How to Fix a Dripping Sink Faucet

A leaking sink faucet is truly annoying. The dripping sound that can keep you awake at night, the pooling water under the sink, and the huge volume of water you waste in the long run—these things can make your life more difficult and can turn into a full-blown problem if not addressed right away. Fortunately for you, you do not have to call in that costly plumbing service to get the job done, as you can do it yourself, which is inexpensive. Here is a guide for you:

Before You Get Started

Before you start anything, make sure you have turned off the water supply to your faucet, which you can find underneath the sink. If it is not located in this area, then you can turn off the main water supply to your home instead. You should also plug the drain using a sink plug or simply a rag. This will prevent you from accidentally dropping small components, such as screws or washers, down the drain.

Of course, you have to determine what type of faucet currently installed in your sink. Three types—cartridge, ball and ceramic-disk—have one central swiveling arm that swings from hot to cold as you desire, while the compression type has two handles, each for hot and cold, making it easier to identify among the others. It is also necessary to take your faucet apart before knowing accurately which of these you are having, as their internal mechanisms are different. Specifically, a cartridge faucet has a cartridge, a ball faucet has a ball bearing and a ceramic-disk faucet has a ceramic cylinder.

After knowing which type you have, you can start fixing your dripping sink faucet.

Securing the Necessary Tools and Materials

To get the job done, you need some tools and materials, including Phillips and flat-head screwdrivers, non-toxic and heat-resistant plumber’s grease, white vinegar, pair of pliers, wrench, replacement seat washers, replacement O-rings, replacement seals, cartridge/ball/ceramic-disk/compression faucet (depending on what you have) and the corresponding faucet replacement kit.

Cartridge Faucet

1. To remove the faucet handle, you should unscrew it, where it would be necessary to pry off the decorative cap on it to access the screw. When pulling it off, tilt it backwards.

2. Remove the retaining clip, which is the circular, threaded plastic piece that holds the cartridge in place. You can do this using a pair of pliers. Then, pull the cartridge in a way that it stands up straight, which is the position of the cartridge when the water is fully on.

3. Remove and set aside the faucet spout, and then locate the O-rings. Replace the O-rings by cutting off the old ones with a utility knife and replacing the new ones. Make sure you apply plumber’s grease on them before installation.

4. Reassemble the handle, and this time, the leak should already be fixed.

Ball Faucet

1. A ball faucet has several parts that you need to replace using some special tools. Take note that you do not need to replace the entire unit, but only its cam assembly, which is why you only need to use a replacement kit that includes all of the stuff you are going to need, including the tools.

2. Unscrew the handle, remove it by lifting it off and then set it aside. Remove the cap and collar with the pliers and then loosen the cam with the tool that comes with the replacement kit. Remove the cam, washer and ball, which comprise a “ball and socket” system that includes a movable rubber ball that plugs the socket, stopping and releasing the water.

3. Remove the inlet seals and springs by reaching into the mechanism itself using needle-nose pliers. Replace the O-rings by cutting off the old ones and installing the new ones. Make sure to coat plumber’s grease on the new ones before installation.

4. Install the new valve seats, springs and cam washers. Essentially, you can do this in a reverse process you disassembled the system.

5. Replace the handle, and then check if the faucet is no longer leaking.

Ceramic-Disk Faucet

1. Unscrew and remove the handle, and then locate the escutcheon cap, which is usually made of metal and should be sitting directly beneath the handle.

2. Unscrew the disk cylinder and remove it to gain access to several neoprene seals on its underside. Pry the seals out and clean the cylinders with white vinegar, which works better especially when you have hard water. Soak them for a few hours to remove the build-up and check whether they are usable or not. Replace them if necessary, which you will know if they look frayed, pitted, thin or worn.

3. Reassemble the handle. Turn the water back on very slowly (as doing it too forcefully can crack the ceramic disk) and check for leaks.

Compression Faucet

1. To remove each of the handles, you might need to pry off each decorative cap, which usually reads “Hot” or “Cold”, and then unscrew them.

2. Remove the nut with a wrench to find the stem, which should be sitting on top of the O-rings that also sit on top of the seat washers. These washers are usually made of rubber that could get worn over time, which is usually the cause of a dripping faucet.

3. After pulling out the stem, the O-rings and seat washers will be exposed. If your faucet handle is leaking, then a damaged O-ring is most likely the cause, so replace it with a new one. As for the seat washer, it should also be removed and replaced. Since it comes with varying sizes, you might need to compare the old one with the replacement when shopping for the kit. Coat the washer with plumber’s grease before you install it.

4. Reassemble each of the handles to see if the leak is already fixed.

More Useful Tips

If you notice some lime build-up on the post of your faucet handle, then clean it off with the appropriate cleaning solution, as such build-up can also cause leaks. When you have a faucet that is not familiar to you, keep in mind that its internal mechanisms should still be the same.

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