Can't remove shower stem on 40 yr old Gerber faucets

I want to replace shower stems due to leaks. The knobs are several inches away from the wall and there is a chrome sleeve between the wall and the knobs covering the stem. I got a shower stem removal rachet set. 21/32" is too small. 27/32" won't fit into the sleeve; it's just a hair too wide. I can't tell for sure but it looks like 27/32 might be slightly bigger than I need big but would probably be close enough to get the job done if I could get it into the sleeve. Is there a stem scoket smaller than 27/32 available or some way of removing the chrome sleeves without chopping thru tile and/or drywall?
The chrome sleeves are real solid and won't budge. They must be soldered to the copper fixture within the wall.
I'd have to cut away a section of dry wall to get in from the back. Would this be fixable or worst case replacable from the back or is it normally necessary to remove tile in the shower stall?
Thanks,
Bill
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

Gerber used a couple of different designs. The most common 40 yrs ago was a threaded "escutcheon" which had a flange where it meets the wall. But that one screws onto a long threaded nipple like this:
http://www.builderdepot.com/seo/PLUMBSHOP_20/320751_SK0157_GERBER_TUB_KIT.ihtml #
The other design is a straight chrome sleeve which screws onto the outside of the stem body. Normally, this type is installed with some small clearance to the tile and/or is grouted to the tile. Then a chrome ring covers the rough tile/grout and locks to the sleeve with a set screw. Some examples on this page if you scroll down: http://www.plumbinghvacsupply.com/cspshop/web_store.cgi?keywords=Gerber&cart_id If you have the sleeve type, the sleeve must come off. Chip away the grout where it enters the tile. If it won't unscrew by hand, use slip-joint pliers, etc. to force it off. Plan on replacing the sleeve. Be patient and work slowly.
There is nothing you can do from behind the wall. It should not be necessary to remove any tile either.
Jim
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I had the exact same problem. I was only able to remove the sleeve after spraying inside and out with WD40. It unscrews and I used a rubber strap wrench.
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