How To Tell If a Faucet Cartridge is Bad

Cartridge faucets are extremely prevalent and are typically found in homes. The plastic cartridge regulates water pressure in the fixture. Leaks commonly occur due to worn cartridges or rubber O rings. Your faucet’s base and handles no longer need to be sources of leakage thanks to the installation of new washers.

How to Tell if a Faucet Cartridge is Bad

An easy plumbing fix that takes less than an hour is swapping out the cartridge in a sink or tub faucet. Simply put, you only need a few basic tools. If your faucet is dripping or leaking, here’s how to change the cartridge yourself.

If you’ve ever had to tackle a leaky faucet or low water pressure in your kitchen or bathroom, you may have heard about a component known as a ