If you notice water dripping from a shower faucet, replacing the washer may stop the leak. Most shower faucet leaks are the result of washers on the base of the faucet that get worn or cracked.
The washer needs to be replaced as soon as possible to avoid high water bills and wall damage. Before you call a plumber, try to replace the faucet washer yourself by following these steps.
Prepare to Replace the Washer
To replace the washer, gather:
- plastic gloves
- tweezers (optional)
- utility knife
- needle-nose pliers
- wrench set
- penetrating oil
- silicone caulk or plumber's putty
Find the shower faucet shut off valve, and close the water supply. Some valves may be located behind a panel on the wall or in a basement. If you don't see an obvious shutoff valve turn off the main house water supply, which is commonly a valve near the water meter. Open a nearby tap to remove water remaining in the lines.
Remove the Handle
Check the base or sides of the handle for small screws, and detach them with a screwdriver. On some shower faucets, the screws may be under a cap, which is commonly removable by hand, or insert a screwdriver blade under the cap. If you have trouble removing hardware, mist it with some penetrating oil.
Remove the handle, and keep parts in a safe place. If necessary, detach screws from the escutcheon (metal cover around the handle) on the wall. You should see the cartridge after removing the handle and escutcheon screws.
Remove the Washers
Grip the tip of the cartridge with the pliers, and rotate them to the left until the valve pulls from the wall. Reverse the cartridge to locate the two washers.
Use the screwdriver to remove the first washer from the stem, gently rotating it back and forth, then pull the second washer from the stem in the same manner. Find the make and model of your faucet to buy a correct replacement. Also, inspect the stem for damaged rubber O-rings and gaskets.
Press the two new washers on the stem with pliers or tweezers, then slide the cartridge back into the wall. Rotate the cartridge to the right using the pliers, reinstall the handle, then the escutcheon
Snip the tip of the caulk tube with the knife at a 45-degree angle, then squeeze a thin layer around the gap of the escutcheon. Alternately, apply a bead of plumber's putty around the gap, but you only need a small amount. Let materials cure before you restore water to test the repair.
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