How to Replace Your Tub and Shower Faucet Cartridge

Is your shower faucet not working correctly? Fix it with a new faucet cartridge!

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Troubles with your tub and shower faucet can be surpisingly easy to fix. For a faucet that struggles with turning on and off, it's likely that the shower faucet cartridge needs to be replaced.

Once you shut off the water and remove the handle and escutcheon, you can quickly determine whether your single-handle tub and shower faucet is a cartridge, ball, or disk type.

Tub cartridge faucets work just like sink cartridge faucets. Usually the faucet only turns water on and off; a diverter valve on the spout directs water to the showerhead or the spout. A number of manufacturers make cartridges of varying designs, so take the cartridge with you when you shop for parts. You may need to replace the entire cartridge.  Follow our steps below to see how to check your cartridge and get the job done.

Bathroom Faucet Picks

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What You Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Hex wrench if needed
  • Groove-joint pliers
  • Cartridge puller if needed
  • Cartridge or repair kit for your faucet model
  • Silicone grease

Step 1: Remove Handle

Shut off the water and turn the faucet on until water stops running. To remove the handle you may need a hex wrench, which is sometimes included in a repair kit. Remove the screws holding the escutcheon and slide out the escutcheon.

Step 2: Remove Retaining Clip

If there is a chrome sleeve, unscrew it or pull it out. Use a small screwdriver to pry out the retaining clip that holds the cartridge in place.

Step 3: Remove Cartridge

Some cartridges can be removed easily with pliers; others require a special cartridge-pulling wrench (usually available at hardware stores or home centers) made for a specific brand of faucet.

Step 4: Replace O-Rings

If the cartridge is in good shape, replace the O-rings and any other worn parts. (It doesn't cost much more to replace the cartridge.) Rub the O-rings with a thin coat of silicone grease.

Step 5: Install New Cartridge

Insert the new or repaired cartridge into the faucet body, oriented as it was originally. Slide in the retaining clip and replace the handle and escutcheon.

Anti-Scald Faucets

Even a short burst of scalding water can be painful and dangerous, especially for young children. Plumbing codes often require new tub and shower faucets that prevent the flow of very hot water. Some temperature-balancing or anti-scald faucets prevent cold water from being turned off; others have a thermostatic device that reduces hot water flow when necessary.

An anti-scald valve is usually marked. Sometimes by rocking the faucet you'll hear a click that indicates the unit has an anti-scald valve. In some cases you can replace a standard cartridge in an older valve with an anti-scald cartridge.

What If I Have a Tapered Cartridge?

This cartridge works by virtue of its tapered shape, rather than a series of grooves. Note the cartridge's orientation when you remove it so you can put it back the same way. If hot and cold are reversed after you reinstall the cartridge, turn it 180 degrees.

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