How To Fix A Leaky Three-Handle Tub Faucet

If your three-handle tub faucet leaks, you don't have to replace it. Three-handle faucets have separate levers for hot and cold water and a diverter in the middle that sends water to the shower head.Three-handle faucets spring leaks from wear and tear or worn out parts.

Here are some instructions for how to fix a leaky three-handle tub faucet.

Prepare to Work

For this project, you need:

  • work gloves
  • flashlight
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • flat-head screwdriver
  • rag
  • utility knife
  • shower and faucet stem wrench (long hollow socket)
  • faucet handle puller
  • rubber washers
  • valve seat
  • valve seat wrench
  • plumber's spray lubricant 

Turn the water off to the tub. The valves to the tub are commonly found in an access panel in the ceiling or basement floor.

If you can't locate the tub shut-off valves, shut off the main water supply, which is a valve attached to the water line on the water meter. Rotate the valve right to turn off the water. Run hot and cold taps to relieve water pressure, then repeat with another faucet on a lower level or past the bathroom.

Remove the Handles

Cover the drain with a rag to catch any loose parts. Use the Phillips screwdriver to remove the screws from the center of the handles.

If the handles are stuck, spray them with the lubricant. Let the oil set for several minutes, and try to pry them off again by hand.

If they still won't come off, secure the handle puller to the handle, and rotate it to the right. Some handles may have a cover plate. Rotate it to the right to remove it. If it has a screw, loosen the screw with a screwdriver, and pull the plate free.

Install a New Washer and Valve Seat

Don't use an adjustable wrench on valve stems because it will cause stripped nuts. Place the shower valve wrench on the faucet stems, rotate the stem to the left, then remove the rubber washer on each stem. Install the new washer on the stem, and tighten it.

Shine a flashlight on the inside of the valve to check for damage or corrosion on the valve seats, which could cause leaks. Replace damaged or rough faucet stem seats. Remove the valve seats by rotating them to the  left with the valve seat wrench. Install the valve new seats, and tighten them.

Set the valve stems back in place, and tighten them, but don't make them too tight. Reinstall the cover plate and handles.

Turn the water back on to test the repair. If the faucet still leaks, or you don't trust your skill to replace the washer and valve seat, contact a plumber like those at All Clear.