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Over the holidays I was gifted by the joyous noise of screaming relatives trying to take a shower in the guest bathroom which had no hot water. It’s an issue that’s happened to Chuck and many others I know over the last few years, so, armed with the knowledge of friends that came before me, I headed to the local big box for a new shower faucet cartridge and an afternoon of fun-filled plumbing work.

So if you’d like to save yourself $250 for a house call from the local plumber, here’s what has to go down — and don’t panic; you don’t have to be a Mario Brother to do this repair job.

In many modern shower faucets like Delta and Moen (which is what I have) there is now a valve contained in a cartridge that regulates the flow of hot and cold water. This is great, except it tends to break down after a few years of being used sporadically. Personally I think Moen is screwing with us by getting an extra $38 from me every few years. In any case I found part number 1222, which was the correct cartridge for my faucet, and brought it back to the malfunctioning homestead.

The first thing you need to find/borrow/buy is a sewer or meter key/wrench. You can use other things like a screwdriver and pair of pliers but I like to keep the meter looking like I found it. If you don’t have one, $8 at the local big box will get you all hooked up. Look in the sprinkler system aisle.

Somewhere in your yard is going to be a cover that looks like this. Use the key end to hook the lid and pop it off.

Inside is your meter and shutoff valve. Shut the valve off by rotating it around so the arrow points away. If you’re confused on what’s on or off, the off position will most likely bring the rings on the valve together, which, once a lock is put through those rings, is how the water company shuts off a meter.

Next, go inside and test the water at the faucet. It should be off. Once you’re sure it’s off start on the faucet itself. Remove the knob or handle. It should come off with a screw either below the cap or on the underside of the handle.

Once that is off remove the jacket and plastic insert that covers the valve by pulling it straight off. It may take a little wiggling, but it comes off pretty easily.

There is a brass retaining clip that needs to be removed. It is located in the middle of the collar. Grab the tab with a pair of pliers and pull it free.

Be careful not to lose or mangle this clip — you’ll need it to complete the install of the new one. Don’t let it fall down the drain.

Moen graciously supplies you with a hub that locks into the old cartridge and allows you to rotate the cartridge in the collar and pop it loose.

Slide the hub into place and crank a quarter turn clockwise. It may take a few tries, but it does come loose.

Grab the nose of the cartridge with some pliers and pull it out.

Seat the new cartridge in the hole with no twisting and the HC located up top. Then reinsert the lock pin and reassemble the rest of the faucet and turn the water back on to test it.

If you do it right, the whole thing should take about 20 minutes and won’t make a mess at all. Regardless, $40 is better than the $250 a plumber will charge and you don’t have to make life hard on yourself or your guests with cold water showers. A win for all concerned.

Moen Cartridge 1222 Street Pricing [Google Products]
Sewer Key Street Pricing [Google Products]

 

41 Responses to How-To: Replace A Shower Faucet Cartridge

  1. Cameron says:

    You had to go out to the street to shut off the water? Surely you have a whole house shut off somewhere in the basement or utility closet?

  2. Mike47 says:

    Nice article. A couple of additional thoughts, from one who has also done this job… Not all homes are metered for water. Your valve may be a simple gate valve in the basement or outside near the foundation in a box or exposed. The new cartridge may come with a silicone grease to lube the o-ring seals. Don’t forget to use it. Watch how you reassemble the unit, or you may reverse the flows of hot & cold water. (Guess how I know this.) When putting the escutcheon plate (chrome cover thingy) back on, carefully check the seal against the wall and re-caulk it if necessary. Failing to do this will allow water to enter the hole in the wall, and may result in mildew, mold and rot inside the wall behind the shower.

  3. Eli says:

    My house only has a shut off at the street (and another one in the yard for some reason). Not a huge deal, but there is always some kind of surprise in the valve/meter box.

  4. Pepster says:

    Ditto what Cameron said. At least in New England, every house I’ve seen has a shutoff right near the water feedline entering the house.

    Also, whenever I work on a plumbing fixture – I throw a rag over the ddrain to prevent losing clips/screws/etc. I’d rather they land on a damp towel then have to fish ‘em out.

