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How to Fix a Dripping Shower

Repair a shower faucet that won't shut off. Most single-handle, cartridge-style faucets can be repaired in an hour or less with basic tools.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Identifying a cartridge-style faucet

In this article, we'll focus on fixing a cartridge-style faucet. Cartridge valves have a single handle and operate when the cartridge slides in and out. Don't confuse them with single-handle ball-style faucets, which have a dome-shaped casing under the handle.

We won't deal with two-handle faucets here, which may be either a stem-type valve or ceramic disc valve.

Remove the handle

Turn off the water at the fixture shutoff valves or at your home's main valve. Turn on a faucet to make sure it's off. Remove the handle as shown in Photos 1 and 2. If the handle sticks, try heating it with a hair dryer set on “hot”. If you still can't get it off, use a special handle puller—an inexpensive tool available from plumbing parts distributors or home centers.

Pull the cartridge

Virtually every faucet manufacturer has a different method of securing the cartridge to the faucet body. Look for a clip or spring and remove it (Photo 3). Cartridges are often difficult to pull out. Some manufacturers include a removal cap with new cartridges. Align the cap with the old cartridge ears and try to twist the cartridge loose. Then pull it out with pliers.

If you can't budge the old cartridge, you'll need a cartridge puller. Make sure the one you buy works on your brand of faucet. Look on the handle or trim for the faucet brand or manufacturer. A knowledgeable person at a plumbing parts store may be able to identify the brand and model from a photo. Review Photos 4 and 5 for instructions on using a cartridge puller. Make sure you twist the cartridge loose before pulling it out (Photo 4). Take the old cartridge with you to a plumbing parts store or a home center to find an exact replacement.

Install the new cartridge

Turn the hex screw by hand until it bottoms out. Snug up the hex nut by hand and tug on the cartridge puller handle. If the cartridge won't pull out, hold the puller handle steady and tighten the hex nut two full turns. Pull the cartridge out of the faucet body. Buy an identical replacement cartridge, align it properly and reassemble the parts.

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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

Pocketknife, or if the handle or cartridge is stuck, you may need a handle puller or a cartridge puller.

Required Materials for this Project

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

    • Matching cartridge
    • Plumber's grease

Comments from DIY Community Members

Share what's on your mind and see what other DIYers are thinking about.

1 - 12 of 12 comments
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July 02, 9:43 PM [GMT -5]

Tonight I got home after picking up a replacement toilet from Menards and went in the bathroom to find the bathtub faucet dripping. I am so glad to have found this site since I now know exactly what I will need to do in order to fix it. Thanks!!

June 05, 2:07 PM [GMT -5]

Thanks for the free information on how to do it myself. Only cost was a little time and about $20.00 for the replacement cartridge. Saved myself some money with this one. Will be back, I'm sure.

June 05, 2:00 PM [GMT -5]

It was my first attempt at trying to fix-it and I got the job done. Saved a good deal of money and it was just as simple as you said it was to fix. Thanks.

May 11, 12:41 PM [GMT -5]

Thanks it did work and was easy no more drip drip drip at night!

May 11, 10:26 AM [GMT -5]

Project was easy to do, but I still have a leak! Any other suggestions?

December 20, 2:28 PM [GMT -5]

I really need this post. I always have issues with the dripping shower and dont have tools neither has expertise to fix it and i can only call handy man on weekends to fix it.
Lately, i had to replace a new shower head. Lets see how long it lasts :). First thing tomorrow, i will buy the tools needed for this job and try to fix it myselves next time.

February 11, 8:06 PM [GMT -5]

In a situation with separate hot and cold shower handles and, for sure with a showerhead on a flexible hose and maybe even without the hose, the temperature of the drip may fool you. The water may be cool by the time it gets all the way to the head even though the problem may lie on the hot side.

September 08, 11:50 PM [GMT -5]

I forgot to mention that it only cost me $19 bucks and that's just because I also changed the faucet pipe and had to buy plumbers tape for sealent. Thanks again!

September 08, 11:47 PM [GMT -5]

Thanks for the step by step, it was very helpful. Our 2nd bathroom shower faucet wouldn't shut off today and we called the home warranty insurance and they couldn't get someone out to fix it for 4 days (which would have meant we'd having running water coming out until then), plus the co-pay was $55. I've done plubing under the sinks, replaced toilets, etc but hadn't worked on the shower faucet before and couldn't tell how to disasemble it completely and since I wasn't sure, I didn't want to create a bigger problem in the walls by breaking a pipe.

After reviewing the step by step, I knocked out the project (including going to Lowes to get the part) in roughly 45 minutes with no hiccups. I appreciate the ease of instructions as it made the process simple.

Thanks again!

April 19, 8:00 PM [GMT -5]

I've removed the old cartridge, installed the new one, and I've finally got it "working"...until I turned on the water again and realized that water is leaking from the handle.
I know I've installed it correctly, as I've literally been doing research and getting help on this for weeks. Why is it leaking, and how do I fix it?

March 16, 12:31 AM [GMT -5]

Following your instructions we were able to fix a dripping shower that had been bothering us for weeks. Thanks for the advice!

June 09, 8:23 PM [GMT -5]

Your information and photos were very helpful and better than the manufacturer as far as removing the cartridge was concerned. I recommend you give more step by step instructions as far as inserting the new cartridge. We had to phone the manufacturer to find out that the alignment of the internal plastic pieces should be top and bottom, not side and side. Until we learned this, we couldn't get the clip back into place. Then they told us that the little notch on the end goes on the top. Apparently that makes sure the hot is hot and cold is cold.

Once this was settled, we were able to get it all back together and now have a shower that doesn't drip.

Thank you.

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