Bathtub Drain Valve Repair


When you take a long, relaxing bubble bath and notice the water level falling, it's time to service the drain mechanism. The tub stopper consists of a heavy brass plunger connected to a lever inside the tub by an adjustable link. Disassembling the unit can be tricky if the linkage between the plunger and the lever becomes jammed, but you can usually work it free without causing damage -- and it only takes a few minutes to clean the stopper, adjust the linkage and re-assemble the unit.

Things You'll Need

  • Rubber bath mat or hand towel
  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Crystal drain cleaner
  • Paper cup
  • White vinegar
  • Steel wool
  • Stiff nail brush
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Wrench
  • Grease pencil
  • Place a rubber bath mat or hand towel over the tub outlet to prevent any screws from falling in. Remove the two countersunk screws on either side of the drain lever with a Phillips head screwdriver.

  • Pull the lever faceplate forward until you feel resistance then lift it up to withdraw the linkage and stopper from the tub overflow hole. You may have to flex the linkage back and forth before it slips out.

  • Pour 2 or 3 tsp. of crystal drain cleaner into the tub overflow hole. Crease the lip of a paper cup and use it to pour the recommended amount of water into the hole to dissolve the crystals.

  • Soak the linkage and stopper in white vinegar for 10 minutes to loosen any gunk and hard water deposits that are coating the stopper. Scour the plug surface with a wad of steel wool and brush the linkage clean with a stiff nail brush. Rinse the parts in running water and smear a thin coat of petroleum jelly over the stopper.

  • Pour 3 or 4 cups of clean water into the tub overflow to flush out the drain cleaner. Check and tighten the lock-nut on the threaded adjusting rod with a small wrench if it has worked loose. Feed the stopper and linkage back into the tub overflow hole and replace the two faceplate screws removed earlier.

  • Work the lever back and forth to test the linkage and stopper action. If you feel some slack when the lever is in the closed position, the linkage is too long.

  • Remove the linkage and loosen the lower lock-nut on the threaded adjusting rod with the wrench. Use your judgment to lengthen the rod the required amount by screwing the upper section down a turn or two before tightening both lock-nuts and re-installing the mechanism.

  • Shut the drain by moving the lever into the closed position. Fill the tub with about 3 inches of water and mark the water level on the side with a grease pencil. Wait 15 minutes to ensure that the drain isn't leaking.

  • Remove the stopper and linkage if you detect a leak. Loosen the upper lock-nut on the threaded adjusting rod and lengthen the linkage by turning the upper section counterclockwise 1/2-turn. Tighten both lock-nuts before feeding the mechanism back into the hole and securing the overflow faceplate.

  • Refill the tub and test for leakage as described. Repeat by lengthening the linkage another 1/2-turn if necessary.

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