Seven Simple Tips on How to Fix a Leaky Faucet

an old leaky faucet

A leaky faucet often indicates a problem with one of the parts being worn out. How you go about repairing the faucet depends on where it drips and the mechanical makeup of your faucet. You have four main types of faucets that will depend on compression, disc, cartridge, and mechanism.

Before you attempt to fix a leaky faucet, you should first determine the type of faucet to understand how you go about fixing it. Here are some of the tools you will need before starting:

  • Replacement washers and O-rings.
  • Adjustable wrench.
  • Philips screwdriver.
  • WD-40.

6 Simple Steps to Repair a Leaky Faucet

Step 1: Turn Off the Water Supply

In the first step, you dodge the possibility of turning a leaky faucet into Old Faithful. Before even thinking about putting a wrench or screwdriver to the fixture, double check that you shut off your water supply from the handles near the sink. You will also need to shut off the supply from the handles underneath the sink, which controls the main water line supply. If you forget to do this, you will deal with a watery mess.

Step 2: Remove the Decorative Parts

If you have a widespread faucet there are usually decorative covers over the valves. Most times there is a fine thread on the valve assembly so attempt to unscrew the trim piece.  Beneath each knob, you will find a screw that mounts the handle to the stem. You will unscrew the handle and gently remove the handle. Sometimes the faucet handle will not come off the stem easily. Spray the WD-40 on this part to loosen it.

Step 3: Loosen the Packing Nut with the Wrench

After you have loosened the packing nut, you should see the stem. You want to take this part off all. At this point, different faucets will diverge in how you deal with them. For example, you have some stems that pop off while others will twist from the valve. Remove everything gently. You want to skip over the possibility of damaging the parts because this could exasperate a leaky faucet problem.

Step 4: Pull The Cartridge

If your faucet is under 25 years old it has a cartridge. After turning it on and off for 25 years the seats are probably worn out. Attempt to pull the cartridge straight out using a set of channel locks pliers. Sometimes these cartridges are tough to remove because scale has built up and locked them in place. Give the cartridge a slight wiggle while pulling and it should eventually work itself out. If you can’t remove call a plumbing professional. There are cartridge removal tools available.

Step 5: Check the O-Ring

several faucet o rings

At this point, everything should remain together. Look at the washer and the O-ring inside of the valve seat. Many times, this part causes leaks when damaged, or the seal starts to wear off. You will remove the washer and replace it with the new washer.

You will also want to replace the O-ring because many times this component experiences damage. Before replacing your O-rings and washers, first, check to see if it fits right. When unsure of either, look at the seat to check if the sides will fit with the flat washer. You may have to buy a more appropriate size.

Step 6: Take the Old O-Ring to the Hardware Store

For those with problems finding the right sized O-ring, instead, take it to the hardware store to get an exact fit. For those unsure about this, check the seat and see if the sides will fit the cone shape. Then you can buy the appropriate O-ring. Instead of taking an old O-ring to the hardware store, you can also opt out of that to buy a variety of different sized O-rings in a package. It does cost a couple of extra bucks, but it will be worth every penny to get the size needed.

Step 7: Reassemble the Parts

Once you have the parts, you will need to reassemble them. It will be done in this order when putting it back together:

  • O-ring.
  • Stem.
  • Packing nut.
  • Screw.
  • Handle.

Putting these components together, next you will check to see they have been firmly put together. After you have done that, you will check to see your hard work paid off. It quickly becomes evident if you still have a leaky faucet. You will gently and slowly turn the knob. Next, you will test the running water to see that the leak vanished.

Tips and Troubleshooting

a dripping faucet close-up

What to Do If the Assembly Failed

After you have taken apart and reassembled your faucet, you will want to check to see the faucet no longer drips. If it does, the cause could be deeper than a busted O-ring. In many cases, the next possibility lies in corrosion with the valve seat.

This happens when it remains dirty over time and eventually produces a leak closer to the spout of the faucet. If that fails to fix your leaky faucet, other potential problems include loose parts, worn-out seals or broken plumbing. If you have tried these things without success, it might be time to hire the big guns and call a plumber.

What If You Have No Turn-Off Valves Under the Sink?

When this happens, you will have to identify where the water enters the home to shut it off. Keep in mind, when you shut off the water valve, an entire residence will cry out for the lack of water. Nevertheless, it sometimes becomes necessary during a repair.

The Internal Mechanism Remains Consistent

While your faucet may differ from some of the ones you see, the internal mechanisms should remain the same throughout. You might see, for example, the ball faucet’s handle placed more off to the side to create a more elegant effect.

Putting It All Together

Be cautious of when you see lime buildup on a faucet handle. You will want to apply one of the products made for lime away. If you fail to address this issue on time, it can cause a leaky faucet. Do you have experience with the steps in the article? Did applying the instructions help you fix your leaky faucet? If so, leave us a comment.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions. Under the worst case scenario, you can always hire a plumber to come out and fix the problem. Leaky faucets waste five gallons of water every day, which adds up to 2,082 gallons every year.

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