How to Fix a Faucet

Drip, drip, drip . . . when you've had enough of that repetitive sound, it's time to fix a leaky faucet. And you'll save money on your water bill. Today's sinks commonly use one of the faucet types shown below. Dual-handled faucets utilize either a traditional compression valve, which seals by pressing a washer against a valve seat, or more reliable stem assemblies with ceramic or stainless-steel discs that slide over the inlet opening. Single-handle faucets have ball, cartridge or ceramic-disc valves.



Things You'll Need

  • Tape-padded Screwdriver
  • Repair-kit Wrench
  • Pipe-joint Compound
  • Old Toothbrush
  • Adjustable Wrench
  • Seat Wrench
  • Utility Knife
  • Tape-padded Channeltype Pliers
  • Replacement Kit Or Parts
  • Handle Puller
  • Mild Abrasive Pad
  • Nail File Or Other Thin Blade
  • Seat-dressing Tool
  • Open-ended Wrench Or Locking Pliers
    • 1

      Before removing any parts other than a handle, turn off the water with the shutoff valves under the sink, or the branch lines or main shutoffs (hot and cold) for a tub faucet. Then open the faucet to drain it.

    • 2

      If you don't have an exploded parts diagram for your faucet, obtain one from the manufacturer (online, by fax or by mail). If you're using a repair kit, follow its instructions carefully. Otherwise, disassemble the faucet to determine its type, laying out the parts in the exact order of removal.

    • 3

      After a repair, always turn the faucet to the On position and slowly open both shutoff valves. When the water is flowing without air, turn off the faucet.

    Fixing a compression faucet (see A)

    • 4

      To stop a spout drip or handle leak, pry off the cap from the faucet's top with a nail file or other thin blade to access and remove the handle screw and handle.

    • 5

      If the handle is stuck and you can't pry it off with a large tape-padded screwdriver, use a handle puller. This tool's arms hook under the handle and pull it up as you turn the threaded shaft down onto the top of the faucet spindle.

    • 6

      To stop a handle leak, turn on the water and try tightening the packing nut with an adjustable wrench. If that fails, shut off the water and continue to the next step.

    • 7

      Remove the packing nut with an open-ended wrench of the correct size or with locking pliers. Cut off the O-ring around the base of the spindle with a utility knife and roll on a new one. Or in some models, unscrew the threaded spindle from the packing nut, then replace the pack string that's wound clockwise around the spindle just below the packing nut.

    • 8

      To repair a spout drip, remove the stem screw and washer from the bottom of the stem assembly and replace the washer. Insert a mild abrasive pad into the open valve and rub back and forth to clean the valve seat. Also stick your finger into the open valve to feel for any rough edges indicating damage.

    • 9

      If a removable seat is damaged or corroded, replace it. Insert a seat wrench into the hole to unscrew it (turn counterclockwise). Coat the threads of the new seat with pipe-joint compound before screwing it in.

    • 10

      Resurface a damaged nonremovable seat with a seat-dressing tool, which threads into the valve. As you turn the T-handle shaft, a cutter head resurfaces the seat.

    Repairing a cartridge faucet (see B)

    • 11

      To stop a spout drip or a leak at the base of the faucet, first pry off the cap on top of the faucet with a nail file to access and remove the handle screw. Lift off the handle.

    • 12

      If it's a leak at the faucet base, next remove the retainer ring with channel-type pliers and wiggle the spout up and off the faucet body. Cut off the O-rings and roll on identical replacements.

    • 13

      If it's a spout drip, look on the outside of the faucet for a retainer clip that holds the cartridge in place and pull it off. Or with some types, turn a nut counterclockwise with an adjustable wrench or channel-type pliers and remove it.

    • 14

      Grasp the cartridge with pliers and pull it straight out. Cut off the O-rings and roll on identical replacements.

    • 15

      Reassemble the faucet and test. If it still drips, replace the cartridge.

    • 16

      To replace a worn cartridge, first note its orientation. The most common type has a flat side that faces front. If you fail to install the new one the same way, you'll reverse the hot and cold orientation. Reinstall the retainer clip snugly in its slot.

    • 17

      Press the spout back on and screw on the retaining ring by hand, then snug it with a wrench. Reinstall the handle and snap on the index cap.

    Fixing a ball faucet (see C)

    • 18

      If water leaks at the handle, leave the water on and tighten the adjusting ring. Use a provided repair-kit wrench or tape-padded channel-type pliers.

    • 19

      If the leak persists, turn off the water and remove the handle setscrew and handle. Remove the adjusting ring and replace the plastic or ceramic cam and the seal between it and the ball.

    • 20

      To stop spout drips, lift out the ball, remove the rubber inlet seals and springs, and clean the ball and inlet openings. Install new seals and springs, and reposition the ball so its slot fits over an aligning pin between the water inlets.

    • 21

      To stop leaks at the base of the spout, lift off the spout to replace the O-rings around the faucet body. Use a utility knife to cut off the old ones; clean the faucet body before you roll on identical replacements.

    Fixing a ceramic-disc faucet (see D)

    • 22

      If a faucet with a ceramic-disc valve leaks, it's usually because of dirty seals. Disassemble it for cleaning. Remove the handle setscrew's cap, the setscrew and the handle. Lift off the cap and remove the screws that secure the cylinder below it. Lift out the cylinder and turn it over to pull out the neoprene seals carefully.

    • 23

      Clean the cylinder, the water-inlet openings in the cartridge, and the faucet body and neoprene seals with an old, soft toothbrush or a mild abrasive pad under running water.

    • 24

      Reassemble and test. If the leak persists, contact the manufacturer for warranty information before purchasing a replacement cartridge and seals.

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