snake wont go down

Snake Won’t Go Down Bathtub Drain

When you’re doing DIY home maintenance, you might find yourself needing to use some traditional plumbers’ tools. One of these is a drain snake.

A motorized snake can be used to dislodge clogs deep in the plumbing of your bathtub, typically when methods like boiling water and vinegar have failed to produce results.

If it’s your first time using a snake, you’ll need to have some basic safety guidelines in mind. You might find that the snake won’t go down your drain.

Assuming you’re inserting it correctly, there are a few potential reasons that this might be.

Why Can’t I Get A Snake Down A Bathtub Drain?

plumbers snake in bathtub

If you’re having trouble getting your snake into the drain, the first steps are always to make sure that you’re using the right kind of snake and the right pipe.

You won’t be able to fit the snake into the bottom drain on your tub. The pipe has a very sharp bend in it, which the snake can’t navigate around.

Instead, you should be inserting the snake into the overflow pipe behind your overflow cover.

You should also know that a plastic sink snake won’t be effective for this type of clog. Motorized snakes are more heavy-duty.

As the name implies, they use a motor to reach deep into your pipes until they can grab the clog and pull it out.

Assuming all of that is taken care of, here are some things that might get in the way.

Wrong Size Drain Snake

You’ll know that you have the wrong size snake if you can’t fit it into the opening of the pipe. Barring that, the size might be wrong if you’re having trouble pushing the product further than a few inches into the overflow pipe.

The opening on the bottom of your tub is just 1.5 inches wide. The pipe itself might widen slightly, but you’re still not working with a lot of wiggle room.

In general, most bathtub clogs can be handled by a small drum auger. These are designed with cables that can be up to 25 feet in length.

They’re relatively thin, which makes it easy to maneuver them through smaller pipes.

You should find out what purpose your drain snake is meant to serve. Does it handle general purpose clogs? Or is it specialized for a certain type of pipe?

If you don’t know, you can find out by asking a plumber about the make and model.

Flawed Drain Snake

Sometimes the problem has nothing to do with the size of the pipes. If the drain snake has a manufacturing defect or damage from previous use, you might have trouble fitting it into the drain.

Here are some of the things you should check for:

  • Are all of the components performing as they should?
  • If the drain snake has been used before, are there any bits of old clogs still attached?
  • Have any of the parts become damaged due to previous use?

If the snake is damaged, or if you’re unable to remove the bits of old debris, then you might need to replace it. You won’t be able to fit a defective model through your plumbing.

Too Much Force

One of the most common mistakes for beginners is to use too much force. As you feed the snake into the pipe, you have to move slowly to prevent potential damage. Your end goal is to feel for the resistance of the clog.

If you’re impatient and push the model too quickly, it might twist up or bend back. This can cause the snake to become stuck in the drain, which is a problem that a plumber would need to take care of.

If you have pushed the cable too fast, do your best to gently pull back on it until it exits the pipe. Then try again.

You might find that the snake is stuck in the pipe, in which case you shouldn’t force it. Just leave it be and get in contact with a plumber.

Make sure you’re only pushing the cable in a couple inches at once. Pause frequently. Depending on how deep the clog is, this might take you several minutes.

Blockage Is Too Big

Most clogs can be handled by a drain snake without any issue. But in some cases, the clog is too huge.

It might be too impacted for the snake to grab, or it might be too big for the snake to dislodge at all.

This is especially likely if you’ve been procrastinating the de-clogging process until your tub is completely blocked. Standing water indicates that no drainage is happening, which means the clog is far more impacted than a small wad of hair and soap.


A motorized snake isn’t always necessary to remove a bathtub clog. There are DIY solutions that you can try first.

But when the clog is made up of matted hair deep in the pipes, a snake might be your best solution.

If you find that your snake won’t go down the bathtub drain, there might be an issue with the size, your technique, or the snake itself. Make sure that you’re using the right model for your plumbing and that you’re following all manufacturer instructions.

For older models, double-check for damage and debris.

And if you go through all of these troubleshooting steps, and you’re still having trouble with the snake, then it’s time to call a plumber. At that point, the clog requires professional intervention.

You don’t want to risk damaging your pipes because you weren’t sure how to use the tools at your disposal.