What are the Basics of Bathtub Faucet Repair?

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  • Written By: Jessica Reed
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 20 June 2018
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The bathtub faucet — the knob or knobs that control the flow and temperature of water in a bathtub — wears out over time from old age and the constant rush of water gushing through it. Most homeowners will find their tub needs a bathtub faucet repair at one point or another. Two types of bathtub faucet repairs exist. The first involves changing out parts like rubber seals and o-rings that have worn down and no longer create a firm seal. The other type of repair involves completely replacing the faucet and reattaching the hot and cold water supply tubing to the correct knobs.

Before a homeowner attempts a bathtub faucet repair, she should understand the four most commonly used types of faucets: ball, cartridge, disc, and compression. Bathtub faucets with one handle may be ball, cartridge, or disc. Two- and three-handled faucets are either cartridge or compression and often only one knob needs repairing to stop the leaking or other malfunction.


To start the bathtub faucet repair, the homeowner should gather some basic tools. A regular and flat-head screwdriver, a wrench, lubricant, and replacement parts should do the trick. To find out which parts to buy, the homeowner can remove the handle cover and unscrew it. Inside she'll see a spherical, metal ball in a ball faucet, a pointed metal cylinder in a cartridge faucet, a set-up similar to the ball faucet but with several rubber seals underneath in a disc faucet, and several metal nuts or washers in a compression faucet.

After picking up a kit based on the type of faucet the homeowner is working with — ball, compression, etc. — she should completely unscrew and remove the handle or handles. Next, she needs to remove any remaining screws and pull out the large metal piece found inside. For faucets like the ball or disc faucet, this piece will be spherical. For cartridge and compression faucets, the metal piece will resemble a collection of nuts and bolts and may require pliers to unscrew.

Once the parts are removed, she should look for rubber seals or o-rings. Both are black and round in shape. Each should be smooth and fit tightly, otherwise they need replacing. Loose nuts and bolts should be tightened and the unit replaced. If any dirt or rust is evident, the homeowner should clean it with an old toothbrush and a mild cleaning solution.

When the parts are reassembled and the knobs screwed back in place, the faucet should no longer leak and the water should flow freely. If not, the problem may require more than the basic bathtub faucet repair. A new faucet may be necessary, but this takes more experience or a professional to complete the job.


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