Any tips or tricks in pulling old wire out of long run of buried conduit?

CountyBumkin

Bronze Supporter
Apr 3, 2016
64
Orlando FL
I have a raised spa on my pool with a 4 button spa control. The spa control is hardwired to my pool controller about 100 to 125 feet away. The wiring runs through buried 3/4" conduit and has been in the ground for 10 years now. I tried to pull the old wire out (planning to tie a "pull string" to the end of the old wire) but it is not budging.

Pool.jpg

How can I get this wire to pull out of conduit? - it feels like it will break if I pull with much more force.

Any tips or tricks I can try short of digging up the conduit and cutting it in the middle?

Thanks for any advice you can offer.
 

JoyfulNoise

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
May 23, 2015
15,230
Tucson, AZ
You need two people, one at each end. You can buy some cheap dish soap and squirt it into both ends of the conduit. Then, with as little force as is necessary, begin pulling the wire back & forth with the other person, like playing tug-o-war. Eventually the soap will work it’s way through the conduit and the wiring will start to move. It takes A LOT of patience but it will get there. Just be sure to have the draw string very securely in place on the old wiring. Hopefully the electrician that ran the conduit didn’t violate the four 90 deg turns rule.....
 

gary300

LifeTime Supporter
Dec 15, 2014
527
Riverside California
Ditto on what Matt said. I replaced my spa side remote and ran into the same problem. A small cable in a 3/4" conduit all by itself should be easy, or so I thought. Soap and a helper on the other side helped a bunch. Good luck!
 

PoolguyinCT

In The Industry
Jul 21, 2014
3,061
Connecticut
Ditto on what Matt said. I replaced my spa side remote and ran into the same problem. A small cable in a 3/4" conduit all by itself should be easy, or so I thought. Soap and a helper on the other side helped a bunch. Good luck!
I go into every pull expecting a nightmare.
 

jimim

Bronze Supporter
Jun 20, 2016
2,186
NE/Pa
I go into every pull expecting a nightmare.
I say that all the time when I’m putting down conduit for a low volt job. “Why am I even bothering. When I need to repull a wire it is going to be a cluster of a day anyway. “ I keep laying larger and larger conduit cause I figure bigger is better.
 
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CountyBumkin

Bronze Supporter
Apr 3, 2016
64
Orlando FL
There is no pull wire in the conduit - it was used to pull the spa controller wire through when I first installed it (I should have pulled a new "nylon pull string" along with the spa cable, but I didn't). Now it's ten years later...

The spa wire (as I recall) is 4 or 6 strands of 22 ga wire in a flexible sheathing).
I can't get any movement on it so the "pull back and forth from each end" is not happening. Maybe I just need to get tougher with it - if it breaks I'm not any worse off.

The "360 degree conduit bend rule" has not been violated. One 90 degree at the spa and then flexible (actually rigid) PVC conduit back to the junction box at the controller.

I thought maybe some sort of trick like high pressure air blowing soap through the line or such might be offered.... But now I'm thinking there is no trick, and I'm going to end up having to dig up the conduit near the middle then cut - and hopefully that will let the conductor pull out from opposite ends.
 

blazer58

Silver Supporter
May 29, 2018
191
Chicago, IL
We get wire stuck in conduit thats buried in concrete quite often.
We pour boiling/soapy water into the conduit, and then blow air into the pipe.
Keep adding till it comes out other end.
90% of the time this works for us.
The last wire we tape #12 stranded to it.
The #12 then gets a piece of cloth taped to it in the middle, and pulled back and for to clean the pipe,
You have pvc pipe so a nylon rope should work in place of the #12.

Never used this product, but have heard of others using it

good luck
 
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setsailsoon

LifeTime Supporter
TFP Guide
Oct 25, 2015
1,153
Stuart/FL
Wife and I have pulled a lot of old wire through conduit in boat renovation projects. Never used Blazer's technique exactly but it sounds like a good one. We never used hot water but we always used cable lube. We got a big jug of it at HD. It's a water soluble lubricant and K-Y jelly is the same thing but a lot more expensive.. We had to have two people for anything long and a walkie talkie for good communication. Patience is the key to avoiding a broken wire. Tough when one's sitting in a sling on top of the mast 60+ ft in the air!