    - Pete

  5. JPatrick says:

    I had to replace one of these once but ran into a big problem.
    The cartridge was actually stuck inside the housing. The contractor that installed the original plumbing got a little too frisky with the torch and melted the plastic inside the housing.
    It took a LOT of careful prying and pulling to get that cartridge out.
    It made a 15 minute job into about a 3 hour one.

  6. Sean O'Hara says:

    @Eli: Yep mine has one at the meter and one buried somewhere in the yard. But I went with worst case and easiest to find. I knew that nothing would be sure I got everything like that cutoff.

    Also I did find a big ass spider in there but it tore off before I had to deal with it.

  7. Pezdad says:

    I’m stuck at “remove the handle” stage, because the tiny set screw at the bottom of the handle is stuck in place from the minerals in the water. I’m afraid that removing the screw will take such force I will need to buy a whole new faucet (not that the foucet mfg would mind that).

  8. Stacy says:

    Does anyone have any tips for figuring out what model of faucet one has?

    We’re overdue for a new cartridge but I can’t order a new one until I know which faucet I have. It’s a Delta from a house built in 1995.

  9. Dazrin says:

    I just wanted to chime in about the whole-house shutoff as well. Ours is in our garage near the water heater. Definately easier than the meters shutoff. And less spiders.

    Stacy, for the cartridge, you might just take a picture of the faucet and take it to your parts store of choice. Hopefully they have someone who knows what they are doing and could help. Just knowing it is Delta from about 1995 might be enough, but the picture would help them as well.

  10. Ross says:

    Good summery, I’ll add my two cents.

    Some makes have two cartridges available for their mixing valves. There is frequently a version with plastic guts that is sold cheap at the box stores and an all brass version sold at plumbing suppliers and better hardware stores. Unless you enjoy this process go find the brass unit.

    Mixing valves installed in multi-family occupancies usually have stops (shut off valves) built into the mixing valve. This permits you to service the valve without shutting the water off. Take off the cover and look for a slot or hex head where the hot and cold lines enter the valve. The fact that there is a valve is usually obvious once you know to look. If they are present you can also head off to procure a new cartridge with the old part in hand.

  11. John E. says:

    Also, note that some valves have stops that prevent water from getting too hot. When my house was built, contractor set it way too low, ~100 deg.

  12. Chuck says:

    @ Pezdad – lust put some lime away in a bowl wide/deep enough to get it in there, and hold it for a few minutes, then get at it with a toothbrush. Should be good enough to get a screwdriver in there after that.

    @ Stacy – it’s just a little bit longer operation. Take the one you have out, then go to the home center and match it up. They’ll help you, but it’s pretty easy to do. Means the house will be without water for a few hours, but I’ve made mistakes that left us without water for longer than that….

  13. Matt says:

    I’m pretty sure if you call Moen, they will send you a new cartridge free of charge. They wouldn’t help you get it fixed quick, but it would help with the $38. Check out their warranty info here, http://www.moen.com/consumer-support/warranty.

  14. Geoff says:

    I agree with Matt. Check the manufacturer’s warranty. I have an American Standard faucet in the kitchen, and over the past couple of months they have replaced the cartridge and the manifold for free. The manifold took several weeks because it was on back-order, but I was able to get the guts of the faucet replaced under warranty for free. It’s a brand new faucet, and even came with replacement instrux and a 3/32″ allen wrench needed to remove the set screw…

    @Pepster: The first step in the replacement instrux from American Standard was to cover the drain to prevent losing small parts. That step alone was well worth the wait (guess how I know…).

  15. Travis says:

    You left out the part where all the water from the upstairs pipes comes rushing out as you remove the hub in the downstairs bath… Maybe that only happens when someone’s left a faucet open to make sure the water is really off.

  16. fred says:

    This job constitutes a fair amount of work for our plumbing company. When we can convince the owner to wait – we suggest that they inquire about replacements direct from the manufacturer – particularly if there is some sort of lifetime warranty (e.g. on a higher-end fixture). While we have no issue with obtaining and bringing parts with us to the jobsite – and frequently do – but we think that owner-purchased items can save the cost of our mark-up – and Internet pricing is often as good (or better) than we can get with so called trade discounts from our local suppliers.

    While we are at it with shower body replacements – we often try to replace older models with more modern pressure balancing units.

  17. Tom K says:

    When I had my master bath redone, I had cutoff valves installed for both the hot and cold water to the shower (access through a panel). What taught me this lesson?

