Currently the narrow conduit (1 inch outside, so inside maybe 3/4 inch) has 2 wires (hot and hot switched). I want to include one neutral so I can change to a light switch outlet combo. It is an old (1960) conduit, with a 90 degree elbow in the middle, so feels very "dry" and wires start getting damaged after a few attempts.

The wires were old so I bought black, white and red #12 THHN solid wires.

It was impossible to just add the extra wire (white) without fishing everything together. The wire would not even start moving properly (get stuck with the other 2 wires in the way).

However, my attempts to fish all three wires failed. Mostly due to this 90 degrees elbow - it would always get stuck there when pulling, and locking, not moving any further, I had to pull back. It seems that the conduit is too narrow to allow three wires to flow there coming from this elbow. At the start, is fine because I can adjust them, but inside the 90 degrees elbow it is hard to be able to make the right angle so the three wires go inside.

I once managed to finish two - the third wire ended up stuck there (it was very hard to bring the 2 wires past the elbow already). They arrived with their protective plastic with several scratches. It did not matter if taped all together or in different areas to allow better movement.

My questions: - It is definitely doable to fish 3 #12 THHNs inside this conduit, if it were straight. Just feeding it, it moves through the conduit. With this 90 degrees elbow, however, is it something you still consider fully doable? - Is it normal to be so hard to fish 3 solid #12 THHN when there are 90 degrees connections? - What would you suggest doing in this case? Stranded instead of solid wire? Lubricant? Different wire? Anything else that I did not use?

I question what a professional would do to finish the job - I've been trying to do it for 2 days already.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

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    Is this "elbow" a field bent elbow, a prefabricated sweep, a pull elbow, or an L conduit body? Commented Sep 9, 2018 at 3:30
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    @ThreePhaseEel No idea... inside the wall, I can't see it at all. If "feels" like a a box, where the wire comes from the left, and should go down inside the other conduit leading to where the outlet will be installed. I say that because it is definitely not continuous, that is why all this trouble, because the wire has to bend perfectly to go inside the second conduit, and that is very difficult since the opening is so small (1/2 or 3/4 inch).
    – igorjrr
    Commented Sep 9, 2018 at 3:40
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    Oh boy. That sounds like someone buried a pull elbow or a conduit body in the wall in a way that you can't get at the inside without ripping drywall out, which is a rather big no-no (I believe it's even against Code to do so) Commented Sep 9, 2018 at 3:52
  • @ThreePhaseEel Building built in 1955. It's a big building, so maybe it was OK that time. Anyway, it's already there and I need to rewire. Any suggestions of what I can do? Curious to know what a professional electrician would do!
    – igorjrr
    Commented Sep 9, 2018 at 3:54
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    @igorjrr Wait, solid wire THHN exists? Why? my comment doesn't apply to that, it's about pushing even a single wire, any cut wire will have too square an end to climb over the small chamfers on couplings and fittings. It will just hang up there good n plenty. Pushing is tricky. Commented Sep 9, 2018 at 23:53

1 Answer 1


I am thinking if you got as far as you did, the 90 degree bend in this conduit is OK. If it's a buried box, or even conduit body, you got very lucky if you got as far as you did.

Fishing wire is sometimes a science, sometimes an art, sometimes black magic. Here's a voodoo free approach for you.

  • If at first you don't succeed, lube, lube, lube. There are many lubes available with different uses but the clear stuff which is easy to clean up and readily available should be fine. Wipe it on the wire with a rag, and squirt it into the conduit. Do not use dish soap, a common improvised lube. Silicone spray lube is not an approved lube, but may the least objectionable improvised lube. Silicone spray lube may stain upholstery or carpets so I would not try it.

  • Make up a good pulling head. With three small wires there are many ways to do this but you want a secure loop at the end and minimal bulk. Here's a picture of one way to do it, this guy stripped all three wires, made a loop in one, and twisted on the other two.

Pulling Head

  • Work with gravity, not against it. Go from the high spot to the low spot.

  • If you get lucky you can push, but it's easier to pull. Solid wire pushes better but stranded wire pulls easier.

  • Pull with a fish tape; push the fish tape through from the low spot to the high spot, then attach the wires to the fish tape, and pull back through. If you can push a single wire through, you can use that as an improvised fish tape. In fact using a scrap piece of #10 solid Simpull as an improvised fish tape sometimes works better than a real fish tape.

  • If the fish tape fails, add a spring leader to the fish tape. Harbor Freight sells a plastic fish tape with a built in spring leader for $cheap and it works fine.

  • As an alternative to pushing a wire or fish tape, sometimes you can suck a string through with a vacuum cleaner. I doubt this will be necessary for this short run but search for it on youtube if the fish tape fails.

  • Work from both ends. Have one person push from the one end to assist the person pulling at the other end, and go slow. Even if you don't have to do this, it will allow you to get the wire through with minimal tension and minimal abuse of the insulation.

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    Thank you so much! What do you think about the foam lube, that fills the conduit? Better than the clear gel you are suggesting?
    – igorjrr
    Commented Sep 9, 2018 at 13:54
  • Sure thing, give it a try, I haven't tried it but I have heard it works well. Commented Sep 9, 2018 at 17:14

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