I hope this helps.

Chris
 
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Rich D

Bronze Supporter
Aug 3, 2018
241
MA
I have seen the pros use a tripod and a hoist. This allows you to keep constant pressure on the wire until it budges, which seems to be the key...
 

CountyBumkin

Bronze Supporter
Apr 3, 2016
64
Orlando FL
I like the idea of the hot water and soap. If that doesn't work I think I will need to dig up the pipe and cut it. Then I can pull the new cable and use a coupler on the pvc conduit.
One problem - I tried to locate the pvc conduit and I cant seem to find it. I have a photo of the piping during the build but I'm still having a tough time locating it. I don't want to dig under the paver walkway and I don't think its under there, but I dug down about 4 feet and still don't see any piping.

In the photos I marked the location of the pipes coming up for the drain vacuum breaks (Position 1) and the Spa drain vacuum break (Position 2). I think I'm in the right area were I'm digging (maybe need to go down a another foot or two). In th etop photo, the pipe sticking up near wall wall at Position 1 is the brown pipe coming out of Pavers in the second photo.

so the piping runs under the pavers then makes a 45 to the rear side of spa. The grey PVC is what I'm after (one is for the Spa control, the other is the Spa light).

pool_piping_build.jpgpool_piping_today.jpg
 

setsailsoon

LifeTime Supporter
TFP Guide
Oct 25, 2015
1,153
Stuart/FL
I would try very hard to pull the wire using Blazer's suggestion until you are quite sure you'll break it or even break it before you dig. At least in the photos it doesn't look like they have any 90's or even 45's around the pool. This is good. Photo's are hard to estimate depths from but your hole looks like is 4' below the spa ledge. In the build photo it looks like you need to be 2-3' below the pool ledge so you aren't deep enough. If your wire is stuck this bad it would more likely be at a 90 at the turn to the spa or where it turns up to your pool control panel.

Chris
 

JoyfulNoise

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
May 23, 2015
15,230
Tucson, AZ
I know this is not likely what you want to hear but this is one reason why many PBs don’t like installing built in spa controls and why many people abandon them - they fail far too frequently and are an enormous pain to rewire. There’s also a lot of wireless remote technology out there that makes them obsolete.

Before you go digging up the yard and/or breaking the wire, it might be worth your time to pay a local electrician to do the wire pull. If it’s really not budging, there may be a guy out there with better tools, tricks and experience to get the wire pulled.

Good luck.
 
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setsailsoon

LifeTime Supporter
TFP Guide
Oct 25, 2015
1,153
Stuart/FL
Great point Matt makes! In fact I did this and failed to mention it. I had what I'd call a puff-one stone age control that used a puff of air to turn on the spa jet boost pump. Piece of junk! Thought about pulling multi-core to put a spa control then realized a simple on-off control with a spare relay in my automation could easily solve the problem. Did that a couple of years ago and never had a problem left the relay box on the wall in place and just bypassed it. Heater is already wifi so I use the phone app to control both. It's pretty nice to start at 94 then go up on heat 'till almost too hot then turn on the spa jets for a refreshing cool blast then do it all over again.

Chris
 

chiefwej

LifeTime Supporter
TFP Guide
Jun 12, 2011
3,386
Tucson
A few smart switches and you can have Alexa control the spa. That’s what I have.

 
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jimmythegreek

Bronze Supporter
Aug 10, 2017
872
Morris Cnty NJ
go get a huge jug of wire pulling lube at home depot etc. pour it in both ends little by little. you can use compressed air to help it along works well. you can add water to it to help it flow. if you get enough in there it will move. you can do the back and forth to break it free then just keep pulling. if its not broken or cracked it will come out just needs solid pressure. the pulling lube works excellent. I have seen the boiling water trick as well but that makes the conduit soften up and you have to be careful with that trick but it works too
 

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