    About a year ago, one of the bathtub faucets in my other bathroom jammed open. Of course this happened late at night. And there were no cutoffs for the faucets. Fortunately, it was the hot water so I was able to just turn off the hot water at the heater. At least I had cold water.

    If you have cutoff valves for your sink and toilet, beware the old ones, especially if you have hard water. Most of mine corroded in the open position and leaked when I closed them. All of mine have now been replaced with newer 1/4 turn cutoffs. If you do this while other work is already being done, it adds relatively little to the total cost.

  18. Discobubba says:

    I’m far from an expert but thought I’d throw in my 2 cents here: It seems the way to shut-off the water is going to differ from house to house. My situation, our house is 70 yrs. old, located in New England, and has a well. Sometime in its lifespan someone put cutoff valves for each separate line. So in my case I could just shut off the cold and hot pipes going to the shower. Although I don’t do this regularly and don’t know how old the valves are so I’ll have to heed Tom K’s warning there about them possibly corroding.

    My main question is, at the beginning of the article it states the cartridge “tends to break down after a few years of being used sporadically”. Wouldn’t the easiest preventative maintenance then be to simply use the shower more regularly?

    Anywho, interesting DIY. Can someone do one about fixing a clothes dryer next? Mine just recently decided to start working properly ;)

  19. Brice says:

    Huh, water shutoffs outside. Must not get cold there. I have a water shut off in the yard, you need a special 10 foot long wrench to turn it. The water meter is in the basement, dang near the middle of the slab.

  20. tgood says:

    Moen cartridges have a lifetime warranty. Any plumbing supply store should exchange it for you.

  21. Matt says:

    Often the easiest place to shut off the water is right on the valve. Once you have removed the plate you should be able to see where the hot and cold go into the mixing valve and be able to shut them off w/ a screw driver. Also some of these cartriges (Symmons) bind up unless you open the valve all the way (after the water is off) before spinning it out. Otherwise you may be turning the cartridge for a long time.

  22. johnnyp says:

    Out of all the posts Matt was the only person mention Symmons. I have several friends that are plumbers and the one issue they all agree on is that the Symmons valve is no.1 .
    A few reasons , they have a built in shut off (intergral stop), almost all parts are available and replaceable . My understanding is this valve was design and engineered by persons who have done extensive work in the Nuclear sub industry where life and death are the primary consideration. Symmons set the bar for the other manufacturers.

    I do not work for this company, but do appreciate quality

  23. fred says:

    @johnnyp

    I’m not as old as Symmons – but I think that they were the first (prior to WWII) to introduce the pressure balancing valve. They do make an excellent product – but customers do not always take the plumber’s advice – and there are lots of choices that look appealing in the showroom or big-box store.

  24. Fabian says:

    Delta also sent me a free cartridge when my old unit started leaking.

    Why does HD or lowes not tell their customers this information and instead charge $30 for them..? What a scam..

    It took me 5 minutes on the phone and I got a new cartridge for free.

    PS: My old cartridge was stuck in the faucet so bad, I had to break out a drill, and this carefully took me about 3 hours to crack into little pieces to get out..

    F.

  25. jason says:

    wow. This post bought back some memories.

    My house has extremely hard water. I bought it as a repo, and one of the failed items was the guest bathroom shower fixture. It needed this same fix.

    The problem I had was there was no sliding that valve out. It was stuck. I had to drill about 10 holes down the middle of it (carefully as I was not sure how deep it was) and literally break it out. I cleaned up the valve housing and then had to make a few trips to the box store to figure out what valve I actually had inside of that thing. It was rough.

    Good tip above that I wanted to highlight, put a rag over the drain, catch those extra parts you dropped!

  26. Sharon says:

    Thank you for this article, it helped me a great deal. The only problem I had was that you can’t just buy a hub, it comes with the cartridge and of course you don’t know the cartridge until you pull it out. Ace Hardware helped me by giving me a hub (it was a used one that other customers used) it was perfect though. I came back with the cartridge and got the right part and returned the hub for the next person. Also I couldn’t get the retaining pin back in, but I later figured that I didn’t have the cartridge pushed in enough.

