How to Fix Sticky Trumpet Valves and Other Common Problems

trumpet valves

If you play the trumpet any length of time you will likely experience several problems with your trumpet valves, like sticky trumpet valves. The trumpet valves and the slides are the movable parts of a trumpet. The mouthpiece is a detachable part but not one that can move while in operation. As with any other instrument or device, movable parts will always pose more problems than fixed parts. Trumpet valves are no different and it is perfectly normal to have a few problems. Here's how to fix those sticky trumpet valves and other common trumpet valve problems.

Sticky Valves

One of the most common problems with trumpet valves is they tend to get sticky. When you move the valves up and down, they may not move smoothly and might get struck at different levels. Many trumpeters experience their trumpet valves getting absolutely stuck midway or just when they are about to be completely pressed.

Sticky valves can hinder your playing ability and can produce very undesirable sound. The easiest solution to get rid of sticky trumpet valves is to use a good valve oil and keep the valves oiled at all times. If you are a regular player and practice every day then you should oil your trumpet valves at least once a week. If you practice several hours daily then you may want to to oil your trumpet valves more often. Blue Juice Valve Oil is one of the best on the market.

How To Oil Trumpet Valves

If you are not sure how to oil trumpet valves the video below will step you through the process. Oiling trumpet valves is not hard but there are a few tips to keep in mind. If you are young trumpet player then you might want to get some help from your parents the first time you oil your trumpet valves. If you are a band parent like me, then you might want to watch the video too so you can help your child in case there is a problem.

How to Oil Trumpet Valves in 4 Easy Steps

  1. Put trumpet on flat surface.
  2. Unscrew first valve and slide valve out but not all the way. If you pull the valve all the way out you might drop it and damage it. Also, you might end up putting the valve back in the wrong way. Lastly, only pull out one valve at a time so you don't get them mixed up.
  3. Put a few drops of valve oil on the valve shaft but not in the holes.
  4. Slide the valve back in until it clicks into place and then tighten the valve cap.

Problems After Oiling Trumpet Valves

  1. Problem: I can't blow into trumpet. Reason: You put the valve in backwards. Fix: Pull the valve out and make sure the engraved number is pointing toward the trumpet mouthpiece.
  2. Problem: The valves are now really sticky. Reason: The oil may have loosen up debris in the trumpet valve case. Fix: Pull the valve completely out and wipe down with a clean cloth. Re-apply oil and re-insert valve. It may also be necessary to remove the bottom valve cap and clean the valve casing.

The video below demonstrates how to clean and oil your trumpet valves and valve casings.

If you need trumpet valve oil you can pick some up here.

Leaky Valves

trumpet valvesLeaky valves are those that are loose in their valve casings and allow air to pass between the valve and its casing. This can throw off the response of the instrument. A valve that is really loose is a bigger problem as it may bind within the casing.

Leaking valves are not usually a problem in new trumpets. Over time and with a lot use valves can wear down and start to leak. When this happens you can try a heavier valve oil that might help reduce the air leakage. Usually though, it means it's time for a valve job or replacement. You'll need an expert to do this.

Stuffy Sound

A stuffy sound or airy sound is a very common problem that is often related to valves on the trumpet.

Here are five things to check:

  1. Check the valves to make sure that none of the felts, corks, or spacer-bumpers on the valves are missing or worn too thin.
  2. Check to see if the water key is leaking or broken. A missing or worn water key cork will not seal well and result in an airy or stuffy sound. Also, check to see if the water key spring is broken or missing, and check to make sure that the water key is not bent.
  3. Check to see if the valves have been mixed up. This often happens after cleaning. The trumpet valves are numbered 1 through 3. The first trumpet valve should be in the valve casing closest the trumpet mouthpiece. The number 2 valve should be in the middle, and the number 3 valve should be closest to the trumpet bell.
  4. 4.Check to see if something is stuck in the trumpet. Pull out all of the slides and valves and run a snake through all of the instrument's tubing. You can pick up a trumpet snake for less than $10 bucks.
  5. Check to see if your trumpet has an air leak. While less common, a broken weld or a pinpoint-sized hole from corrosion make be allowing air to escape.

16 thoughts on “How to Fix Sticky Trumpet Valves and Other Common Problems

  1. I have an old bach trumpet all the slides a sealed because it has not been used in 25 years. Please give me a way of getting the slides free, I want my grandson to learn to play it. Thanks
    Carl Calhoun

    1. Put the trumpet in the bathtub and completely submerge it in medium warm to not boiling water and let it soak for a hour or two. Another way is to use a hair dryer and heat the outside tubing until it comes free. Some say use WD40, but I do not know what it does to the finish.

  2. I have an old bach trumpet all the slides are sealed because it has not been used in 25 years. Please give me a way of getting the slides free, I want my grandson to learn to play it. Thanks

    1. Hi Carl,

      There are a number of do-it-yourself methods that might work, but honestly I would just take it to a tech and have them do it right. You’ll save yourself a lot of grief and potentially avoid damaging your trumpet.

      Good luck!

  3. Well I also have a Bach but I’m in high school and I practice a lot but today I’ve done every method but my valves are still sticking. Any advice. I have to perform in a few days

  4. Now I’m really irritated my first valve just won’t come up quick enough I’ve tried every single method but every single one has failed so far do you have any ideas.

    1. If you have liberally oiled the valves and are still having an issue then there may be some build up in the valve casing. Did you try taking off the bottom valve caps after oiling to allow any residue to flush out after oiling? Other types of deposits in the valve casing may require a professional cleaning to remove. Aside from these issues, denting of the valve casing is a common issue. Even a very small ding resulting from hitting a music stand is enough to restrict the valve from moving freely.

  5. Hi, I am looking for the trumpets valve caps button, is it possible to have some from you. If is how much are they

    1. Hi Edwin,

      I don’t currently have trumpet valve cap buttons listed on the site, but they are readily available on Amazon for around $5 USD. Let me know if you have trouble finding them.

  6. The mouth piece is seized inside the trumpet, also, the lead pipe has become detached from itself. There is no damage to the actual pipe itself outside of the solder giving way. How do I re attach the lead pipe to itself? How do I get the mouth piece out?

  7. Hello,
    I recently got a valve trombone from a friend of mine. The trombone plays very well but there is a leak somewhere on the trombone, I do believe that it is within the valves because I taped over anywhere that would have leaks (such as where the tuning slides are) with medical tape and the trombone is still stuffy. I realign the valves and it sounds better though it’s still a little stuffy. Before I got the trombone, I believe that someone put a mouthpiece in the bone and started to hit on it over a long period of time because small shank mouthpieces barely fit in the bone and the mouthpiece that came with it is too small. I put medical tape on the bottom of the mouthpiece so that it stays in place. It’s a press-fit if it helps coming up with the answer. I love the way it plays though, I am curios, are there any trumpet method would work for this case? I have not tried using thicker oil yet.

    1. Hi Michael,

      Sounds like a trip to the repair shop is in order! Anyone have any other suggestions for Michael?

  8. I have an older Yamaha Trumpet that I’m renting and the first valve is sticky most of the time and is taller than all of the other valves. Is there a way to fix this or is this just normal?

  9. I have a newish Yamaha cornet. I cleaned the horn and left it for 3 months while I was traveling. I am having a difficult time getting my lips back into shape. Moreover, although I have been applying valve oil, the valves are still sticking when I try to to play.

    I would appreciate any help you could give me.


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