leaking faucet stem

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by giwatcher, Dec 19, 2011.

  1. giwatcher

    giwatcher New Member

    Messages:
    13
    Location:
    tn
    I have a leak around the packing nut of the faucets that feed my washing machine. I have tried to tighten the packing nut, which worked on the hot but not the cold faucet. They are 28 yo and I have to shut off the whole house water to work on them, so I don't want to damage something and have no house water while arranging for an emergency repair. Here are my questions:
    Is there a trick to fix the leak without removing the packing nut, special sealer, grease, etc?
    Is the faucet old enough to have packing string or graphite packing rather than an O ring to seal the nut?
    If it is an O ring, can I pack the nut with teflon tape or other and avoid removing the stem to get to the O ring?
    Any help or work around will be appreciated.
  2. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    15,152
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    Can you attach a picture of 800 pixels or less?
  3. giwatcher

    giwatcher New Member

    Messages:
    13
    Location:
    tn
    I haven't disassembled anything to show a picture of, unless you are trying to figure out how old the faucet is. My questions are of a general nature, since I don't want to disassemble until I have covered all my bases, as I stated in the question. Any tips based on the info I provided?
  4. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    15,152
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    It's pretty hard to tell if you faucet is indeed generic without seeing it.
  5. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    If we were to take a wild stab, it wouldn not have an o-ring. It probably has a preformed packing of cloth-impregnated rubber, or similar. That kind of packing is a good canditate to relace with graphite or teflon string packing. You can work on the packing by removing the packing nut , without turning off the main water. Turn the valve off, however. DONT remove the stem!
  6. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,362
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    Boy, I wonder if it's worth the effort to repair a 28 yo faucet. Sure would be easier to install a new one and be good for another 28 years. 'Course, it's not my money I'm spending here, and it's always easy to spend another person's money. LOL
  7. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,874
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    A picture would tell us if your valves are "modular" which are easily replaced, or a single unit which requires that you open the wall to change them. You do NOT have to turn the water off to the house to replace the packing, however.
  8. giwatcher

    giwatcher New Member

    Messages:
    13
    Location:
    tn
    Thanks for the very helpful replies. It hadn't really occurred to me that if I keep the faucet turned off, I can remove the nut and access the "packing" without turning off the house supply.
    I guess the way to approach this is to loosen the nut while keeping the stem turned tightly to the off position. My concern is when I have done this on other faucets, the stem will sometimes get loose and slightly float up and break the water-tight seal, which would definitely be bad!
    If this nut over the stem has no packing, that means there is an O ring, which to replace requires the stem be removed. The O ring is on the bottom of the valve by the threads, not on the stem under the hex nut. Correct?
  9. giwatcher

    giwatcher New Member

    Messages:
    13
    Location:
    tn
    For Terry and others:
    I have attached an image of the faucet as requested. I have tried to get a better one, but this is the limit of my equipment.
    Is it sufficient to tell if I have a packing nut vs locknut with O ring? DSC00022.JPG
  10. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,183
    Location:
    New England
    With the valve open, not closed, turn the nut underneath the handle on the body of the valve say 1/8-1/4 turn and see if the leak stops. This should make the seal between the stem and the body tighter and the handle turn harder. You don't want it so tight you can't turn the valve - it should turn easily, but with some friction.
  11. giwatcher

    giwatcher New Member

    Messages:
    13
    Location:
    tn
    Jadnashua, the first thing i did was tighten the nut, which helped but didn't eliminate the leak. It may help to review my initial post.Terry asked for the pic. Any thoughts on how to proceed when tightening the nut fails?
  12. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,183
    Location:
    New England
    How tight is it? Can you still turn the handle without really working it? If so, tighten it some more.

