How to Oil Your Valves

I’ve noticed that students often don’t know the best way to oil their valves, so here are step-by-step instructions on the method I use.

General Tips

  1. Allways oil your valves before important performance events, such as concerts, rehearsals and lessons. Even if they’re working fine now, they could start sticking at the worst possible moment. You know what they say about “An ounce of prevention…”.
  2. If one of your valves is sticking, OIL ALL THREE! If you oil only the valve that’s sticking, you can almost guarantee that another one will soon stick.
  3. Keep your valves (and your entire instrument) clean! You can oil your valves all day long, but if there’s a cat hair in there, they’ll keep sticking anyway!
  4. If your teacher tells you a different way to oil your valves, try their way and my way, and do whatever works best for you! There is more than one way to get the job done!!

Preparing your oil
Sounds silly, but you don’t want to get your valves halfway taken apart before you have your oil ready to go. Take a moment before you start to get out your valve oil, and open the bottle.
If you’re running low on oil, I recommend Hetman No. 2:


Holding your instrument

Angled Trumpet

Before dissassembling the valves, make sure you are holding the trumpet in your left hand, with the valves tilted up at about a 45 degree angle (see photo)




Pulling out the Valves

Pulling the Valves

Unscrew the valve caps on all three valves at the same time, then pull
each valve PARTWAY out, as in the photo.

Be careful not to rotate the valves as you pull them. You don’t want to accidentally put them in backwards when you finish!


Applying the Oil

Applying OilPut a few drops on the smooth exposed area of each valve. Three to four drops per valve should be plenty.

You don’t need to oil the spring, or the part of the valve that holds the spring. The only area that needs oil is the part that comes in contact with the valve casing (see photo).

Reassembling the Valves

Valve NumbersCarefully slide the valves back into their original positions, taking care not to spin them as you do so. On most valves, there is a number on the spring area that tells you whether this is valve 1, 2 or 3. This number usually faces the mouthpiece.

DO NOT FORCE THE VALVES BACK IN – If you have any trouble getting the valves back into position, gently, slowly, and carefully wiggle them back and forth and up and down. This usually will do the trick.

Once the valves are in position, carefully screw the valve caps back on. They should be only “finger-tight”. You want to be able to unscrew them easily next time you oil them!

Final Testing
After everything is back in place, it’s always a good idea to blow some air through the horn and make sure everything is working. If you can, play a note or two to make sure they come out. If you’ve accidentally put a valve or two in backwards, you’ll discover it now instead of during your performance!

12 Responses to How to Oil Your Valves

  1. Janette says:

    I took the valve all the way out and it won’t go back in!

    • markflegg says:

      Hi Janette,

      You’re probably putting it back in at a very slight angle. The valve will only slide back into place if it is perfectly lined up with the valve casing. If you gently wiggle it a little it should drop right in. If it doesn’t, I recommend taking it to your music teacher or local brass instrument repair shop. They can fix whatever is wrong and also show you the correct way to put it in.

  2. Thomas says:

    Thank you very much for your website. =) I played trumpet back in high school and I’ve kicked myself ever since for selling it after I got out. I finally broke down and decided to buy one again and pick it back up, and your site will be invaluable for relearning everything I forgot.

  3. Brian says:

    I need help with my valves. The top half of my valves have little black specks everywhere. Please help with getting them off. My valve keeps getting stuck.

  4. Emil Bova says:

    this worked very well thank you for posting this website i will always reference it

  5. therese says:

    Hi, came across your site while looking for info about taking care of my new G baritone. I was told that I should always use the same brand of valve oil because one brand can interact with another brand and cause gumming. This does not seem intuitive but wanted to get another opinion. Thank you.

    • markflegg says:

      Hi Therese,

      This is a great question! It’s actually true that some brands of valve oil can interact with each other and perform less than optimally. BUT, this generally only happens between synthetics and non-synthetics, and the impact is pretty minimal… in other words, you might not even notice. I wouldn’t worry about it, personally… in fact I mix brands on occasion myself!

  6. Rawreuph says:

    Hello so is it improper to put the valve oil in the bottom holes of the instrument? I play the euphonium and it has never failed me to do so, but I see everyone doing this. My band director taught me to do so. Just questioning if anything bad will happen?

    • markflegg says:

      Hi, this is a great question!!

      It’s true that a LOT of band directors do teach their students to oil their valves this way, and it’s not entirely bad. In fact, when you have a whole room full of students, it’s the easiest way to get their valves working without having a whole bunch of valves dropped on the floor and potentially ruined, lol!

      However, there are a couple of drawbacks with this methhod:

      1. Dirt likes to collect in the space inside the bottom valve cap. When you oil your valves through there, the dirt can get mixed up with the oil and can sometimes cause the valve to be sluggish or stick. Easy fix: clean out your valve caps!!
      2. Gravity – when you oil your valves from the bottom, gravity is working against you and pulling the oil back toward the cap. When you oil from the top, gravity works with you to spread the oil around on the valve surface.

      Also, when you pull the valve out a bit to oil, you can take a look and see if it’s getting dirty, which is your cue to clean it up! 🙂

  7. Alison says:

    I put to much oil in and it won’t make a sound I’m a beginner so I do not know what to do? Any suggestions

    • markflegg says:

      Hi Alison,

      Too much oil won’t cause the problem you’re having. I would guess that you’ve got one or more of the valves in backward. Pull them out one at a time and check to make sure they are turned the right way. You can also try spinning them in place to see if they’re locked in before you try pulling them out.

      Let us know if that works!

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