DIY: How to Fix a Leaking Faucet in 5 Easy Steps

You don’t have to be a certified plumber to fix a leaky faucet. Even though that constant drip, drip, drip may be one of the most annoying things in the world… it’s actually very easy to repair. You will need a few tools though:

  • An adjustable C wrench
  • Screwdrivers- having both flathead and Phillips is recommended
  • WD-40 (or any other penetrating oil)
  • New washers and O-rings

Once you have your tools together, here’s how to fix the faucet:

Step 1

The most important thing is to start off by turning off the water! If you don’t cut the water supply, you may be setting yourself up for a real mess.

Almost all sinks have knobs underneath for turning off the water. Just turn it to the right (remember righty-tighty, lefty-loosey?) until it’s too difficult to turn anymore. To verify the water is shut off, try turning the handles on the sink.

Step 2

The handle knobs on your faucet likely have decorative covers. You’ll have to take these off so you can get to the stem. If you have trouble popping the handles off, use your flathead for some leverage.

The handle is attached to the stem with a small screw- hence why you’ll need the right-sized screwdriver. When you unscrew the handle from the stem, use some penetrating oil to loosen it up for you if it’s too tight.

Step 3

After removing the handles, your next step is to remove the faucet’s stem. Here’s where your wrench comes into play. Use the wrench to remove the packing nuts holding the stem in place. Once they are removed, you should be able to easily remove the stem.

Not all sinks are the same though. Some have a twist-off valve, while others can just pop off by pulling on it or using something like your flathead as a lever.

Once the stem is removed, check to make sure the various pieces aren’t damaged before moving on.

Step 4

Assuming you haven’t seen any damaged equipment to this point, you’ve finally come to (what is likely) the root of the problem- the valve seat. Inside the valve seat is an O-ring and washer, which probably need to be replaced.

The most important thing about this step is to verify that the replacement O-ring and washer are exactly the same size as those you’re replacing. This makes up the watertight seal you need to fix the leaking faucet, and the wrong size will allow water to keep slipping through.

The easiest thing to do is have on hand a variety of different O-rings. Most hardware stores will sell small bags with multiple types of rings, so you are almost guaranteed to have the right size. But if you aren’t sure and you don’t have one of those bags laying around, you can take the old O-ring and washer to the store to verify you get the right size.

Step 5

You’re just about done! The last step is to put everything back together. Once the O-ring and washer are installed, replace the stem, then the packing nut, and screw the handles back onto the stem. But before you put the decorative parts of the handles back on, you should conduct your final test.

Turn the water back on (with the knobs under the sink,) and then turn the faucet handles. If you fixed it, water should come out again, but should stop once you turn the faucet handles back to the closed position.

As long as there’s no leak, you’re free to put the decorative handles back on. You’re done!

Still Leaking?

If there is still a leak, it may be that you used the incorrectly-sized O-ring/washer, or something isn’t as tight as it should be.

The alternative is that something else may be causing the link. Unfortunately there are several other possible causes, such as valve seat corrosion, broken plumbing (such as your pressure reducing valve not functioning as intended) or a worn-out seal. In these cases, your best bet is to call a licensed plumber to come out to fix your leaky faucet.

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Justin Stowe

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