Repair a Leaky Washer Type Faucet

leaky_faucetIf you’re not into water torture, then you probably can’t stand the drip, drip, drip of a leaky faucet. Fortunately, you don’t need to call a plumber to save you. These steps detail how to fix the leak in a washer-type faucet in no time. Washer-type faucets work with a rubber or composition washer that closes onto a metal washer seat When the washer becomes hardened, worn or the washer seat wears, it causes the faucet to leak. You can close the faucet tighter to stop the leaking temporarily, but this increases the internal damage to the faucet. Here’s how to fix it.

Turn off the Water: If there’s a shutoff valve beneath the fixture, turn off the water at that point. Otherwise, turn it off at the main house shutoff valve in the basement, utility room, or crawlspace. Turn off the hot water supply at the water heater.


faucetTake the Faucet Apart: Start by removing the handle (this may not be necessary on some older faucets). Loosen the Phillips-head screw, which usually is beneath a decorative cap in the center of the handle. The cap either unscrews or snaps off when you pry it with a knife blade. Next, lift or pry the handle off its broached stem. Unscrew the packing nut beneath the handle, exposing the rest of the stem. Remove the stem by rotating it in the "on" direction. It will thread out. Reinstall the handle if you have difficulty turning it (Fig. 1). Clean chips from the faucet cavity, but do not use harsh abrasives or a file. • Tip: If you must use pliers on decorative faucet parts, pad them with electrical tape or cloth to protect the finish. And take special care with the plastic parts found on many modern faucets.


Examine the Stem: If the threads are badly corroded or worn, take it to your retailer and get a new stem to match. Clean the stem if it’s dirty.


faucetCheck the Washer: The washer is located on the lower end of the stem and held in place by a brass screw. If the washer is squeezed flat or has a groove worn in it, replace it – this should stop any dripping. Take the washer to your True Value store or dealer to ensure an exact match in size and style. If the brass screw is damaged, replace it with a new brass screw. • Tip: It’s important to install the correct type of faucet washer (Fig. 1, bottom). A swiveling washer (C) is preferable to either A or B. To install washer style C, file the shoulder off the end of the stem, drill out the threads of the screw hole. Instead of rubbing against the seat as it closes, a swiveling washer closes with a straight-down, frictionless action – this allows it to outlast fixed washers.


Look at Washer Seat: Any faucet that needs frequent washer replacement usually has a damaged seat. The washer seat is located inside the faucet body. The seat should either be refaced with a seat- dressing tool or replaced: Replace Washer Seat: Some washer seats can be unthreaded and replaced. Check the faucet body with a flashlight to see if it has a square or hexagonal hole through its center or is slotted for a screwdriver; if so, it is replaceable. (However, if the seat simply has a round hole through its center and no slots, it is not replaceable. In this case, reface it with a seat-dressing tool.) To replace it, you’ll need a faucet seat wrench, which comes with a combination of square and hex heads to fit most faucet seats. Turn the washer seat counterclockwise to loosen, clockwise to tighten. Add a little silicone rubber sealant (RTV) or pipe joint compound around the threads of the seat before you install it to make it easier to remove during future repairs. Reface Washer Seat: A seat-dressing tool is not costly and every home with washer-type faucets needs one. Use the tool according to the manufacturer’s directions, placing it in the faucet along with the packing nut. Then rotate until the seat is smooth, and blow out the chips.


faucet_2Put Back Together: Following this seat and washer service, your faucet should be like new. Put the parts back together in the reverse order of taking them apart. Spread a bit of petroleum jelly or silicone grease on the threads of the stem to lubricate the faucet’s action.


If Faucet Leaks Around the Stem: If your faucet is leaking around the stem rather than from the spigot, install new packing. You may want to install one of the newer nylon-covered or graphite-impregnated packings – their lubrication allows the faucet handle to turn more freely. Wrap one turn of this packing around the stem just beneath the packing nut. Use three complete wraps if you’re applying string-type packing. Some stems use O-rings, rather than packing. For these stems, replace the O-ring with a matching one to stop a leak. Hand tighten the packing nut, then tighten it another half-turn.

Tools and Materials: • Smooth-jaw adjustable wrench • Screwdrivers, standard and Phillips • Pliers • Faucet washers • Brass screws • Stem • Silicone grease or petroleum jelly • Seat dressing tool or Seat & Seat wrench • Silicone rubber sealant or pipe compound • Socket wrench • Packing • Cleaning cloths • Hand cleaner

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