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Repairing Rotating Ball Faucets

Inside a rotating ball faucet a slotted ball sits atop a pair of spring-loaded seals. When the handle is lowered to the “off’ position, this ball, held tight against the seals by the faucet’s cap, closes off the water supply. This type of faucet is often called a Delta faucet, after its primary manufacturer. As the handle is raised, the ball rotates in such a way that the openings align with the supply line ports. This allows water to pass through the ball and out the spout. Moving the handle to the left allows more hot water to flow out; moving it to the right adds cold water.

Most leaks can be fixed by replacing the ball and gaskets in the faucet. In addition, seals and springs can give out and need replacement. These faucets also can spring leaks from around the handle and, with swivel-spout models, from under the base of the spout. Handle leaks indicate that the adjusting ring has loosened or the seal above the ball is worn. Leaks from under the spout result from O-ring failure. Inspect the rings encircling the body and—on units with diverter valves for a sprayer—the valve O-ring. Replace the O-rings if they look worn.

Caution! To avoid damage to flooring and walls, turn off supply lines or the main water valve.

1. Remove handle and cap. Shut off the water supply and drain the lines by lifting straight up on the handle. Using an Allen wrench, loosen the setscrew that holds the handle in place. Loosen the adjusting ring using the wrench that comes packed with your purchased repair kit.

2. Disassemble cam, ball, spout. Unscrew the cap with cloth- or tape-covered adjustable pliers. Lift out the cam assembly, the ball, and, in the case of a swivel-spout faucet, the spout. The spout fits tightly against the O-rings of the body, so it may prove stubborn. Be careful not to scratch the spout as you remove it.

3. Remove seals and springs. To remove worn seals and springs from the body, insert a pencil into each seal to pull it out. Check for blockage at the supply inlet ports and scrape away any buildup. Then insert new springs and seals.

4. Replace O-rings. If the faucet has a swivel spout, remove the O-rings by prying them away from the body using an awl or other sharp-pointed tool. Roll the new ones down over the body until they rest in the appropriate grooves. Replace the diverter O-ring in the same way. Lightly coat the O-rings and the inside of the spout with heatproof grease.

5. Reassemble. Be sure to align the slot in the side of the ball with the pin inside the body. Also, the key on the cam assembly fits into a corresponding notch in the body. Hand-tighten the cap and tighten the adjusting ring for a good seal between the ball and the cam. If the faucet leaks, tighten further.

Select quality parts - Repair kits of lesser or greater quality are available for this type of faucet. Some include plastic balls; others include longer-lasting metal parts. If your hardware store only has the cheaper kit, try a plumbing supply store for a kit with longer-lasting, though more expensive, parts.

Consider a complete rebuild - When a faucet is old enough to have one part wear out, other parts will soon wear out as well. As long as you are fixing one part of the faucet, do a complete rebuild.

Repairing Ceramic Disk Faucets

When you raise the faucet lever of a disk faucet, the upper disk in the cartridge slides across the lower disk, allowing water to enter the mixing chamber. The higher you raise the lever, the more water enters through the inlet ports of the faucet body. Moving the lever from side to side determines whether hot or cold water or a mixture of the two comes out of the spout.

The disk assembly itself, generally made of a long-lasting ceramic material, rarely needs replacing. However, the inlet ports can become clogged with mineral deposits. If this happens, simply disassemble the faucet and scrape away the crusty buildup. If the faucet leaks at the base of the lever, one or more of the inlet seals on the cartridge may need replacing. While the faucet is dismantled, replace all of the seals. If one is worn, the others don’t have long to live. Before you go to your supplier, get the brand name of your faucet from the faucet body—or take the disk assembly along. You probably can buy a repair kit with the parts you need.

1. Remove the lever and cap. Note: Shut off the water. Under the lever you’ll see a setscrew that holds the lever to the lever post. Use an appropriately sized screwdriver to unscrew the set screw—don’t try to unscrew it with a knife or you may damage it. Loosen the screw until you can raise the lever off the post. You may have to gently pry it off with a large screwdriver. Lift off or unscrew the decorative cap that covers the cartridge. Then loosen the screws holding the cartridge to the faucet body and lift out the cartridge.

2. Remove the seals. On the underside of the cartridge you’ll find a set of seals. Pull them out with your fingers or carefully use a sharp-pointed tool, being careful not to scratch the cartridge.

3. Clean the openings. Check the openings for sediment buildup and clean it. Use a nonmetallic scrubber or a sponge.

4. Replace the seals; reassemble. Put the seals back or install replacement seals. Reassemble the faucet. Turn the water back on and test. If the faucet continues to leak after you have cleaned the cartridge and replaced the seals, install a new cartridge.

Repairing Gasketed Cartridge Faucets

Gasketed cartridge faucets use a gasket with a group of openings at the bottom of the faucet cartridge to mix hot and cold water and direct water to the spout. Newer models have ceramic cartridges; older ones have plastic.

Note: Shut off the water before disassembling. If you’re trying to fix a leak from the body of the faucet, first try tightening the cap by hand—do not crank down on it with a wrench. If that doesn’t work, disassemble the faucet and replace the two O-rings. Coat them lightly with heatproof grease. To disassemble, pry off the escutcheon and remove the lever screw. Lift off the lever and unscrew the cap and the retainer nut. The other parts will pull out.

If you’re trying to fix a drip from the spout, the cartridge probably needs to be replaced. Check the retainer nut as well. If its threads are stripped, replace it. These parts are specific to the faucet manufacturer, so take the old parts with you when you go to the store to make sure you buy the right replacement parts. If the faucet operates stiffly, debris may have built up in the cartridge. In most cases, it will be more trouble to clean the cartridge than it is to buy a new one and replace it.

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