Faucet repair hotline

Sept. 5, 2012

I received the following e-mail from an acquaintance that shall remain nameless:

Knowing that when it comes to actually doing things around the house, I have no mechanical skills, would you suggest that I attempt changing the cartridge in my old Moen single-lever bathroom faucet, which is dripping steadily? My wife and daughters are questioning my manhood! Help!

My response and instructions to him are as follows: The handle is held on with one screw located in the center under a cap that can be pried off with a sharp knife. Once removed, you'll see the stem post staring you in the eye with its one eye where the aforementioned screw had been.

Now is the time to turn off the water! Phew, that was a close call. Drain off the pressure by pulling the stem post out as you would have, had the handle still been attached. You can do this with pliers. As you just noticed, it doesn't yet want to pull out of the faucet body, which is a good thing or you'd have had a flood a long time back.

Pull off the chrome sleeve and look for a U-shaped brass clip that resides in the groove in the faucet body where the stem and cartridge live. A small screwdriver will easily extract this clip. If you lose this clip, you'll get clipped by a bevy of angry women! Place all parts on a paper towel so none are lost.

Now, here's where Herculean strength often comes into play. That cartridge is now ready for extraction. It will probably come out as slick as poo through a goose, but not if one of the O-rings is cracked or broken. When that happens, only brute strength or a Moen cartridge puller will work. Once extracted, you're more than half way out of the dog house.

You have two choices for the new cartridge: No. 1225 Magnum, which is plastic, or the No. 1200 brass cartridge you have now. Either one will work, my dexterous digited friend: flip a coin! Did I mention that Moen warrants these for life, but won't give them to contractors? Nope, the owner has to request one, whereupon Moen mails it directly to them and we then have to drive back to their home because the cartridge we had to pay for at the supply house is in their faucet and they know full well it is warranted for life and neither hell nor high water would convince them you had to pay for yours, no way. As a Moen rep once told me, "If we gave them to contractors, why, they'd just turn around and sell them, so they could pocket the extra cash."  

Carefully insert the new cartridge into the now pristine void where the old cartridge had been. But first, clean out the hole. Any debris needs to be gone before insertion. Plumbing talk is sexy, eh? This can easily be accomplished by holding your hand tightly over the opening and having your lovely assistant turn on the water. This is where you will find out if true love exists! If not, she'll walk off into the sunset whilst you try to grow another arm to turn off the water that will, by now, have gotten hot enough to strip paint off the bathroom door. Did I forget to mention you should have removed the aerator from the faucet long ago so that this and other debris won't get caught there when you reactivate the faucet? I also forgot to forewarn you that any item small enough to fall down the drain, will do so, even if it's dropped two doors away at the neighbors. And, you'll never be able to catch these small items, like the handle screw, before they merrily shout with glee as they slip-slide from view down the drain. Contacts and rings are also fond of taking this same glide ride. Keep the pop-up closed!

OK, the new stem is firmly inserted and seated in place? Put back the darn clip, now! That cartridge will become a deadly missile if you forget this warning. Seat the stem all the way in. The clip won't go all the way across if the stem isn't seated all the way in. You'll note the stem has a flat spot on it for the handle to know where it belongs. Go ahead and put it back on, but don't reset its cap just yet. First, turn the water back on and then pull out the handle and turn it to the hot position. If the handle pulls off, you forgot the screw. If you get only cold, don't panic. This is the unwritten law of Moen cartridges, — they always start out backwards in life, just a tad dyslexic, I'm afraid.

No big deal. Remove the handle, turn the stem 180 degrees (just the stem, not the whole cartridge) and put it back on. Snap on that cap, but you’re not done. Gotta clean up your work area first and polish the chrome, just like a pro would do. Good luck!

A few days later, I received the following response from my acquaintance:

No more drip! I'm ready for my Union card. The only problem was that I was laughing myself silly as I read your instructions. Your instructions are far better than Moen's, by the way. My only question now is what do I do with all these extra parts?

All Dave Yates material in print and on Contractor's Website is protected by Copyright 2012. Any reuse of this material (print or electronic) must first have the expressed written permission of Dave Yates and Contractor magazine. Please contact via email at: [email protected].

About the Author

Dave Yates

Dave Yates material in print and on Contractor’s Website is protected by Copyright 2017. Any reuse of this material (print or electronic) must first have the expressed written permission of Dave Yates and Contractor magazine.

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