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How to Fix a Dripping Faucet

A seemingly minor drip from a leaky faucet can result in damage, waste, and higher water bills. Fortunately, taking care of this problem is a straightforward task. Use this guide to learn everything you need to know when it comes to leak repair with a dripping faucet.

Why Is My Faucet Leaking?

All faucets use similar mechanisms to control water flow. They have an inner stem or cartridge with seals that let water flow in and out of the valve. If the seals don’t work, it can cause water to leak from the stem. Corrosion and poor resiliency can both result in seal failure.

You may have an issue with scale, or mineral, buildup. Trace particles in the water accumulate over time and can interfere with your faucet’s performance. To combat scale, clean your faucet thoroughly or use a descaling agent.

A dripping faucet

What Tools Do I Need?

With so many potential causes for leaks, there’s no blanket list of tools. A full toolbox will go a long way to handling any leak repair when you need it. Here are some of the tools you may need:

  • Allen wrench
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Channel-lock pliers
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Philips head screwdriver
  • Scouring pad
  • Washers and seals
  • White vinegar

Once you’ve collected your tools, make sure you turn the water off. Forgetting this step can result in an immediate flood. Find the fixture shutoff valves and rotate the knobs clockwise. If your sink doesn’t have fixture shutoff valves, turn off the home water supply.

How to Fix Different Faucets

Everyone’s sink works a little differently. Most models fall into one of these four categories:

  • Compression
  • Ball-type
  • Cartridge
  • Ceramic

Use these step-by-step instructions to fix each of them.

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Fixing Compression Faucets

  1. Use a screwdriver to remove the cap on the handle. You should see a screw.
  2. Remove the screws underneath and take off the handle.
  3. Unscrew the packing nut and loosen the stem with a wrench.
  4. Apply a dab of grease to the washers and coat them thoroughly.
  5. Remove the packing nut and insert the O-ring with a coat of grease. Faulty O-rings and washers are the most common causes of leaks for compression faucets.
  6. Check that the washer is flush with the handle and replace the retainer ring, if necessary.
  7. Remove the stem and smooth the top with sandpaper.
  8. If this does not work, consider replacing the faucet completely.

Fixing Ball-Type Faucets

  1. Use a blade to remove the index on the side of the faucet. You should see a screw.
  2. Loosen the screw with a wrench and remove the faucet handle.
  3. Remove the cap and collar with pliers.
  4. Loosen the faucet and take it out. Remove the rotating ball and washer, too.
  5. Insert a needle-nose plier into the stem and pull out the springs and rubber seats.
  6. Slide a new spring and rubber seat onto a thin yet sturdy instrument, like a pencil or straightened paperclip. Lower the parts into the faucet.
  7. Repeat the installation with the second set of seats and springs.
  8. Reinsert the ball until it aligns with the faucet body.
  9. Place a new cam cap and rubber gasket on top of the ball.
  10. Align and tighten the top cap.
  11. Use a wrench to secure the nut until you feel adequate tension against the ball.

Ball-type faucets are relatively complex, and you’re not alone if you have trouble finding the source of a leak. You can save yourself time by buying a replacement or contacting O’Connor Plumbing for leak repair.

Fixing Cartridge Faucets

  1. Remove the cap on the handle.
  2. Unscrew the screw beneath and pull off the handle.
  3. Use needle-nose pliers to take off the retaining clip that keeps the cartridge in place.
  4. Pull the cartridge vertically.
  5. Remove the spout and old O-rings with a pocketknife.
  6. Cover the O-rings with grease before installing them.
  7. Install the replacement cartridge, making sure it matches the dimensions of the original.

Fixing Ceramic Faucets

  1. Unscrew the exterior screws and remove the handle.
  2. Take off the escutcheon cap, unscrew the screws, and remove the cylinder.
  3. Use a screwdriver to pry out the neoprene seals in the cylinder. You may have to replace the cylinder entirely if you see existing damage.
  4. Use white vinegar and a cloth to clean the outside of the cylinder.
  5. Replace the seals.
  6. After you reassemble the faucet, put the handle in the “on” position.

The Bottom Line

With the right tools and some patience, you can fix a dripping faucet on your own. However, if you find either in short supply, O’Connor Plumbing can help. Call us at (833) RIGGO44 to schedule your leak repair appointment today.