How to Fix a Leaky Faucet

by Raul Garcia on May 30, 2011

Among the many types of plumbing projects that crop up from time to time, fixing a leaky faucet accounts for a large number of them. This common household concern can generally be repaired in the same basic manner each time. A compression faucet will work in the same manner no matter what style of handles are used. Whether there are separate handles for hot and cold water, or a single handle, does not change the basic operating principles.

When it comes to the repair of a faucet it is important to have the right tools and knowledge of how the fixture is put together. A compression style water fixture has four primary parts to be concerned about when it comes to fixing a leak. These component parts are the handles, the stem, the packing screw, and the packing. The packing is generally known as the rubber washer. The most common reason for a leak is a damaged washer.

The proper tools for this sort of endeavor include a screwdriver, replacement washers, slip-joint pliers, or an adjustable wrench, and penetrating oil such as WD-40. The oil is generally only necessary for loosening particularly tight screws.

The actual repair of a leaky faucet begins with shutting off the water. If the fixture is fitted with a localize water shutoff then turn the water off to the fixture only. However, if a local shutoff is not available the main water supply will need to be turned off. It will then be best to drain the water line by turning on the fixture.

Once the water is shutoff it is time to begin basic washer replacement. Begin the process by removing the handle. This is performed by removing a small screw that holds the handle in place. Some handles will come with a plastic disc or button that will need to be removed prior to the removal of the screw.

After the handle is removed take a close look at the washer assembly. Remove the packing nut that holds the assembly in place, then remove the screw holding the washer in place. It is important to examine the packing nut, the stem, and the screw at this point. If the are damaged they will need to be replaced.

Now replace the washer with an exact duplicate. Be sure to note whether the washer is beveled or flat. Do not use a replacement that almost fits. This will not stop a leak, or it may easily damage the washer when the handles are turned.

Replace the screw, stem, packing nut, and handles. The repair is now complete!

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