How to Replace a Tub or Shower Cartridge to Fix Your Faulty Faucet

Shower faucet not working correctly? Fix it with a new faucet cartridge.

Bathtub with organized artwork in frames
Photo: Emily Followill
Project Overview
  • Working Time: 2 hours
  • Total Time: 2 hours
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Troubles with your tub and shower faucet can be surprisingly easy to fix. If you struggle to turn the faucet on and off or control the temperature, it's likely that your shower faucet cartridge needs to be repaired or replaced. Once you shut off the water and remove the handle and escutcheon, you can quickly determine whether the cartridge for your single-handle tub and shower faucet is a cartridge, ball, or disk type. Before you replace your shower cartridge, note that mineral deposits from hard water could be the cause of your faucet issues. If you see deposits when you disassemble the faucet, soak the cartridge in vinegar to clean it before reattaching. Otherwise, a damaged cartridge might require you to repair or replace a certain part. Manufacturers make cartridges of varying designs, so take the cartridge with you when you shop for replacement parts. If the damage is more serious, you might need to replace the entire cartridge. Follow our steps below to learn how to replace a shower or tub cartridge to keep your faucet running smoothly.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

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

Instructions

removing handle from faucet
Dave Toht
  1. Remove Handle

    Before you begin, shut off the water to the fixture and turn the faucet on until water stops running. To remove the handle, you might need a hex wrench, which is sometimes included in a repair kit. Remove the screws holding the escutcheon (the flat plate surrounding the handle) and slide out the escutcheon.

    removing retaining clip
    Dave Toht
  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.

    remove cartridge with wrench
    Dave Toht
  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. If you have a tapered cartridge (which 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.

    replacing o-rings on cartridge
    Dave Toht
  4. Replace O-Rings

    Look for mineral deposits on the cartridge and soak in vinegar to clean if necessary. If the cartridge is in good shape, replace the O-rings and any other worn parts as needed. (It doesn't cost much more to replace the cartridge.) Rub the O-rings with a thin coat of silicone grease before reinstalling.

    installing new cartridge
    Dave Toht
  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.

    If your faucet lacks an anti-scald valve, you can replace a standard cartridge in an older valve with a new anti-scald cartridge in some cases. Because scalding water can be painful and dangerous, 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. Check that yours has an anti-scald valve, which is usually marked. Sometimes by rocking the faucet, you'll hear a click that indicates the unit has an anti-scald valve.

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