A constantly dripping faucet won’t only drive you crazy but it will freak Mother Nature out, too. Even a small faucet leak can waste up to three gallons of water each day. Stop the mini waterfall in your kitchen or bath with these step-by-step instructions for repairing a single-lever handle ball (non-cartridge) faucet, the most common household type.
Before you start: Pick a spot where you can lay out parts as you deconstruct the faucet. Keeping them in order of removal will make it easier to put everything back together later. Snapping a photo before each step will also come in handy when it’s put-back-together time.
Step 1: Look to see whether the spout is dripping—this is the most common cause of a leak. If it is, you may just have to tighten the handle’s adjusting ring. If that doesn’t do the trick, you’ll need to change out the faucet’s seats and springs. So, let’s begin.
Step 2: Shut off the hot and cold water supply valves, which are usually silver knobs under the sink. Turn on the faucet to drain any water in the lines. When you’re done, close and cover the sink drain with a small rag to catch any small parts you may drop as you’re working.
Step 3: After removing the screw cover on the faucet handle, use a screwdriver to lift off the actual handle. (If your faucet has a hex screw, you’ll need an 1/8-inch Allen wrench to remove it.)
Step 4: Once you lift off the handle, you’ll see a cap and adjusting ring. If water is leaking, tighten the ring with needle-nose pliers. If that stops the leak, hooray! If not, get ready to replace the faucet’s seats and springs.
Step 5: Remove the adjusting ring and unscrew the dome-shaped cap. If you’re having a tough time getting it off, soak a rag in a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and water, and wrap it around and over the cap. This should loosen any mineral deposits that are making the cap stick. Use channel-lock pliers in quick, short bursts to break the seal. Just don’t exert too much pressure or it will bend.
Step 6: Remove the round metal stem and pull out the ball and cam and packing. If the faucet is leaking from under the handle, replacing the cam and packing should solve the problem.
Step 7: Look down into the bottom of the valve and you’ll see the seats and springs. Insert an Allen wrench into the rubber seat, tilting it slightly to catch the spring. Lift out the seat and spring. Do this for both hot and cold sides.
Step 8: To insert a new set of seats and springs, thread one set onto the Allen wrench through the flat side of the seat, then through the skinny end of the spring. Hold them on the wrench and tip them into their hole in the valve. Repeat with the other side. (Need to see it to believe it? This video walks you through the process.) Now replace the ball assembly, then the cam and packing. Screw on the cap to the valve. Replace the adjusting ring, tightening it with needle-nose pliers. Reinstall the handle, turn on the water supply valves and listen carefully. No more dripping!