    The packing is compressed by the tapered nut. The smaller the area (top) of the taper, the tighter it gets. You can't go any further than bottoming the packing nut. If that doesn't do it, it's either replace the valve or repack it.
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2011
  13. giwatcher

    giwatcher New Member

    Messages:
    13
    Location:
    tn
    Well, now i have a problem. I can't get the handle off, the access is cramped and too short for a screwdriver from above. I closed the valve and loosened the packing nut, but couldn't remove it. I slid some graphite packing in the gap to the stem, and now I can't get the nut to screw on. I removed the packing i had placed and it screws on some, but then slips off as if the threads are stripped or there is still packing blocking the threads, maybe causing it to cross thread.I have the valve closed and can't use the washer.I don't see packing on the threads as best I can tell. Can someone help me get this nut back on. Even the slow leak i had is better than no washer at all.
  14. JerryR

    JerryR Member

    Messages:
    251
    Location:
    Florida
    Go to your local hardware store and purchase an "offset screwdriver."

    Jerry
  15. giwatcher

    giwatcher New Member

    Messages:
    13
    Location:
    tn
    Thanks for taking the time to reply on a holiday. I own a number off offset screwdrivers, which I didn't think to mention. None of them fit or give me the torque to remove the handle, because there isn't enough clearance on the top of the valve. I thought I made that clear. Anyway, how is that relevant to getting the packing nut to screw back on? If you have a suggestion about that and have the time to reply, I would be grateful. Perhaps you were thinking that with the handle off, I could slip the packing nut off totally, but again, is that going to give me some info on how to get it to thread properly?
    Does anyone know if, with the packing nut unscrewed but still on the stem, can I remove the stem? Is it screwed in, or does it just pop out? It didn't seem to want to come out when I pulled.
    I am in a real bind here, and don't want to mess up further without some guidance.
  16. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,183
    Location:
    New England
    WIth the packing nut off, the stem should unscrew from the valve base.
  17. giwatcher

    giwatcher New Member

    Messages:
    13
    Location:
    tn
    I guess these situations seem so simple to those that work with it or have experience, but let me ask the obvious. If the stem unscrews, how? Do I use the handle to turn beyond the normal open point by forcing it? There does not seem to be a flat point on the stem for plyers to grab and turn. Is that because the nut is hiding it, meaning that I can't remove the stem without getting the nut off, which means I have to get the handle off somehow?
    Do you have an opinion as to why i can't get the packing nut to grab the threads now, since I dont see packing blocking the threads?
    If I can get the stem out or the handle off to remove the nut, am I supposed to remove the original packing material/washer and replace it with graphite string packing, or just leave the original and add to it?
    Either way, how much new packing material is to be added? I did not see any packing washers, if that even is an option, in the plumbing area of the local hardware store.
    Thanks to any who can help.
  18. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,183
    Location:
    New England
    Once the packing nut is removed, or at least not catching the threads, the stem usually can just be unscrewed. If it has a washer at the end (typical), that may have blossomed out and is making it hard to get the thing out. If that's the case, you'd probably need to replace the washer once the stem is out and possibly the valve seat (if that is replaceable). So, in some cases, it may just be easier to replace the whole valve.

    If the stem is nearly out, you may not be able to reinstall the packing nut. You don't want the stem tight down to the seat, but it must be down into its normal operating range for the nut to engage. As to the packing material, to get to it, it's probably easier to take the handle off, then the nut should come completely off the stem. Then, you can look it over and decide if just a little more packing would work, or to dig out what's there and start over with all new.

    Can't tell from the picture whether the valve is soldered, threaded, or uses a compression fitting to hold it to the pipe. It might just be easier to replace it.
  19. giwatcher

    giwatcher New Member

    Messages:
    13
    Location:
    tn
    Thanks for the continuing help. Currently, I have the valve closed and it does not leak, and the house water is on. That means that the valve is fully seated within range and closed, so it can't be nearly out or it would leak, correct? So I still don'e see why i can't get the packing nut to screw on now, any thoughts?
    Again, how do I unscrew the stem to remove it? Do I overturn the handle and it then pops loose? Is there a flat place on the stem for plyers that is hidden because i don't have the nut totally removed?
  20. johnjh2o1

    johnjh2o1 Plumbing Contractor for 49 years

    Messages:
    1,143
    Location:
    South*East
    To remove the stem on the valve he has the nut below the stem must be removed.

    John
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