How to Repair a Cartridge Faucet

What You'll Need
New cartridge stem
New O-ring
Putty knife
Petroleum jelly

It is easier to repair a cartridge faucet if you have a basic understanding about how cartridge faucets function. Cartridge faucets are commonly used in residential and commercially plumbing. A cartridge faucet contains a mobile stem (called the perforated cartridge) that controls the flow of water. The stem has a basic, up and down movement. The stem also defines the water pressure exerted through the faucet. Some contemporary cartridge faucets have water temperature control settings on either side.

Cartridge Faucet Parts & Repair Requirements

Cartridge faucets consist of various parts. This includes the cover and the handle at the very top that are followed by the cartridge stem mentioned above. The stem may give way to a retaining ring that is not very common in residential faucet installations. Continuing downwards, the stem leads to the circular body of the faucet. The body is attached to an extended spout that has an aerator at its end. The circular body is imposed upon the plumbing fitting via an o-ring.

Please understand that most of these parts are very durable and don’t need repairs. The cartridge stem contains most of the damageable parts that are prone to wear and tear due to water pressure. The cartridge stem often leads to leakages or drips. Apart from this, the o-ring might get loosened over a period.

Step 1—Getting Started

Start by turning off the water supply. Mostly the valves connecting to the main water supply are located under the sink. Repeatedly move the handle of the cartridge faucet to ensure that the remaining, trickling water flows out.

Step 2—Disengaging Cartridge Faucet

Using the sharp edge of a putty-knife, open the cover that opens like a flap. Ensure that you don’t scratch the surface of the faucet. This helps to disengage the handle rather easily since the screw securing the handle is located directly beneath the cap. Using a screwdriver, unscrew the main nut holding the handle. It is noticed that due to internal corrosion, the screws are often very hard to turn. This can be eased by applying some petroleum jelly over them. Set the handle and the cap aside as they don’t need repairing.

Step 3—Accessing Cartridge Stem & O-ring

When the handle is removed, the inner cartridge stem is easily visible. Pull out the stem using a pair of pliers. You need to apply some serious pressure on the pliers as the stem is deep seated and packed tightly. Some cartridge faucets might have an internal locking nut securing the stem. This nut can be easily loosened using a screwdriver. Once the stem is removed, accessing the body is rather easy. You need to turn the body in an anti-clockwise direction to unfasten it. Below the body lies the o-ring. Inspect the o-ring for any kind of damages.

Step 4—Seeking Replacements

If you cannot decode the damage along the stem, take it to any plumbing or hardware supply store. Plumbing personnel can immediately tell whether the stem is worth continuing with or needs replacement. Usually, it is advised to replace the stem since repairing seldom corrects the inner causes inducing leakages. Ask the store personnel for an exact replacement. This includes similar weight of replacement stem and its construction material. Similarly, procure a new o-ring.

Step 5—Replacing Faucet Components

Start by securing the new o-ring. You need to simply place it upon the base of the faucet. Tighten the body of the faucet upon the o-ring and proceed with replacing the malfunctioning cartridge stem. Secure the locking nut, handle and cover of the cartridge faucet.