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How To Check And Fix A Leaking Single Lever, Ball-Style Kitchen Faucet

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A dripping kitchen faucet is one of the most persistently annoying plumbing issues. The faucet doesn't pose any major risk other than running up your water bill, but the sound alone could have you desperate for a fix. Checking and fixing a leaking faucet starts with identifying what type of faucet you have, reading the directions, and then deciding if you feel comfortable performing the task yourself or whether you should call in a plumbing repair professional. 

Single-lever faucets are common in kitchens because the lever is easy to operate with the back of your hand to prevent germ contamination. Rather than having separate dials for hot and cold water, the faucet has one lever that moves left to right to control the water temperature. When that single lever is swiveling over a ball-shaped base, your faucet is called a single lever ball faucet. 

How can you check and fix a leaking single lever, ball faucet to stop the drips in your kitchen?

What You Need:

  • Screwdriver
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Ball faucet replacement kit or individual replacement parts
  • Plumber's grease

Step 1: Take it All Apart

Turn off the shut-off valve under the sink to cut the water supply to that faucet. Lift the faucet handle and allow any water that was already inside the line to drain out through the sink before you begin. Place the drain stopper in the drain to prevent any parts from falling into the pipe if you accidentally drop something.

Locate the screw that holds the lever onto its base and loosen the screw using a screwdriver. Lift the lever off the base and sit both the lever and its screw safely to the side.

Is the next visible piece a large metal nut? Use a wrench to loosen and remove that nut and set it aside. If you don't see a metal nut and the next piece is simply part of the faucet, lift the entire faucet off the assembly and set it aside.

Now you should see three stacked parts: the cam, a rubber washer, and the metal ball that gives the faucet its name.  Pull out the seats and springs under the ball – those are the big rubber washer-like object and the little metal spring. If you had to fully remove the faucet, you will also see a couple of rubber o-rings around the assembly. Pull those off, too.

These are the parts you want to examine then clean or replace.

Step 2: Check for Damage and Replace Where Necessary

Visually inspect the aforementioned parts for any damage or buildup that could be impeding function. Pay special attention to the rubber parts, which are more vulnerable to wear and tear.

If you weren't able to find a whole replacement kit, you can reuse parts that show no signs of damage and take the damaged ones to the hardware store to find a match. Bought the whole replacement kit? You might as well just replace everything while you are in there on the off chance that one of the parts has a defect that is invisible to the eye.   

If you had to take the faucet off, make sure you add a bit of lubricant to the new o-rings. A light coat of plumber's grease will help the faucet twist back on over the rings without the risk of damaging the rings. 

Step 3: Reassemble Everything

Put the faucet back together as you are replacing parts. Work in the reverse order as you took things apart. The reassembly order should be spring, seat, ball, washer, cam, and then either the big metal nut or the faucet. Put the cap on the faucet, screw the cap on, and then you can turn the water back on at the shut-off valve.

Test your new faucet to make sure the water comes out at all. Turn the lever off and check for signs of leaking. If the leak has stopped, congratulations, you fixed the problem. Still leaking? Call a plumber, such as one from A Absolute Plumbing & Heating.