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Trumpet Valves Getting Stuck? (How To Unstick Them)

Are you having trouble getting your trumpet valves to move?

It would help if you considered a few ways to unstick them so that you can play without any problems.

Here’s How to Unstick Trumpet Valves:

To unstick trumpet valves, try using valve oil, which may be all you need. If that doesn’t work, wash the valves in soap and water, and check for dents or bends on the valves and the casings. Then, contact a repair technician so that you can avoid doing more damage with a DIY repair job.

Things to Try to Unstick Trumpet Valves

You can try a variety of things to unstick your trumpet valves.

The best solution depends on what caused the issue, so that it can take some experimentation.

Before you do anything to your trumpet, consider a few things to try. Then, look at your trumpet to decide which solution might work best for you.

Use Valve Oil

One of the easiest fixes to unstick trumpet valves is to use valve oil.

You can turn your trumpet so that it’s upside down and see the small holes at the bottom of the pistons.

Add a few drops of valve oil into the affected valves, and turn your trumpet onto the side so the oil can move around. That way, it can coat the entire inside of the slide.

Test the valve to see if it will move up and down smoothly. If so, the valve probably dried out, so you don’t need to do anything else besides oil your valves regularly to keep them from drying in the future.

Use Warm Water

If you notice your valve won’t slide out of the trumpet, take off the bottom cap.

Then, run the valve through warm water for a couple of minutes.

Try removing the valve, and set it on a towel to air dry if you can. If the valve still doesn’t move, there’s another issue at play that you’ll need to figure out.

Before you use warm water this way, keep in mind that it can damage the felt pad inside.

You’ll need to replace the pad or hire a professional to do that for you for the trumpet to be playable again.

Use Soap and Water

If you can remove the valve without washing it first, do so. Then, you can take 20 minutes to soak the valve in warm water and dish soap.

Let the valve air dry on a towel, but don’t rub the towel on it.

Some of the fibers from the towel can get on the valve, so the valve may start to stick again in the future.

After it dries, add a couple of drops of valve oil to each side of the valve. Then, place it back inside the trumpet to see if it still sticks or if you can play as normal.

Look for Dents

Another thing to try is to look for some dents in the valve casing. If you knocked the trumpet against a music stand, there’s a decent chance you dented the instrument.

You might be able to see a dent if it is large enough. However, you can also check the valve casings by removing all of the valves from their casings.

Test the different valves in all of the casings to see if there’s a pattern.

For example, if all valves stick in one casing but not the others, that casing is the issue.

You or a professional will need to get the dent out to get the valve to stop sticking.

Look for a Bend

As you remove the valves to test the casings, look at the valves and valve stems.

You may notice that one valve sticks no matter which casing you use, but the other valves are fine.

In that case, there’s probably a slight bend in the valve or the stem. Lay the valve on its side to see if it lays flat against a surface or if there’s a bit of space between it and the surface.

If you don’t see anything at first, slowly turn the valve until you find where the bend is. Even a slight bend can cause problems, so you’ll need to straighten the valve to get it to work again.

You’ll need to use a soft mallet to hit the valve to get it straightened out. However, this is risky, so it’s best to take your trumpet to a professional.

Oddly enough, a bend can happen if you remove the valve to wash it. If you drop the valve, it can develop a slight bend.

Review the Slides

Sometimes, the slides can have a problem, affecting your valves.

If you bend or otherwise damage a slide, it can disturb the valve next to it.

This is particularly common with the second slide since it sticks out from the trumpet. You might accidentally bump the slide out of place, even if you’re careful.

Then, it can lead to a domino effect and cause the valve to stick.

Any slide can affect its coordinating valve, even if the slide doesn’t stick out as far as the second slide.

Pull back on the slide until there’s a slight bend to fix this. That can help you bend it back into place, but you should consider getting a professional to do this for you.

What to Do If Valve Oil Doesn’t Do the Job?

You have a few options if valve oil doesn’t get your trumpet valve to unstick.

For one, you can try any of the options I gave above. Before you do anything, look at your trumpet to see if there are any dents or bends.

Then, you can find ways to fix the trumpet without using water or other materials. If possible, save using warm water for the last thing you try since it can damage the felt pads in your trumpet.

Of course, regardless of the issue, you can always take it to a repair technician. Going to a professional is essential if you’re still a beginner or aren’t comfortable fixing the trumpet yourself.

You might also be able to take the trumpet to your teacher. Some players know how to do basic maintenance so that you can take it to your regular lesson.

What Is the Best Way to Clean Dirty Trumpet Valves?

Assuming you can remove them, the best way to clean dirty trumpet valves is to soak them in dish soap and water.

Set a timer for 20 minutes to let the soap do its job.

Then, you can find a towel for the valves to air dry. If you have pets, dry the valves away from pets since fur can float, and it’s not always easy to see.

You might also want to use a microfiber towel or another material that doesn’t shed fibers as easily.

Then, you can reduce the risk of the fibers getting on the valves and causing them to stick again.

Why Take Your Trumpet to a Professional

You can do many things at home to unstick your trumpet valves.

That doesn’t mean you should do all of the repairs yourself.

Even if you’ve played the trumpet for a while, it helps to go to a professional technician. They’ll have the tools and skills to fix your trumpet without damaging it further.

It may be expensive, but getting your trumpet to play well again is often worth the cost.

Avoid Further Damage

Depending on what you try, you might accidentally damage your trumpet more when trying to fix it. For example, you might try to pull a valve out that doesn’t want to move, which can ruin the part.

Or maybe you can get the valve out to wash it. However, you drop it on the floor, and it develops a slight bend, and you aren’t comfortable trying to straighten it.

Even if you’re super careful, things happen when you try to fix a stuck valve yourself. If you want to keep from hurting your trumpet more, you should take it to a professional as soon as something is up.

The only thing you should do yourself is use valve oil for the bottom holes. If that doesn’t work, a professional can do much more to help you get your trumpet working.

Save Money

It sounds counterintuitive, but going to a professional may help you save money. You’ll be able to avoid damaging your trumpet, which could lead to more expensive repairs.

Taking your trumpet to a professional can also help you avoid getting a new instrument. If you do too much damage, you might not be able to get the trumpet to work again.

Buying a new trumpet can easily get expensive, so keeping good care of your current model is essential. So while you may need to spend money now, you can save in the long run.

Make Your Trumpet Like New

Taking your instrument to a repair tech can also help you fix any other issues you don’t know about. A professional may be able to give your trumpet a full bath.

Then, you can get it back in like-new condition. Your trumpet might play better than it has in months or years, and you can’t get it like that yourself.

Technicians have special equipment to repair and maintain trumpets. If it’s been a while since you took your trumpet in, they can fix the problem and do general maintenance.

Final Thoughts

Trumpet valves can get stuck for a variety of reasons.

If you can figure out the cause, you can discover an easy solution to get your trumpet back into shape. If you aren’t comfortable fixing the trumpet, don’t hesitate to find a professional.


Musical Instrument Guide: Trumpet Valve Stuck? Here’s How to Fix It