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FAUCET REPAIRS: replacing a seat washer to fix a leak

Home & Garden
FAUCET REPAIRS: replacing a seat washer to fix a leak

To service the faucet, remove the handles after you turn off the water supply. To gain access to the handle screws, pry under the index caps with a sharp knife, and set them aside. To keep from reversing the hot- and cold-side stems, work on only one side at a time.
Remove the screw, and lift the handle from the first stem.

Stuck Handle
When faced with really stuck handles, you’ll have two choices. You can cut the handle with a hacksaw, slicing along one side to release its grip. After overhauling the faucet, install universal handles.
Another option is to buy an inexpensive faucet handle puller that consists of a threaded stem, a T-handle, two side clamps, and a sliding collar. To use the puller, insert the stem into the handle’s screw hole until it bottoms out in the faucet stem. Press the side clamps under the handle, and slide the collar down to lock the clamps in place. Then twist the stem in a clockwise direction until you feel the handle break free.

Getting at the Washer
With the handle removed, look for the hex-head bonnet nut that locks the stem into the faucet. Loosen the bonnet nut. If it binds before you can remove the stem, rotate the stem up or down. This should free the nut, allowing you to lift the stem from the faucet.
Expect to find a worn or broken rubber seat washer attached to the stem. Put the handle back on the stem to make it easier to work on. To remove the washer, back the screw off the end of the stem. Carefully pry the washer from the stem using a sharp knife.
Examine the brass seat. (This is also a good time to check the seat for damage.) If the faucet’s seat has a raised rim, approximately inch tall, use a flat washer. If the seat is concave, without a pronounced rim, use a beveled washer.
The washer you install needs to fit the stem perfectly, so it’s best to take the stem with you to your local hardware store. You can also buy a washer assortment kit. These kits usually include a variety of washer screws as well. Look for a kit with a dozen or more washer sizes.

Installing the Washer
When you’ve located the right washer, press it into the stem’s retainer, and tighten the screw through it. Before returning the stem to its faucet port, lubricate the washer with heatproof or food-grade plumber’s grease, available at hardware and plumbing outlets. Grease can sometimes double the life of a washer, especially if the seat is a little rough. Apply a dab of grease to the stem threads and to the top of the stem as well. Lubricating the coarse stem threads keeps the stem operating smoothly, and lubricating the stem keeps the handle from sticking. Don’t grease the threads of the washer screws, however. With the new seat washer installed on the stem and lubricated, thread the stem back into its port about halfway. Then thread the bonnet nut into the faucet or over the faucet port. At some point, the stem may cause the bonnet nut to bind. Thread the stem up or down a little to release the bind. Continue tightening the bonnet nut until it feels snug and the stem turns freely. Finally, replace the faucet handle, and repeat the process with the remaining stem.