How to Fix a Dripping Faucet

One tiny drip every few seconds may seem insignificant, but in a year’s time it can waste thousands of gallons of water, a precious commodity. To many of us, money is also a precious commodity and these thousands of gallons of water wasted means you’re pouring a couple of hundred bucks down the drain every year.

The most common reason for the drip is a failed part, inside. This problem part is usually a washer or an O-ring. The skill level for this repair is “Freshman.” The cost for repair parts runs from less than a dollar to a few bucks, depending on the type of faucet. When using a wrench or pliers on chrome, pad the metal with a rag or tape to avoid bite marks from the tools.

dripping faucet How to Fix a Dripping Faucet

First, let’s talk about the faucet that drips from the spout. Here’s what you do:

1. Turn off the water supply, usually with stop valves under the sink. If there are two separate faucets and only one is leaking, just shut off the valve on the leaking side. If you don’t have shut off valves under the sink, go to the main shut off.

2. Remove the handle. Often the handle will be held in place by a hidden screw. This may be under a decorative plate that can be pried off with a tiny screwdriver. Sometimes the handle will be attached by a small setscrew on the back. Under the handle, there will be a nut from which the stem sticks out. Turn this nut counterclockwise.

3. With the nut removed, you may need to replace the handle temporarily to back the stem out.

4. At the bottom of the stem will be the washer, usually held on by a brass screw. Some washers resemble a tiny diaphragm and others have prongs that snap into place in the screw hole. Take the old part in to the retailer for an exact replacement.

5. Now put everything back in place, restore the water supply, and you should have solved the drip problem.

Sometimes after performing this chore you start to pat yourself on the back, then you see that the faucet still drips. This is usually because of a botched up seat. Shut off the water supply and remove the stem again. Look down into the body of the faucet. You should see a brass collar with a hole in it. This is called a “seat.” The hole is usually hexagonal, but can be square. If the brass is badly scarred, the washer can’t compress and seal itself against the collar; thus, the drip is still with us.

There are two ways to solve this problem. One is to replace the seat. You’ll need a very inexpensive tool called a seat wrench. This makes removal and replacement a piece of cake. You just poke the tool into the hole until it engages and then turn counterclockwise. The second way is to grind the seat off so it’s smooth again. This is done with a seat-dressing tool, also inexpensive.

What about the newer single handled faucets? This repair is also very simple:

1. Shut off both hot and cold water supply valves.

2. Remove the handle, usually held on by a setscrew on the back.

3. Unscrew the cap under the handle.

4. Now you should be able to lift out the cartridge or whatever type mechanism operates the faucet. Since there are so many different types, I hope you saved the owner’s manual.

5. If you know the make and model of the faucet, you can get a repair kit with all the replaceable parts, along with really good instructions on replacement. To be sure you get the right kit, take the mechanism into the parts place.


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