I am trying to replace my bathtub drain however the cross bars have broken off so I am unable to unscrew it from the tub.

How can I unscrew it?


This is approximately the product I am trying to install: drain

On the packaging it says to use pliers to grab the cross bars of the old train in order to unscrew it. The drain is supposed to look like this:

But the cross bars have broken off.

  • Ok thanks for adding the 2nd pic. Those crossbars are not structural - they're paper thin and just there to keep large objects from falling down the drain. Oct 17, 2011 at 19:38
  • Actually they make a tool for those that work better than using a pair of pliers to hold onto the cross bars. Oct 28, 2011 at 5:01

8 Answers 8


Get a drain key and a crescent wrench it will expand in the hole giving you friction to turn the drain out.

enter image description here

  • I hadn't heard of this tool before. Great answer. I added an example image/link for others that haven't heard of it either.
    – BMitch
    Feb 7, 2013 at 11:57
  • Sadly i tried this and spent a good 45 minutes trying to unscrew it. It appears that the drain was installed using an adhesive other than plumbers putty so it is stuck for good. The only other solution i am aware of is to cut it out with a rotary tool.
    – luke
    Mar 20, 2013 at 23:32

I don't know for sure what you mean by cross-bars, but bathtub drains are not usually removable (at least not w/o destroying the drain) from the end user side of the tub, and it's virtually IMPOSSIBLE to tighten the drain sufficiently from the "sit here" side of the tub if you were able to remove the old one.

Have a look at this typical example of a tub drain:

enter image description here

As you can see, the drain assembly is affixed securely to the tub with a wide nut, designed to be removed from underneath.

You'll need to get access to the back side of the tub - hopefully there is an accessible panel you can get at - otherwise that usually means cutting a hole into the wall behind the tub.

  • I don't think i will be able to get access to the tub like that, the tub is on a shared wall in a condo.
    – luke
    Oct 17, 2011 at 19:27
  • Can you get at it from below (from the basement if the tub is on the first floor, or from the first floor if it is on the second floor)?
    – auujay
    Oct 17, 2011 at 19:35
  • I believe the OP was referring to just the pop-up drain assembly which should be removable without access underneath. Jun 24, 2021 at 12:09

I tried using a tub drain remover wrench and all it did was break off the cross bars. So I found a 1 1/2 inch PVC pipe and it was almost the right diameter, but it didn't have any bite. Then I drilled a screw into the side and wedged it between the PVC and drain and with a few pulls of a wrench, it started to unscrew. Hope this helps. enter image description here

  • A good first answer, +1 and welcome to the site :) Nov 14, 2019 at 4:04
  • Assuming plumber's putty was used to secure the drain, sometimes a quick blast with a heat gun (or a longer blast with a hair dryer) can help to soften the putty enough to reduce the force required and avoid snapping the cross bars. Jun 24, 2021 at 12:07

My cross bars were broken totally... So there was just the round cylinder. I took a sturdy hammer and by putting the claw end inside the cylinder, you can then pull or push the claw into the side of the cylinder. Keeping the pressure applied, turn the hammer's handle and believe it or not it will turn the cylinder. Some people put the claw on the bottom of the cylinder but I found it easier to dig the claw into the inside of the cylinder. Easy peasy, no tools to buy.

  • Hello, and welcome to Home Improvement. Thanks for the answer; keep 'em coming. And, you should probably take our tour so you'll know the details of contributing here. Nov 23, 2020 at 22:30

If the cross bar is broken, then you need to bend the outer lip of the drain up. It will be a witch of a job.

Use needle nose pliers to start. Once you can get the lip bent enough, use some channel locks and work it off. The top drain just screws into the lower part. Just keep working it. I did this about 3 weeks ago and at one point I replaced the channel locks with vise grips then used a hammer to push the grips. I also sprayed some WD40 under lthe lip too. It took me 2 hours to get the original drain out, and then about 5 minutes to install the new drain. Can you say miller time?

  • 1
    Be careful not to damage the tub while attempting this
    – Tester101
    Nov 23, 2011 at 13:07

One way you can fix it is by tapping in a 23mm socket into the drain. Then attach a ratchet to the socket and twist it out.


I didn’t realize at the time that there were special tools for this job so I made my own. What I did was clamped two short 2 x 4 blocks together side by side and then cut a hole in between the two pieces using a 1.5 inch hole saw. When I finished I had two half circle pieces of wood the thickness of the 2 x 4. I then put the blocks together and glued 60 grit sand paper to the outside. Then I put the block into the drain and drove two screws into the crack to expand the block and put pressure on the inside of the drain. Finally I placed a chisel into the crack of the blocks and used large pliers to twist the chisel, block, and drain. First I tried twisting on the screws but they broke off. While I’m sure the special tools work great this can be assembled fairly quickly and inexpensively using stuff most folks may already around the house.

  • Hello, and welcome to Home Improvement. Thanks for the answer; keep 'em coming! Jun 2, 2019 at 13:00

I had this exact problem on a 30+ year old drain with broken crossbars. The lip decided to break off little by little (nothing left of the lip when I got done with it), leaving the threaded drain part screwed to the pvc underpipe only. I grabbed the frayed part of the top with a tweaser pliers and worked on this bad boy for a few hours at least (on and off)..with all my might. It did take an hour or so for a few days, then after I waited a few more days (while I called the plumber), I was able to unscrew the drain. Definitely a frustrating experience, but gratifying in the end:)

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