Pack String

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How to fix a leaky faucet?

There is a problem with my kitchen sink...
everytime we turn the water on all this water starts spilling onto the counters....
I took a look at it, and the water is coming out from the knobs- hot water from the hot water knob, and cold water from the cold water knob....
and it only does this when we turn on the faucet...when it's off, it doesn't leak...

How can I fix it?

thanks in advance...
And I want to know how, if I can, do it myself...I am aware that plumbers exist...(:

Your description of hot and cold "knobs" suggests conventional valves [also called "faucets"]. The conventional faucets have a handle attached to a shaft [called a "stem"], which goes down through a large nut with a hole in the center for the stem.

If that nut has "flats" on it [usually 6 sides (hexagonal)] then that nut is called a "packing nut." The reason they are called packing nuts is that beneath them is a bunch of soft material called packing. The purpose of the packing is to keep water under pressure from coming out around the stem when the water is on.

On "old" faucets, the packing material is just Cotton string [in the REALLY OLD DAYS it was Asbestos string] impregnated with a greasy, tar-like material, and on newer faucets the packing string has sometimes been replaced with a rubber-like washer shaped sort of shaped like a cone with a hole in the center.

To prevent leaking when the water is on, the packing nut has to be tightened down on the packing just enough to squeeze it tightly enough around the stem, just enough to prevent leaking, but just loose enough to allow turning the knob and stem easily.

I first suggest trying to tighten the packing nuts slightly, just enough to prevent the leaking. If tightening will not stop the leaking then the packing material will need to be replaced.

To prevent slipping which will damage the Chrome or other plating on the packing nuts, use a wrench which intimately fits the nuts, and thus reduce the chance of slippage, and allows you maximum control of the pressure you apply to the nuts. I prefer an adjustable wrench [one common brand name is "Cresent Wrench"], but it is crucial that it be properly adjusted to fit the nut tightly to reduce the chance of slipping. USUALLY, these nuts tighten by turning clockwise, and loosen/remove by turning counterclockwise.

To adjust, one at a time, turn the packing nuts clockwise [about 5 rotational degrees at a time] while the faucet is open and water is running. Watch for the leakage to stop. It helps to have a "helper" with a rag or sponge to be constantly removing leaking water as you adjust. This is not necessary, but makes it easier to tell when the packing nut is tightened enough. When it stops, you have tightened the packing nut, and packing material below enough.

As soon as the leaking stops, test the handle to see that it is still loose enough to be able to turn to shut the water off. It SHOULD be slightly more difficult to turn, but still not too tight as to be too hard to turn comfortibly. A little overtight can be lived with as with use the packing will "seat-in" and the handle will become easier to turn.

If this adjustment takes the nut so far down that it stops against the bottom of the threads, and will not stop the leaks, then it will be necessary to replace the packing material. To do this turn the faucet OFF, completely unscrew the packing nut, raise it up and tape it against the underside of the handle [to keep it out of your way]. This will allow you access to the packing material for removal. IF THE FAUCETS ARE SECURELY TURNED OFF, then there is no need to turn the water off to adjust OR replace the stem packing material.

Most "neighborhood" hardware stores will have kits for "repairing" faucets. I suggest that IF you have to replace the packing material, that you also replace the "washers" [made of rubber-like material] at the same time while you have the faucet (s) opened up.

Both faucet packing material and washers, and even "kits" including both are available at most of the "old time" neighborhood hardware stores, and "big box" home improvement stores like Lowe's, Home Depo, etc. I prefer the old time neighborhood stores because I KNOW that the personnel there will be able to explain how to do things that sometimes the big box "sales clerks" can't always do. Ask the person waiting on you how to use the stuff you buy from them. If you ask, they often can even "demonstrate" the process to you with a "new" faucet from off the shelf.

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