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Faucet Handle Is Hard To Turn – Single Handle Faucet Repair

Happens to me often as a plumber. After I fix a faucet and the homeowner turns the faucet lever for the first time, they are amazed. “The faucet turns so easily!” they exclaim. What surprises them is not that the faucet works so easily after repairing it, but that they never realized that it didn’t work well until it leaked terribly or the handle couldn’t be moved.

Think about it. You walk into the kitchen or bathroom and, like you’ve done thousands of times before, grab the faucet handle and turn on the water. Do you notice something? Probably not. Water flows; turn it off and continue on your way. Because you use the faucet every day, what you don’t notice is that gradually the internal parts of the faucet accumulate minerals from the water and the parts wear out. This causes the internal parts to resist movement and therefore the handle becomes increasingly difficult to move. Think of it as arthritis in the tap joints.

The good news is that you can save a lot of money by repairing your faucet yourself. Now, don’t let the plumbing scare you. With a few common tools and some guidance, even the novice can get the job done and become a hero to his spouse or friend. Below I have listed some simple steps to help you repair a single handle faucet. I’m only detailing a single-handle faucet repair in this article because the steps to repair this faucet are unique and I don’t have the space here to explain a multi-handle faucet.

Please read the entire article before starting the repair process. Once the actual repair begins, you can refer back to the individual steps to refresh your memory.

Single handle faucet repair steps:

1) First, determine the brand and type of faucet you are repairing; if you can actually locate a brand impression on the faucet that helps immensely. There are over 100 different makes and models of faucets, and most of them have different parts. If you can’t find a name on tap, a digital camera is a big help. Take a picture of the faucet and show it to the clerk at the plumbing supply store. Chances are, when an experienced employee sees the image, they will immediately know what brand it is.

2) Once you know the brand of the faucet, or have a photo, you can purchase the necessary repair parts. you can go to the big box type stores or a local hardware store; each has its own particular strengths. Describe the symptoms of the sick faucet to the employee. Is it difficult to move the handle? Does the faucet leak water around the base of the spout? (Kitchen faucets are notorious for this.) The clerk should know which parts to give you and can prevent you from having to make multiple trips to the store because you have the wrong parts. If you’re repairing a Moen-brand faucet, it’s a good idea to purchase a “puller” tool to remove the old cartridge. There are different types of cartridge removal tools; an inexpensive plastic design or more expensive sturdy metal designs are available. For the owner, the cheapest plastic should do just fine. You can do your faucet repair without one, but using the removal tool makes life MUCH easier. (When making repairs, the lowest priority for me is to save a few cents on parts. I prefer to patronize a store or supplier that has a wide variety of quality parts and employs knowledgeable and helpful staff.)

3) TURN OFF THE WATER TAP. Have I emphasized this enough? Before disassembling the faucet, turn off the water supply. There are usually small chrome or brown valves inside the sink cabinet towards the back. If you’re like every other American I’ve ever worked for, your sink cabinet will be cluttered and those valves will be buried under every kind of shampoo and cleaning bottle imaginable. Add a hair dryer, makeup, spare soap and toothpaste and… well, you get the idea. Dig through the rubble and locate the valves. If the valves don’t turn easily, you may need to find the main water shutoff valve in the house and turn off the water there. If you need help finding the main water valve, check out the how-to article on my website.

4) Once the water is turned off, close the drain plug on the sink. This little trick was taught to me by another plumber over 30 years ago. The reason for this? Most likely, when disassembling the tap, a small screw or gasket will fall out and the closed cap prevents the small piece from disappearing down the drain. Sparkly. Before disassembling the faucet, if you want or need a detailed, illustrated breakdown of your particular faucet and its parts, these illustrations can usually be found on the manufacturer’s websites.

5) Remove the handle. There is often a removable plastic cap that covers the screw on the handle. Take off the cover and remove the screw. Some handles are attached by a set screw on the side of the handle instead of the top. Look at the handle, with a little research it should be obvious.

6) Once the handle is removed you will see some type of device that secures the replaceable parts in place. Sometimes this is a horseshoe-shaped metal clip that slides out. Other times it is a kind of round threaded cap that unscrews. Remove the retaining clip or cap.

(Some faucet brands have a sheath that surrounds the horseshoe clip. This tube must be removed first and then the horseshoe ring can be slid on. To remove the sheath, it is designed to either unscrew or be removed by grasping with pliers and pulling toward you. After removing the cover, grasp the tab of the horseshoe clip with pliers and carefully slide it off to the side. These pieces should come off easily.)

7) Now, you should see a plastic or brass cartridge that can be removed by pulling on it. If it’s a Moen faucet, this is when you use the removal tool. Follow the instructions on the tool packaging. Be careful not to damage the faucet body during this process. Some brands of faucets contain a plastic or brass ball here instead of a cartridge. Lift or pull out this part. Below the round ball you should see two small rubber seats and springs. take them off (In this step, all the removed parts must match the new parts you picked up at the store.)

8) Once the old parts or cartridge are removed, it’s a good idea to use a flashlight and look inside the faucet where the old part used to live. Do you see any bits of debris or broken pieces of the old cartridge there? If so, use needle nose pliers to remove it.

9) You can now install the new parts and follow the steps backwards as you reassemble the faucet, remembering to replace all clips and retaining rings. If you have pieces left over, take the faucet apart again and find out where they go before turning on the water. Take your time and you should be fine

10) This is the most important step. After putting the faucet back together, the water is back on and you’ve tested it to make sure it’s working fine, show off your work to your spouse or friends. Watch their reactions as they marvel at how well the faucet works. Now, YOU are the hero, not the plumber who would have had to pay to do the repair.

The author assumes no responsibility for the work done by readers of his articles. The plumbing repair articles are intended to be a helpful general guide for the homeowner.

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