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Faucet Repair: Fix a Leaking Faucet

Repair a leak around a faucet stem by tightening the packing nut or replacing the packing washer. Both are simple fixes.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Faucet Repair: Fix a Leaking Faucet

Repair a leak around a faucet stem by tightening the packing nut or replacing the packing washer. Both are simple fixes.

Stop a faucet stem leak

If a faucet leaks around the handle, you either have a loose packing nut or a bad packing washer. First try tightening the nut with a wrench or pliers. (The size and type of nut varies a bit with faucet styles.) If the nut is tight but the leak persists, shut off the water to the faucet inside the house, remove the faucet handle from the outside faucet and unscrew the nut. You should be able to pull off the old packing washer and take it to a hardware store to find an exact replacement. Older faucets may have a wad of string, called valve packing, instead of a packing washer. If so, pick up new packing (graphite-coated string) at the hardware store, unwind the old packing and wind on the new clockwise. The packing nut should compress it tightly. You may have to wind on one layer, tighten the nut and then repeat the process to fill the space around the stem completely with packing string.

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • 4-in-1 screwdriver
    • Adjustable wrench

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

    • Packing washer
    • Packing string

Comments from DIY Community Members

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1 - 6 of 6 comments
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August 05, 3:57 AM [GMT -5]

Need to replace a garden faucet...I mean replace, not repair...the thing is shot. Problem is, faucet is 3/4"...bought 3/4" parts which will not fit...HELP!

BAP

July 02, 12:46 PM [GMT -5]

I can't get the handle and stem assembly to come out of the silcock. How to do this?

April 30, 10:44 AM [GMT -5]

BSchlink: You need to replace the seat washer. When you turn your water faucet to the left, you are basically lifting this washer so the water flows to the spout. Search for faucet stem diagram and you will see how the whole stem operates. Good luck.

April 30, 10:27 AM [GMT -5]

BSchlink: Then it is the seat washer which stops flow of water to the spigot. Basically, when you turn the handle left, it lifts the seat washer so water flows. Search for faucet stem diagram and it will show where that is on the faucet stem.

April 17, 1:59 PM [GMT -5]

This is a good idea if the faucet is leaking from the top area. What if it is leaking from inside the spout???? What then?

November 20, 1:38 PM [GMT -5]

Very nice tip. For true beginners, a video would be a nice addition.

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