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How Do I Fix a Leaking Faucet?

You can fix a leaky faucet by replacing faulty parts and broken seals, and tightening loose parts. Fixing a leaky faucet is a straightforward task if you can locate the problem, determine the process, and get the right tools and parts together. Know the cause of your leaky faucet? Here’s where to start your DIY repair.

5 Steps to Fix Your Leak

A faucet with a drip that just won’t quit will waste water and can run up your water bill. So when you notice a leak from your sink, it's best to get to the bottom of the problem quickly. Here’s how to do it:

1. Locate the Problem

You can’t start fixing until you know where the problem is. Because different parts can feed a leak in different ways, determining the location of the leak will help diagnose the fault in your faucet. Parts like o-rings, washers, gaskets, and cartridges are prone to wearing out with use or can be defective. Mineral buildup is also another common problem that can cause a leak. Inspect the areas around and within the faucet to figure out the problem.

2. Shut Off the Water and Plug the Drain

Before working on your faucet, be sure to turn off the water with the shutoff valve under your sink. Locate the valve and twist clockwise, then turn on your faucet to double-check no water is flowing. Once you’re sure the water’s off, plug the drain — you don’t want any loose screws or parts going down your pipes.

3. Disassemble

Next, you’ll need to disassemble your faucet handles to get a closer look at the parts that are likely causing the problem. You must first determine the kind of faucet you have: Depending on the type or brand of faucet, you’ll unscrew the handle differently. In some models, there’s a screw behind your handle, while others have a top screw cover that needs to be removed before you can get to the screw.

With the handles removed, the cartridge or inner valve stem will be visible. Remove the cartridge and inspect it (depending on the type of faucet and part, this could happen in a couple of ways). Cartridges can often be unscrewed or pulled out, but if you’re not sure, it’s best to search the web for some more info on how to handle your specific faucet model.

4. Inspect

Once you’ve disassembled your faucet, it's time to take a closer look. A few issues can cause your faucet to leak, so be sure to check all the parts thoroughly. Inspect the cartridge you just removed, as well as the o-rings, washers, gaskets, and seals — you’re looking for flaws or mineral buildup.

5. Repair and Reassemble

If you're seeing worn-down grooves, stretched seals, or broken pieces, it’s time for a repair. After determining the problematic part to be replaced, head to the hardware store or order a new part online. Make sure to clean up mineral buildup around your faucet before you go to reassemble it (this will help all the parts function well). Once your faucet is clean, replace the broken part, reassemble your handle, and turn back on the water to test your system.

Consider Replacement

If you’re noticing corrosion, multiple leaks around your faucet, or visible damage to the faucet unit itself, it's probably time to replace your faucet rather than repair a specific part. Like any device, your faucet is prone to wear and tear, and as it ages, function and efficiency will suffer. Save yourself the headache when another part goes bad -- a shiny new faucet is a great investment.

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