Shower Faucet Leaking? Here’s How to Fix It

Updated: Nov. 27, 2023

You don't have to replace the entire faucet just to repair a leaking shower head.

Next Project

An hour or less






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.

Tools Required

  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Handle puller
  • Pocketknife

Materials Required

  • Cartridge
  • Plumber's grease

Identifying a cartridge-style faucet

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Shower cartridge replacement

To fix leaking shower heads, replace the old cartridge with an identical new one. In this article, we’ll focus on fixing a cartridge-style faucet with a shower valve cartridge replacement. 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 shower or bathtub faucets here, which may be either a stem-type valve or ceramic disc valve. Learn more about shower faucet cartridge replacement in the following steps.

Project step-by-step (5)

Step 1

Remove the handle cap

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Turn off the water to the shower at the fixture shutoff valves or at your home’s main water shutoff valve. Then pry off the handle cap with a small pocketknife to expose the internal handle screw.

Step 2

Remove shower faucet handle

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Loosen and remove the handle screw. Pull off the shower handle and set it aside. Turn on a faucet to make sure it’s off. 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.

Step 3

Remove shower cartridge

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Pull off the stop tube. Pry up the cartridge retaining clip with a small screwdriver or awl. Remove the handle washer and then twist the cartridge stem loose and pull it out with pliers.

If it’s stuck, use a special cartridge puller. Unscrew the hex screw and hex nut until threads are visible. Slide the puller over the cartridge stem, aligning the tool ears with the cartridge notches, and twist to loosen. 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. 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.

Step 4

You may need a cartridge puller


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. Make sure you twist the cartridge loose before pulling it out. Take the old cartridge with you to a plumbing parts store or a home center to find an exact replacement.

Step 5

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 leaky faucet cartridge out of the faucet body, buy an identical replacement cartridge, align it properly and reassemble the parts.