How to Replace a Washer

Conventional pillar tap – This is the basic type of tap design and provides a good example of the procedure to follow when replacing a washer. These taps are commonly used for the hot and cold water supply over the kitchen sink and in this position they are probably the most frequently used taps in the house. It’s quite likely that sooner or later the washers will need replacing.

To do this you’ll first have to turn off the water supply either at the mains or, if you’re lucky, at isolating stop-valves under the sink which when shut cut off the supply either to the hot or cold tap without affecting the rest of the system. Turn on the tap fully so it is drained before you start work.

Usually with a pillar tap the spindle rises out of a dome-like easy-clean cover, which you should be able to unscrew by hand. If this proves too difficult, you can use a wrench, but pad the jaws thoroughly with rag to avoid damaging the finish on plated taps.

washer replacement How to Replace a Washer

With the tap turned on fully you can then raise the cover sufficiently to slip the jaws of a wrench under it to grip the ‘flats’ of the headgear ˇŞ the main body of the tap which has a nut-shaped section to it. If you can’t do this you’ll need to take off the tap handle and easy-clean cover. First you’ll have to remove the tiny grub-screw in the side of the handle which can then be lifted off. If this proves difficult a good tip is to open the tap fully, unscrew, then raise the easy-clean cover and place pieces of wood (a spring-loaded clothes peg will do) between the bottom of the easy-clean cover and the body of the tap By turning the tap handle as if you were trying to close it the upward pressure on the easy-clean cover will force it off the spindle However, you then have to replace it over the spindle just sufficiently to enable you to turn the tap on. When this is done take it off again and remove the easy-clean cover. While you are doing all this make sure you hold the tap steady If the headgear is stiff and the entire tap turns you could damage the part of the sink into which the tap fits.

You can now put the headgear to one side. You should be able to see the jumper, with the washer attached, resting on the valve seating within the body of the tap (though sometimes it gets stuck and lifts out with the headgear). Often the washer is held in position on the jumper by a tiny nut which has to be undone with pliers before the washer can be replaced. This may be easier said than done, and rather than waste time attempting the all-but-impossible, it’s probably better to fit a new washer and jumper complete rather than just renewing the washer Once this has been done the tap can be reassembled, and as you do this smear the screw threads with petroleum jelly Tap with shrouded head This is basically a pillar tap where the spindle is totally enclosed by an easy-clean cover that also acts as a handle to turn the tap on and off. Some shrouded heads are made of plastic and care is therefore needed when using wrenches. But the mystery of this tap is how to get to the inside ˇŞ and methods vary with the make of tap.

Some shrouded heads can simply be pulled off, perhaps after opening the tap fully and then giving another half turn. Some are secured by a tiny grub-screw in the side. But the commonest method of attaching the head is by a screw beneath the plastic ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ indicator. Prise the plastic bit off with a small screwdriver to reveal the retaining screw (normally a cross-headed screw). When the shrouded head has been removed you’ll find that you can unscrew the headgear to reach the interior of the tap in the same way as with an ordinary pillar tap. Rewashering can then be done in the same way.

If the jumper is not resting on the valve seating in the body of the tap, but is ‘pegged’ into the headgear so that it can be turned round and round but can’t be withdrawn, it’s slightly more of a problem to remove the washer-retaining nut. The easiest way is to fasten the jumper plate in a vice (although pliers will do) and turn the nut with a spanner. Some penetrating oil will help to free the thread. If after this you still can’t loosen the nut, a good tip is to slip the blade of a screwdriver between the plate of the jumper and the tap headgear and lever it to break the pegging A new jumper and washer can then be fitted complete, although the stem should be ‘burred’ or roughened with a file to give an ‘interference fit’ when it is slipped into the headgear.

Bib taps – These taps are treated in exactly the same way as a conventional pillar tap. You might find with a garden tap that there’s no easy-clean cover, so the headgear is already exposed.

Supataps – Changing the washer on this type of tap can be carried out in minutes, without the need to cut off the water supply first. Before you begin, check that you have a replacement Supatap washer and jumper unit. Once you’ve undone the retaining nut at the top of the nozzle you have to open up the tap fully ˇŞ and then keep on turning At first the flow will increase, but then, just before the nozzle comes off in your hand, a check-valve inside the tap will fall into position and stop the flow You can separate the anti-splash device, (containing the washer and jumper unit) from the nozzle by turning it upside down and tapping the nozzle on a hard surface ˇŞ not a ceramic sink or basin The washer and jumper unit then need to be prised from the anti-splash device ˇŞ you can use a knife blade or the edge of a coin to do this. A new washer and jumper unit can then be snapped in. When reassembling the tap it’s necessary to remember that the nozzle has a left-hand thread and so has to be turned anti-clockwise to tighten it.

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