since we will probalbly have to cut off the PVC pipe just below where it broke and put a joint there and add another piece and an angle piece too. Our wall is of the GREEN sheetrock and it is sooo expensive now to buy and we only need a small piece if we have to go that route at all and really hoping we don't. I am sending this to my husband who I hope will be the one to learn how to fix it. Even then I will probably be the one doing it on a step stool because I am too short to work up that high. That would be a bad thing if we had to make the shower head a bit taller because my husband is 6'5" and I am only 5'.

    • Mike 6 years ago

      OK, first of all THANK YOU Time Spiral for the suggestion. Now, for anyone clever enough to break off the No. 10 flat file in the pipe there is no need to panic. Use a pair of needle nosed pliers to reach in and turn the broken piece until the offending threads is removed. Thanks again!

    • Time Spiral profile image

      Time Spiral 6 years ago from Florida

      Super cool, Doug D.!

    • Doug D. 6 years ago

      OK, I had to come back and bow to your greatness! After I "beat myself senseless" as promised above, I awoke and had come and thank you. I will now be matching my receipts with the variety of worthless tools sold to me by a variety of "Do It Yourself" stores. I must have spent well over $75 in different tools and sprays "guaranteed" to work. Bottom line, the flat file and a hammer was all I needed and it honestly did take just a few minutes to remove the old threads and install the new pipe. Thanks again!!!

    • Time Spiral profile image

      Time Spiral 6 years ago from Florida

      @Doug D,

      Hey, Doug. Thanks for the comment. If I were a betting man, I'd say that it is probably going to work just fine!

      It's pretty amazing to think that this article has helped thousands of people since it was first published. That's a lot of money, time, and frustration that has been saved.

    • Doug D 6 years ago

      OK, I'm going to die here - I've been trying to fix this problem myself for over 3 months. I refuse to pay the extreme prices of a plumber. I knew there was an easy way. Shame nobody at the DIY stores know that! I've bought every tool and returned them cause they don't work. It's after 10pm right now. I'm going to stop and get a #10 flat file tomorrow. If this works like I'm sure it will, I'm going to beat myself up senselessly for not finding your 'fix' earlier. I'll let you know. (For those worried about my hygiene, I have another shower upstairs!)

    • vic d 6 years ago

      thanks bro....worked like a charm...and now i have a file to sharpen my mower and trimmers....

    • kelley 6 years ago

      this onfo is awesome. i rent my home and would have to pay $75.00 before my "management co" will have someone fix anything. my husband is notorious for over tightening and breaking many things. i've had to fix many things myself and this sounds like something i can do(and hopefully i won't have to call my brother the plumber)he would fix it in a heartbeat, but i like to do things myself(or at least try first) a big texas size thanks to you

    • tom Pryjomski 6 years ago

      did the job in 20 seconds after two days of big box stores and tools that did not work....most grateful.

    • Steve 6 years ago

      OMG. Thanks so much. Wanted to install a shower head in an apartment that wasn't mine. It was non-standard. So the folks at the hardware store told me to replace the arm. Simple job, right? Wrong! It broke off (though I didn't know it at first). I panicked. Then I went searching on the internet. Bob Vila? Crap! Then I found this. Once I understood that No. 10 = 10 inch. I went to work. Worked like a charm! Thanks. Thanks. Thanks. Thanks.

    • Time Spiral profile image

      Time Spiral 6 years ago from Florida

      @Ed in New Jersey,

      Yes! Super glad I could help.

    • Ed in New Jersey 6 years ago

      WOW. Brilliant idea. I messed with this problem all weekend long. You saved me from having to open up the back wall to get to the problem. Thanks a ton.


    • BC 6 years ago

      This technique using the flat file worked great for me!

      Thanks - this saved a trip to the plumbing store and the expense of another specialty tool.

    • Time Spiral profile image

      Time Spiral 6 years ago from Florida


      Yes, I do believe the same technique would work. However, with plastic you may need to be a little more "ginger" with your tapping than with metal. Also, the steady-applied pressure when turning should be toned-down slightly.


      I'm extremely pleased to know that this article is helping to solve this problem all over the country! For those who have thanked me thus far, I am paying attention, and you are very welcome!

      Be peaceful on your way,


    • Brett 6 years ago

      Think this would work with a plastic (for some reason) pipe? Got a metal pipe in the wall, but the shower head pipe is/was plastic.

    • Tom Frederico 6 years ago

      I had this issue tonight and thought shoot... Did exactly as you suggested and it worked in 20 seconds. Thank you VERY much!

    • Tom 7 years ago

      You're amazing! This worked so well! Thank-you!

    • elf_cash profile image

      elf_cash 7 years ago

      Very informative hub Time Spiral, I especially like how you broke it down into small baby steps. Whenever people ask me how to deal with plumbing problems I often find myself going back and elaborating on steps that I didn't explain thoroughly enough. You did a good job of breaking this down for the lay-person. Nice job!

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