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How to fix a leaky shower faucet

Updated: Oct 28, 2022

Key Points:

  1. WikiHow is a pretty good source for small DIY project. Those small fixes are not complex and can be reliably used whenever there are issues.

  2. WikiHow has many similar articles about fixing a leaky shower faucet, but we have picked the best article available for your convenience.

We need to use shower frequently at home. It's common to have some issues with the shower faucet. Most of the issues are easy to deal with and can be fixed by DIY.

Here we quote the best way to fix a leaky shower faucet provided by wikiHow, a wiki that is building the world's largest and highest quality how-to manual. Please edit the articles and find author credits at the original wikiHow articles on How to Fix a Leaky Shower Faucet. Content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons License.

A leaking shower faucet can be both annoying and costly, as it will likely lead to higher water bills. Fortunately, you can fix your leaky shower faucet yourself with a few tools and supplies. If you have a single-handle shower faucet, you’ll need to replace the cartridge in your valve. For a 2-handle shower faucet, replace the washer in the handle on the side that’s leaking. However, you may need to call a professional plumber if your DIY fix doesn't work.

Part 1: Installing a New Cartridge in a Single-Handle Faucet

1. Turn off your water valve before beginning. Your water valve controls the flow of water to your shower. It may be located in your bathroom or your basement. In some cases, it's behind a panel near your shower. Once you locate the valve, turn the knob clockwise to turn off the water. You may find the panel that houses your water valve in the room next to your bathroom. It may even be in a closet.

2. Remove your shower handle using a screwdriver. The screw will be in the center of a knob handle or on the side of a curved handle. Choose a screwdriver that fits into the screw head. Then, carefully turn the screwdriver counter-clockwise to loosen it. Pull out the screw and set it aside to reuse when you replace the shower handle.

  • Your handle could have more than 1 screw, so make sure you remove all of them.

  • If your handle won’t come off, try heating it with a hair dryer. Set the heat to high, then blow the hot air onto your handle for 1 minute. Drape a towel over the handle to protect your hand from the heat. Then, try to pull off the handle.

3. Use your screwdriver to remove the faceplate. The faceplate is the metal piece that's behind your handle. Fit the screwdriver tip into the screws on the faceplate. Next, turn it counter-clockwise to loosen the screws. Set the screws aside for later, then carefully pull off the faceplate and set it aside. The faceplate may stick to the tile or shower wall. If this happens, gently wiggle it until it comes free.

4. Pull the metal sleeve off of the shower valve that’s behind the faceplate. The shower valve looks like part of a metal pipe that connects to your shower handle. It will have a metal sleeve that covers the end of the valve. Use your hands to carefully remove this sleeve, then set it aside for later. This sleeve is called an escutcheon. If you look for one at the hardware store, this is what you’ll need to ask for.

5. Use pliers to remove the locking clip if your valve has one. Look for the locking clip on the top of your valve. It will look like a metal rod, and the end should stick out of the top. If you see one, use a pair of needle-nose pliers to carefully pull it out. Set it to the side so you can replace it when you’re finished installing the new cartridge.

  • The locking clip should be visible on the top of the valve. They aren’t present on all valves, so don’t worry if you don’t see one.

  • You may need to use a screwdriver or awl to pry up the clip.

6. Fit a deep well socket wrench over the valve cartridge. The cartridge looks like a long cylinder with a metal rod sticking out of the top. Choose a deep well socket wrench that’s the right size for your cartridge, then slide it over the cartridge inside the valve. Turn it counter-clockwise to make sure it grips the cartridge. If the socket is too loose, choose the next size down.

  • A deep well socket wrench is a wrench that has a long metal tube fitted onto the end so you can remove nuts or screws that are embedded inside a hole.

  • If you don’t have a deep well socket wrench, you can pick one up at your local hardware store or online. Most deep well socket wrenches come with a range of sockets in different sizes so you can find the 1 that fits your nut.

  • You can also find tools that are called "cartridge pullers." These will also remove your cartridge. However, make sure you get the cartridge puller made for your brand of faucet.

  • The cartridge is the part of the valve that controls the flow and temperature of the water.

7. Turn the wrench counterclockwise to remove the cartridge. Use the handle to slowly turn the wrench, which will loosen the cartridge. Keep turning until the cartridge feels like it’s free.

  • The cartridge may come out in the deep well socket wrench. However, it’s normal for it to remain in the valve after you pull out the wrench. That's okay because you can remove it by hand.

8. Use your needle-nose pliers to pull out the cartridge. Latch onto the end of the cartridge using your needle-nose pliers. Then, carefully pull the cartridge from inside the valve.

