How to Fix Your Shower Diverter in 5 Simple Steps

If you’re experiencing a malfunctioning bathtub spout, you might be at a loss as to how to fix the issue at hand. Anything involving piping can seem a little intimidating. How can I stop the leaking? What if it’s rusted? How do I take off the spout anyways? Repairing your shower diverter can seem overwhelming. Unfortunately, not all of us are DIY gurus that can fix anything with a monkey-wrench and pure instinct.

On the other hand, the cost of a plumber can rack up from anywhere between $100-$125. If you’re like me, you might not have the money to shell out so quickly and might feel like you have to live with a poorly operating shower for a long time until you can afford to fix that stubborn faucet finally.

However, with the proper knowledge, fixing your shower diverter can be incredibly quick and inexpensive. The best part? You can do it in as simple as five steps.  In this article, we will brief you on the essential functions of your shower, the leading causes for your shower diverter not working, and the easiest way to repair it. Being informed can help you save a lot of money on repairs and possible damage caused by carelessness.

You may want to fix your shower head if it’s leaking as well; you can learn how to improve your leaking shower head here.

What Is a Shower Diverter?

Before we begin, let’s make it as straightforward as possible what you are dealing with so that there are no mix-ups as to what a diverter does, how it relates to the rest of your bathtub fixture, and how much the parts you need will cost. This will ensure that when the time comes, you require shower diverter repairs or any other plumbing issues, you are correctly debriefed and feel comfortable enough to take the plunge. (Get it?)

So what exactly is a shower diverter, and how does it work? Simply put, the shower diverter is the tool located within your faucet that stops water from coming out of the faucet and sends the water to your shower head. Most modern fixtures have this, and depending on your taste, faucets can cost anywhere from $10-$100, so make sure you do your research on what you want in terms of style, price, and quality.

Reading this, you might be thinking, “I don’t turn on my shower from my faucet? I have a third handle!” Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. Some bathrooms have three valve diverters that are all externally divided: hot, cold, and the bath/shower diverter. This means that instead of a bit of knob on the top of your faucet, you have a third knob most likely located between your hot and cold ones. These handles are usually pretty cheap but can range from $10-50 depending on what you’re looking for. Just follow the steps, and we will make sure to address your specific needs.

Step One: Prepping Your Area.

First things first, you’re going to want to clear the area and make sure you are adequately prepared to fix your diverter. For removal with as little hassle as possible, make sure you turn off your water valve beforehand. Nothing is more discouraging than trying to repair your shower diverter while water is pouring out and making a mess. Turning off the water valve will ensure that you have the neatest place to work while repairing the shower diverter.

Most modern homes will be connected to a central water source. Even if you have a separate valve for your shower or bathroom, it’s safest to turn off your entire water source as water pressure has been known to accumulate and burst. As you can imagine, this can cause a more significant issue than just a broken diverter. (And in turn, a lot more to fix!)  Look to your basement, garage, or outside near the street. There will be a large pipe jutting from the wall, and this pipe will have a lever or a knob that you can turn or pull down.

After you’ve done this, go to a sink and try turning your water on. It may take a few minutes for the water to drain. Once the water stops running from the sink, you will know you’re good to go! After you’ve turned off your water supply, you may also want to plug or seal off your drain as you might be dealing with small screws, and it would be unfortunate if they were to be lost.

Step Two: Accessing the issue.

Once you have prepared your working space, you’re ready to start the repairing process. There are several different methods to fix your shower diverter, depending on the issue at hand. Today we will address the two main problems:

  • Your diverter is rusted or stuck and is prohibiting you from pulling the knob/ turning the knob.
  • Your diverter is experiencing a leak from within and is not directing all the water from the spout up to the showerhead.

If you are solely experiencing a stuck knob to fix your diverter, you only need to follow instructions up to step four. However, for a faucet that needs a complete replacement, continue to step five.

Step Three: Removing Your Shower Faucet/Handle.

To get to the diverter, you’re going to need to remove the faucet first. Next, examine your faucet or fixture to see how it’s fastened to determine your point of entry. Most commonly, you can twist off the tap, or it will have a small hole on the bottom of it where you can use a small screwdriver to loosen the screw that keeps the faucet in place. It may take a couple of solid twists, but your spout should come off fairly quickly, exposing the waterpipe.

Depending on the model of your fixture, you might need to insert a flathead screwdriver under the cap and pry it off the wall instead. If you have a handle for your diverter, then use your flathead screwdriver to unscrew your grip from the wall. Watch out for any loose screws!

Step Four: Lubricate Your Shower Diverter.

If you find that the only reason your diverter isn’t working is because of some rust or stiffness, then you can spray some lubricant into the handle to loosen it up and give it a range of mobility. Something like WD-40 can be found at a handful of supermarkets and auto supply stores and only cost around $5-$8, depending on your local retailer.

Spray around the outside where the little handle shows and then spray into the faucet hole, making sure the area with the knob (at the front of the spout) is sufficiently lubricated. Make sure you allow it to soak for ten minutes or more adequately. Test the knob to make sure full mobility has been restored. If this is the extent of your issue, you can put your spout back over your pipe and enjoy. If you find that your faucet continues to leak, is intensely rusty, or will only draw water partially into the showerhead, you are going to want to replace the faucet entirely as most spouts have the actual diverter built-in.

If you have a handle shower diverter, spray around the inner grooves of the handle. If the inside of the pipe seems worn out, you will want to replace the faucet seat (the small item exposed when you remove the handle from the wall).

Step Five: Correct Any Leaks.

All bathtub spouts are not created equal! Although a cheap fixture can work just fine for you, it’s essential to make sure that the length of the faucet is conducive to the size of your exposed pipe. Measure your pipe and the potential replacement for your spout.

It’s possible to have a spout that technically fits well enough but is too long and, therefore, when screwed in, is losing water due to a loose fit on the end of the pipe. First, make sure that it is a tight fit and sealed properly onto the pipe. Then, either twist the replacement faucet on or screw it into the bottom like what we previously talked about.

If you’re working with a leaky valve regarding a handle diverter, then you’re going to want to look at the exposed seat in the wall. If it is plastic, you can remove it easily with your hands or pliers. If it is brass, use a wrench and rotate counterclockwise. Make sure the small plastic sealant rim, called a washer, is not worn down, for that might be the only thing that needs replacement.

If your faucet seat is badly rusted or corroded, replace the entirety with a new one. Screw-in, and screw the handle back on.

Simple as That!

A pretty simple fix for such a huge problem. All in all, the cost should only equate to around $15-$30 (unless, of course, you want to get fancy with your faucet types) and should only take as long as thirty minutes to complete. Make sure you remember to turn your water back on after you’re done. I hope you found these five simple steps helpful for shower diverter repair.

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