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How to Loosen A Stuck Faucet Stem

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How to Loosen A Stuck Faucet Stem

how to loosen a stuck faucet stem

Making minor repairs or replacing parts on a faucet is much easier than it used to be.

Thanks to modern ingenuity, we can easily fix a leak or replace something like a shower faucet cartridge without breaking a sweat.

But things don’t always go smoothly, especially with older hardware. Sometimes those stubborn bolts just won’t budge, no matter how hard you try.

As the saying goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way, and plumbers have some tips on how to handle this situation. Try these tips of how to loosen a stuck faucet stem before you give up and call a professional.

Why Does This Happen?

Have you noticed red rust on the bottom of your sink, or a chalky green substance on your water fixtures? The water leaves behind highly corrosive substances such as calcium, iron and magnesium which can clog your pipes.

Not only that, but over time corrosion can damage your pipes – a badly corroded tap handle will be very difficult for someone to take apart. Ideally, you will be able to knock the tap loose, but if not, you will have to take more drastic measures.

The Steps of how to loosen a stuck faucet stem

Remove The Tap First

It’s easy to figure out how to take the tap apart yourself, but it’s a good idea to read the installation manual before you start. Although taps have standard design elements, each manufacturer is a little different.

Some of the things you will need are.

  • Pliers (access locks, needle nose pliers, vice grips)
  • Screwdriver
  • Box spanner
  • Allen spanner
  • Core puller (faucet stem removal tool)
  • Lubricants, e.g. WD40
  • Power drill and drill bit
  • ½ inch screw extractor

Remember, plumbing is all about planning ahead. If the first method doesn’t work, proceed to the next method until you get the spool out. How to loosen a stuck faucet stem? To get started, disassemble the assembly as follows to gain access to the cartridge

  1. Turn off the water – locate the hot and cold shut-off valves and make sure they are in the closed position. The valves should be at a 90° angle to the direction of the pipe.
  2. Remove the handle – now, in order to access the cartridge; you need to remove the handle. The assembly method depends on the make and model of your tap. Please consult the manufacturer or check online.
    1. Usually, the handle is held in place by a bolt. Locate the screw that holds the handle in place. Loosen the handle with a screwdriver, an Allen key, or a combination of both.
    2. Try to pull it out with pliers.

how to loosen a stuck faucet stem

Removing A Stuck Tap Nut With A Tap Stem Removal Tool

When it comes to how to loosen a stuck faucet stem, having the right tool may make all the difference. A core puller is a special tool made specifically for this job. If you don’t have a replacement, it is a relatively inexpensive item that you can find online or at your local department store.

After you have exposed the cartridge.

  1. Insert the coring tool into the cartridge.
  2. Pull it out. Always use slow, steady pressure.
  3. If it doesn’t move, try twisting it back and forth to get it to start.
  4. If it still doesn’t work, try increasing your leverage. You can do this by making a longer lever.

The problem with these tools is that they don’t work if the cartridge is really stuck. If this works on an old tap, you’ll be lucky. A rusty old stem that has been stuck for years may even break off after you try to pull it out with a spool extractor.

How Do I Lubricate The Tap Stem?

One of the best ways of how to loosen a stuck faucet stem is to lubricate it. Once the rust has reached the threads of the fastener, it is impossible to move it any further. A lubricant like WD-40 will not only stop the squeaking, it also dissolve the rust very well.

Expose The Tap Afterwards.

  1. Use WD-40 on the stuck tap. spray the lubricant so that it completely penetrates as much of the stem and spool as possible.
  2. Let it sit for a few minutes, then try to remove the spool.

Worse Case Scenario – Use A Screw Extractor

If all else fails, this method will certainly loosen it up. You will need to make your own tap stem removal tool to get a better grip.

After You Have Exposed The Spool.

Drill a 1/2 tap (screw extractor) in the centre of the spool.

Now turn the spool with a pair of pliers until it comes out slowly.

If it doesn’t move, increase your leverage. You can do this in a few different ways. Try placing a piece of wood flat on the surface of the shower between you and the cartridge. Use it to slowly pry the cartridge out of the valve seat.

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