How to Troubleshoot a Leaky Kitchen Faucet
The kitchen faucet is the most frequently used faucet in the home. For this same reason, it’s also the faucet that will give homeowners the most problems. With this in mind, we will address some of the most common leaky kitchen faucet issues that naturally come with its use.
The most common causes are either a clogged aerator or a defective cartridge, but before assuming either of those scenarios check the other faucets in the home to rule out the possibility of low water pressure.
1. How to check for low water pressure:
One at a time, fully open the hot and cold faucet valves. Service technicians and plumbers sometimes make the mistake of forgetting to re-open these valves after finishing a job.
2. How to clean your aerator:
- Lay a towel over the drain to prevent any pieces from falling down it as you work.
- Remove the aerator from your spout or sprayhead(side sprays do not have an aerator; if this is the case for you go to the next step.)
- After the aerator has been removed, check the water flow once again.
- If the water flow has significantly improved, it can be assumed that the obstruction was in the aerator. Go to step 4 to learn how to clean your aerator.
- If you do not see a difference in the water pressure, jump to the next section How to clean and replace your faucet cartridge. In any case, removing and cleaning the aerator should be done at least once every six months.
- Once you have removed the aerator, carefully disassemble the aerator and rinse each part with water, removing any debris that has accumulated. Re-assemble the aerator and check to see if this has improved the water flow.
3. How to identify what kind of faucet cartridge you have:
If you were able to rule out the aerator as the problem, the next step would be to check and replace the cartridge and/or washer. There are three kinds of cartridges: compression, washerless, and ceramic. We must first determine what type of cartridge you have.
- If you have to turn the handle more than one revolution to completely shut off the flow of water, then you know the faucet includes a compression cartridge. Jump to the Compression cartridge section.
- The only way to tell whether you have a washerless or ceramic cartridge is to remove your faucets handle. If the cartridge residing within the handle is held in place by a retention nut, then jump to the Washerless cartridge section.
- If there is no retention nut holding in the cartridge, then go to the Ceramic disk section.
4. (a) How to fix a compression cartridge:
- Once you have your cartridge out, you can easily remove the washer by removing a screw holding the washer to the bottom of the stem. You will also need to remove the seat, which will require a seat wrench. All of these parts are generally readily available, and the cost should be under $15.
- When you have removed the washer and seat, make sure you can locate the appropriate replacement.
- Apply Teflon tape to the seat and thread the seat into the faucet body, being careful not to cross the thread.
- Attach the washer back onto the valve stem and re-insert valve stem into the faucet.
5. (b) How to fix a washerless cartridge:
As wear accumulates, the spring will lose its tension allowing for the passage of water between the washer and the plate. In some cases, the rubber washer may also show signs of
deterioration. If this your case, you can typically find the replacement springs and washers at any hardware store. Replacing it requires a bit of patience.
- The simplest way to insert the springs and washers is to add the washer and the spring (with the narrow part towards the washer) over the tip of a small screwdriver.
- Now you can delicately insert the parts into the hole.
- You will notice that the stainless steel ball has a vertical slot cut into the side. This slot will slide into a pin protruding from the side of the valve well.
- Carefully, as you apply downward pressure on the ball stem, place the cam cap over the ball stem by inserting the tab on the cam cap into the notch on the faucet well.
- Maintaining downward pressure on the cam cap, thread the dome cap on the faucet.
- After attaching the handle, it is recommended that you remove the aerator and let the water run for at least 30 seconds to clear any debris left on the lines. From here you can replace the aerator and call it a job well done.
6. (c) How to replace a ceramic cartridge:
Although ceramic carbide is impervious to friction, it can be somewhat brittle, and from time-to-time, one or both of the disks may crack. Most commonly this is caused by debris in the line–a perfect example of why flushing the line is so important. Unfortunately, when this happens, the entire cartridge needs to be replaced, and every manufacturer has a proprietary size and style. It is essential that you find out the specific brand of your faucet. Replacing it is just as easy as taking one out and inserting the new one. It is recommended that you flush the lines before this operation, so debris does not reach to the cartridge.
Other quick kitchen fixes
How to stop the faucet from sputtering:
Sputtering water flow, vibration on the pipes, or a loud thump when you shut your faucet off (also known as water hammer) could be a sign of air in the pipes. Not only is it annoying, but it could severely damage your pipes if it is not fixed.
- Open every faucet starting with the faucet closest to the main water supply valve. Leave these on for 15 minutes. In the meantime continue to step 2.
- Flush every toilet.
- Run a rinse cycle on both your washing machine as well as your dishwasher.
- Fill a cup of water from your water dispenser.
- After completing step 2 through 4, check to see if it has been 15 minutes since opening all of the faucets. By this time the water should normally be flowing.
- Shut off every faucet starting with the last faucet you opened ending with the one closest to the main water supply valve.
How to fix a side sprayer:
- With the faucet off, remove the spray from the hose.
- Turn on the faucet.
- If water is coming out of the hose:
- You may need to completely replace the sprayhead, but before resorting to that try soaking the sprayhead in a 50/50 solution of water and vinegar for a couple of hours or overnight.
- Re-install the sprayhead. If the problem persists then you need to replace the sprayhead.
- On the other hand, if the water coming out of the hose is not adequate, or you’re not getting any water at all, then your problem may be the diverter. The diverter is a small cylindrical device generally located at the base of your spout. It would be a good idea to obtain a replacement before removing the spout, also having the diverter on hand helps you identify what tool you will need for the removal and replacement of the aerator. It will most likely be a screwdriver or an Allen wrench. Also, having a parts breakdown of your faucet may help you identify what parts need to be removed to access the diverter. The faucet manufacturer should be able to provide one for you.