anytime plumbing
10 Sep

What Causes a Shower Cartridge to Leak?

Cartridge valves are one of the four types of valves that are found inside of a faucet – particularly in shower faucets. The cartridge features holes that are responsible for regulating both the flow and temperature of the water when you operate the handle. When you have a leaking shower head or shower faucet, it’s usually caused by worn O-rings near the body of the cartridge or washers in the valve seat. With that said, fixing a leak usually involves replacing the washers and O-rings – instead of the cartridge itself. Leaks can also occur when any of the three rubber gaskets in the base of the cartridge are worn out.

There are some instances, however, where it’s necessary to replace a shower cartridge to stop a leak. Fortunately, fixing a leak doesn’t mean that you have to replace your entire shower faucet or shower head.

What Causes a Shower Head or Faucet to Leak?

When water starts to drip from a shower head, there is usually an issue with the shower faucet (valve). In most situations, there are worn inner seals, or components that have become corroded or blocked with mineral deposits. Over time and with use, the rubber O-rings and gaskets that are responsible for sealing the connections between the metal parts can wear down as well. When this happens, water will leak out.

As previously mentioned, there are three rubber gaskets in the base of the faucet cartridge. If any are worn, leaks can occur and if you need to replace one, it’s usually a good idea to replace all of them. Simply use a flat-head screwdriver to pop out the old gaskets and press the new ones into place.

The cartridge itself is only made out of plastic, meaning it’s highly susceptible to cracking or chipping. If this occurs and you have leaking, you need to replace the entire cartridge.

Signs Your Shower Cartridge Has Gone Bad

If your shower cartridge wears out, the valve cannot function properly and will lead to leaking or dripping water. There are a number of different ways to tell if your shower cartridge is bad, including:

  • Leaking or running water when your shower is off.
  • A shower handle that’s difficult to turn, which will worsen over time.
  • A shower handle that “sticks” or “slips” and won’t turn the water on.

Replacing Shower Valve Cartridge

To fix a leaking shower head or faucet, it may be necessary to replace your old shower cartridge with a new one. The solution lies with fixing a cartridge-style faucet by replacing the shower valve cartridge. Cartridge valves feature a single handle and operate as the cartridge slides in and out. Follow these steps to replace your shower cartridge and fix the leak:

  1. Start by shutting off the water supply to your shower. Then, remove the handle cap using a flat head screwdriver or small knife. The goal is to expose the internal screw so you can remove the entire handle.
  2. Use a Philips screwdriver to unscrew the handle screw and pull off the handle. If the handle won’t budge, you may need to heat the handle with a hair dryer or use a specialized handle puller.
  3. With the handle removed, detach the stop tube and lift the cartridge retaining clip with a small screwdriver.
  4. Locate the handle washer and remove it. Then, twist the stem of the cartridge loose and take it out with a set of pliers. If the cartridge is stuck, you may need to use a cartridge puller. Simply slide the puller on the cartridge stem, aligning it with the notches on the cartridges. Then twist the tool to loosen the cartridge and pull it out.
  5. Make sure that you know the part number of your cartridge so that you can get an identical one for the replacement. Oftentimes, this number can be found on the manufacturer’s website. Or, simply bring the old cartridge with you to your local hardware store to match it up properly.
  6. Finally, install the new cartridge in the reverse order that you took out the old one. If you don’t remember how the cartridge should be oriented, find the arrow on the front of the cartridge. The arrow should be pointing upward to indicate proper positioning.

In most cases, replacing the O-ring or washer and giving your shower head a good clean can solve your leaking problem. However, sometimes the shower cartridge has to be replaced. If you suspect a problem with your shower cartridge, you should act quickly to reduce potential damage. Contact your local plumber and schedule an inspection as soon as possible!

For more answers to your plumbing questions, contact the experts at Anytime Plumbing today!

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