  27. Bryan says:

    I have a rental house that used to be my house. In the Jack-and-Jill bath, the shower took a ton of effort to pull out. We hardly ever used the bath and when it was used, it was adults since my kids were too young to take showers solo. The renters have started to complain though as they have kids old enough but not strong enough to use it. I’m not even sure the wife can do it. I had no idea what was wrong with it but have been searching for answers. Most of the web sites I have found are all saying it is the cartridge.

    A couple of suggestions I read elsewhere and offer here. These cartridges don’t always slide out and I’ve been reading nightmares about the stupid plastic tool they give you. I fear mine will be impossible as the house is 27 years old and I would bet has never been replaced. My understanding is that the cartridge is actually 2 pieces and that often the internal piece will come out while the shell remains stuck. So if you find yourself struggling and the plastic tool doesn’t do the job consider one of the two options I have found…

    1. Use a 1/2″ tap along with a bolt. Tap about 3/4″ into the shell, insert the bolt, and then use any sort of tool like a hammer or pliers to pull. Most people found that before they finished tapping the shell, it was starting to turn. By the time the bolt was in place, it wasn’t a ton of effort to pull out.

    2. Use a screw extractor #6. This is a slightly cheaper method than #1 assuming you don’t have a 1/2″ tap and bolt laying around.

    They work on the same principal in that it allows you to dig into the part and get leverage rather than trying to grab a relatively smooth surface (and only the tip of that service as well since the cartridge is buried inside another part). It should be safer than trying to drill the part out and also leaves it pretty much intact to find the replacement.

    I am going to stop at Lowes on the way home and see how many cartridges they have. I might just buy one of every kind for the brand I have (not sure what the brand is right now) and then return all the wrong ones. I don’t really want to take it apart to determine which one I need and then go to Lowes. The bad thing about this being a rental is if something goes wrong. It is one thing for me to be without water. It is another thing to tell the tenant they will be without water until I figure something else out.

    • LaNell says:

      Most builders use my not favorite,,, Moen. If frozen. from water minerals wrap a rag around it to keep liquid lime scale remover in it. Leave overnight. Penetrating oil maybe. Heat wifth hair dryer to loosen also. The cartridge is the brand on your handle and face plate.

  28. Fred Strassner says:

    I seem to remember when you run into trouble with a cartridge from Moen they send out a service guy and he would replace the cartridge for free.It has been awhile since I needed a replacement cartridge so I don’t know if they still do that.(Lifetime warranty)I live in Toronto Canada.One more thing.When reassembling any tap or Fawcett coat all the moving parts with Silicone grease.Even with very hard water it takes a long time for lime to build up.Especially the clip and surrounding area.
    Fred

  29. eduardo says:

    I have a question, I did it my self, but now there is no hot water, only cold can somebody tell me what I did wrong?

  30. David Miller says:

    99% of the time you will need a Moen Cartridge Puller to remove the old Cartridge it’s rarely loose enough to move with the plastic device

  31. Dave C says:

    I double dog dare you to show your face in Orlando, buddy. This was the BEST friggin tutorial ever! Went to Home Depot and spent $22 and voila! The dang thing works with no leaks.

    I owe you a beer. :-)

  32. Anita B. says:

    We had a plumber come out today and replace the cartridge. The hot and cold water are now switched (shower starts with hot water and becomes cold as you continue to turn the dial.) And the water pressure seems to be much lower. Any ideas what went wrong?

    • Tom says:

      I had this same problem…all that needed to be done was pull the cartridge back out, rotate it 180 degrees around (so the top is now the bottom), and put it back in.

  33. willi s says:

    Hi-
    It seems I did exactly what it says here, but I now only have hot water. The handle only turns a tiny bit and the options are hot full-on, hot partially-on and off.

    Any thoughts?
    Thanks!

  34. XweAponX says:

    Thanks, this is the exact faucet I have in my shower, so you answered my first question, what kind of valve do I need to get.

    I had mine put in in 2001, it’s lasted 12 years.

  35. LaNell says:

    Changed out LOTS of faucets including a few cartridges. Anything that water touches expecting to corrosion. Have Lime Away or Wink handy as well as penetrating oil. Also heating it long on fairly warm may help a stuck one. Wanna know how to remove a frozen shower head if you are replacing it? Stay tuned (-:

  36. LaNell says:

    Warm with hair dryer

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