  • If you don’t have your replacement cartridge yet, take the old cartridge to your local hardware store to find a match. For an easy option, show it to an experienced store associate and let them find the match for you.

9. Install a new cartridge into the valve by turning it clockwise. Slide the new cartridge into the empty valve. Then, put your deep well socket wrench over the cartridge and turn it clockwise. Stop when the cartridge feels like it’s tight.

10. Replace your valve sleeve, faceplate, and shower handle. Slide the valve sleeve (escutcheon) back over the valve, then put the faceplate back into place. Use your screwdriver to secure the faceplate against the shower wall. Finally, screw your shower handle back into place.

11. Turn your water valve back on and test your shower. Turn the knob on your water valve counter-clockwise so the water will come back on. Then, turn on the shower faucet to see if it works correctly. Finally, turn off the shower and make sure the leak is gone. If your shower is still leaking, you’ll need to call a professional plumber to fix it.

Part 2: Replacing the Washer in a 2-Handle Faucet

1. Switch off the water valve before you get started. The water valve controls the flow of water to your shower faucet, and it’s often located in your bathroom or basement. You may find it behind a panel that’s located on the other side of your shower. Turn the knob on your shower valve clockwise to shut off the water.

2. Feel the water coming from the faucet to see if it’s hot or cold. Put your hand under the leak to check the temperature of the water. If it’s cold, then it’s likely the cold faucet that’s leaking. On the other hand, hot water means the hot side is likely leaking.

  • It’s possible that both sides are leaking. If this is the case, you can replace the washer on the second side if the leak doesn't go away after you replace the first washer.

3. Use a screwdriver to remove the shower handle on the leaky side. Look for the screw in the center of the shower handle. Fit your screwdriver into the screw that holds the shower handle in place. Then, turn your screwdriver counter-clockwise to loose the screw and remove it. Finally, set the screw and the handle aside for later.

4. Remove the metal faceplate that attaches to the shower wall. This is the metal piece that goes under the handle. Look inside the faceplate to see if it has threads, which it likely will. Gently unscrew the metal plate by turning it counter-clockwise. When it comes off, set it aside until you’re ready to put it back on. This is also called an escutcheon.

5. Slide a deep well socket wrench over the metal stem and onto the nut. The nut will be located deep inside your wall, so you'll need a deep well socket wrench to reach it. Choose the size that looks right, then slide it over the metal stem. Secure the end of the wrench over the valve nut that’s at the base of the stem.

  • A deep well socket wrench is a wrench with a long metal tube on the end. It allows you to reach nuts that are embedded inside a structure.

  • You can find a deep well socket wrench at a local hardware store or online. They're often sold in sets so you can choose the right size socket for your needs.

  • To make sure it’s the right size, turn the wrench counter-clockwise to make sure it’s gripping the nut.

6. Unscrew the valve nut and set it aside. Turn the wrench counter-clockwise until the nut comes free. Then, remove the wrench and the nut from the valve. Set the nut aside so you can put it back on later. Your nut should stick in the wrench when you pull it out.

7. Pull the metal stem out of the wall and put it aside. The metal stem is the part of your faucet that the handle turns. Use your fingers to carefully remove the metal stem. It should slide out easily now that the nut isn’t holding it in place. Set the metal stem to the side so you can reuse it.

8. Remove the old rubber washer and install a new rubber washer. Use a pair of needle-nose pliers to pull the old rubber o-ring washer from around the valve. It should easily come off because it’s just pressed onto the valve. Discard the old washer, then press a new rubber o-ring washer over the valve. Line it up in the exact place as the old one.

  • Make sure your replacement rubber washer is the same size as the 1 that's already there. This will ensure a proper fit.

  • It's a good idea to buy a kit that has a variety of washer sizes in it, since you won't know exactly what size you need until you take apart the faucet.

  • Coat the new washer in heat-proof faucet grease to improve the seal.

9. Replace your metal stem, faceplate, and shower handle. Slide the metal stem back into place. Then, put the nut into your deep well socket wrench. Slide the wrench over the metal stem and replace the nut by turning it clockwise. Next, put the faceplate against the wall and turn it to secure it in place. Finally, screw the shower handle back onto the metal stem. Variation: If your metal stem is damaged or worn down, you can purchase a replacement from your local hardware store for about $15. Bring your old stem to the store to help you find the correct match.

10. Turn on your water valve and test the faucet. Turn the knob on your water valve counter-clockwise so the water will come back on. Next, turn on your shower faucet to make sure that the water is running correctly. Finally, turn off the faucet and check that the leak is fixed. If the leak isn’t fixed, try replacing the washer on the other side. If this doesn’t work, you’ll need to call in a professional plumber.

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