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Faucet Repairs: Fix a Drippy Ball-Type Faucet

Stop that annoying drip!

FH08OCT_DRIFAU_01-2Family Handyman
Stop that annoying drip in its tracks. Here's how to fix a leaky one-arm ball-type faucet in less than an hour and less than $20! We'll show you how to get the right repair kit the first time and how to install it in a few easy steps.

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How to fix your dripping faucet

Repair kit contents

1. Old-style cam and seal

2. Combination cam and seal

3. Stainless steel ball

4. Old-style seats and springs

5. New-style seats and springs

6. Allen wrench

7. Different thickness O-rings

Photo 1: Lift and remove the handle

Lift the handle, pry off the decorative cover with your fingernail or a flat-blade screwdriver, then loosen the Allen screw underneath and lift the handle free.

Photo 2: Remove the cam seal

Unscrew the cap under the handle and lift out the cam seal. Make sure to line up the tab on the cam seal with the slot on the faucet body when reassembling.

Photo 3: Lift out the ball

Lift out the ball. When you put the faucet back together, line up the long slot on the side of the ball with the pin inside the faucet body.

Photo 4: Remove seats and springs

Remove both sets of seats and springs. When you reassemble the faucet using newer-style springs, guide the seats and springs into the hole with the narrow end of the spring facing up (see Figure A).

Photo 5: Slip out the O-rings

Wiggle the spout free and remove it, and then slip out the O-rings. Pick matching sized O-rings from the kit, coat them with faucet grease and slide them on. Reassemble the faucet by following the disassembly steps in reverse.

When your single-lever, ball-type faucet starts dripping, it’s time to replace the parts inside. You’ll know you have a ball-type faucet (vs. a cartridge type) if it has a dome-shape cap under the handle (Figure A). This is an easy repair. Once you have the parts, the whole thing will take about 45 minutes and you’ll save a whopping $125 doing it yourself!

Everything you need is available in a repair kit ($15 at home centers). Most kits include the ball, springs, seats, O-rings and an Allen wrench. You’ll also need to pick up faucet grease ($2). There are several different models and types of ball-style faucets, so first follow our instructions to take apart your faucet. Then note the brand and take the old faucet guts along to the store to make sure you buy the right repair kit.

Before you disassemble your old faucet, turn off the water at the fixture shutoff valves under the sink or your home’s main water valve if the individual shutoffs are missing (now is a good time to install some!). Cover the sink drain hole with a rag to avoid losing small parts down the drain.

The only tricky part of this repair is first locating and then loosening the Allen setscrew (see Photo 1) that anchors the handle to the stem. The screw is typically hidden under the decorative cover. If the faucet is old, you’ll have to use some force with the Allen wrench to loosen the screw.

Your repair kit may include two different versions of the same part, one for newer and one for older-model faucets. Our advice is to use the same version as the existing parts and discard the other versions when you have the option. Most repair kits come with a hollow stainless steel ball. This will work well and last longer than the original plastic ball you might find if yours is an older faucet. If your faucet uses an older-style, two-part cam—the plastic cam and a separate cam seal—and your kit comes with only the newer combined version (see Photo 2), go ahead and use the combined version. Just make sure to discard the existing adjusting ring located in the cap of your faucet or the handle won’t fit correctly when you reassemble it.

Figure A: Ball-Type Faucet

Here are all of the parts of this type of faucet.

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you startyoull save time and frustration.

  • Locking pliers
Flat blade screwdriver

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.

  • Ball-type faucet repair kit
  • Faucet grease