How To Unstick A Reversing Valve (Quickly & Easily!)

Ossiana Tepfenhart
by Ossiana Tepfenhart

Reversing valves are some of the more important small parts of an HVAC system, especially if you run a heat pump during the winter. During the winter, reversing valves have a tendency of getting locked into place. This makes it very difficult for the valve to adequately do its job. If your valve gets stuck, don’t get frustrated. Get good at loosening it up instead.

To unstick a reversing valve use a screwdriver with a rubber end to lightly tap on both sides of the valve body. This simple action should knock the valve free. Try to change the position of the valve several times to make sure that it’s operating the way that it should.

A functioning reversing valve is a must if you want to have a home that remains comfortable. After all, it links so many functions together. If yours is stuck, this will make sure you get the most of your valve’s lifespan.

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Before You Begin: Is Your Reversing Valve Really Stuck?

There’s a difference between a valve that is genuinely stuck and a valve that is in serious need of replacement. While reversing valves rarely ever get broken, it still happens. Before you assume that the valve is stuck, check to see if there are burn marks, holes, chips, or tears along the valve.

A leaky reversing valve will also cause the valve to get stuck. If you notice damage or leaks around the valve, then the reversing valve may need to be replaced rather than unstuck. This is also true of an internal leak, which can be diagnosed by measuring the temperature at either end of the valve, 5 inches away from the center. If there is more than a three degree (F) difference, there’s an internal leak.

Troubleshooting Your Stuck Reversing Valve

There are several ways that a reversing valve can get stuck. In order to get it unstuck (or determine if you’ve done everything you could before it needs a replacement) you will need to troubleshoot it. Here’s how you can make it happen…

Clean Its Exterior

Before you start anything, it’s a good idea to actually clean the exterior. Sometimes, all that dirt and grime that gets into the nooks and crannies can actually cause the reverse valve to malfunction. It’s not common, but it can happen. Do not wet your reversing valve if you don’t have to.

Rather, a tap with a screwdriver or just wiping the dirt away with a cloth should work. Once you notice grime fall off, give the reversing valve a test to see if things improve. (Hint: cleaning a valve can help you diagnose a lot of things, even if it’s not a valve that belongs to an HVAC system.)

Fix The Solenoid

Believe it or not, your reversing valve doesn’t just work like regular plumbing. It’s actually a pressurized piece of electrical equipment. Without enough charge, your valve won’t switch. The solenoid is what helps pump the electricity through the piece. Unfortunately, it can burn out or just lose its charge.

Here’s how to fix this:

  • First, make sure that you don’t see any broken wiring around the reversing valve. If you see broken wires, that’s your problem, not the reversing valve.
  • Test the solenoid using a voltmeter. If you notice that it’s low on power, go to step two. If it’s fine, then this is not the problem. After testing the power, hold a small screw to it to see if it’s magnetized.
  • If you notice that the solenoid is magnetized and energized, tap either side of it with a small plastic item. This should unstick it. Give it a couple of tests to make sure it works. If it doesn’t, go to the next step.
  • If you notice that the solenoid lost its energy or magnetism, you need to replace the solenoid. In some cases, you might be able to add charge with a 24V AC tool, but most DIYers shouldn’t try this. So, replace the solenoid. You should see an improvement almost immediately.

Cleaning The Capillaries

Capillaries are all the little tubes that run the reversing valve. They need to have the fluids running smoothly through them in order to work. Check the capillary tubes in your heat valve. Are they cloggy and dirty? It could be that the capillaries are just too cloggy to work. Cleaning them out will fix the problem.

Signs It’s Time To Replace Your Reversing Valve

Wondering if you need to replace that valve? Honestly, it might be a good idea. If you have gone through the troubleshooting aspects of this guide and still haven’t been able to get any leeway in terms of making your temperature change, it’s probably a good idea. To help you determine if this is the right course of action for you, take a look at these signs that it’s time to change your valve:

  • You’ve already gone through this troubleshooter and nothing has happened. If you find that your other HVAC parts are confirmed to be working well, then replacement might be a good idea. In fact, it probably is what you need to do.
  • You discovered an internal or external leak in the valve. Regardless of how bad it is, this is a sign your valve is done.
  • The valve is cracked or looks burned. If your valve is broken or burnt out, there’s zero chance of fixing it. The only option you really have is to replace it.
  • This is the second or third time you’ve had to fix your reversing valve. Solenoids keep burning out? Having a hard time keeping your electricity energized, or constantly have to tap the sides of your valve to make it work? Yeah, that’s not good. It’s time to replace that reversal valve.
  • It’s been 15 years or so, and your valve looks worse for the wear. Reversal valves do not require regular replacement, but once in a blue moon, you may have to replace them. When this happens, you only have one option. That option, of course, is to replace it.

How Much Does It Cost To Replace A Reversing Valve?

We’re going to be blunt here: a good reversing valve is not going to be cheap. Reversing valves cost several hundred dollars to replace. Recent studies show that reversing valves that are stuck will cost anywhere from $200 to $650 to fix on average, with some repairs being as high as $800.

How much you will pay for the fix depends on what you need to have done. Most repairmen will immediately go for a replacement, knowing that it will be a surefire way to fix the problem permanently. However, if you just want them to tinker and “unglue” the reversing valve, you might be able to find a handyman to help you.

Should You Replace Your Reversing Valve On Your Own?

This is up to you. Replacing your reversing valve can be a moderately simple thing to do as long as you follow instructions from a reputable HVAC site and have some experience in this. Unlike other HVAC projects (like installing a furnace), you don’t need a lot of strength or extra tools to do this in most cases. A simple toolkit will do fine as long as you can break through soldering.

With that said, it’s understandable if you feel nervous about fixing a reversing valve on your own. While it is a rudimentary fix, it’s still fairly labor-intensive. Newbies might also find it to be a tricky endeavor. If you do not feel comfortable working on HVAC equipment or just don’t want to bother, then don’t worry about it. Call a handyman, and you’ll be able to get it unstuck.

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Related Questions

Where can you find the reversing valve?

A reversing valve is typically ensconced near the heat pump’s condenser or compressor. If you need to replace the heat valve, be prepared to have a lot of work ahead of you. The reversing valve is most likely going to be soldered to some of the copper pipes that lead in and out of the valve.It’s the soldering aspect, as well as the overall build of the valve, that makes it so difficult for newer HVAC workers to deal with.

Does a heat pump really save you money?

It depends on where you live. In extremely cold areas, a heat pump will not save you money simply because the temperatures will always dip below the lowest temperature that heat pumps can work. If you live in an area with a temperate climate or warm climate, a heat pump absolutely can save you money.Heat pumps can transfer heat from outside into the house, giving you a way to avoid increased heating bills during the winter. As long as temperatures rarely dip below 40 degrees, you probably will be able to save some money.

Are heat pumps noisy?

Most of the time, they’re not. A heat pump will have a volume between 40 and 50 decibels, which makes it slightly louder than the hum of a refrigerator. In most cases, homeowners will barely notice it, especially since the hum can’t always be heard throughout the home. This makes it a quiet way to heat your home.

Ossiana Tepfenhart
Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.

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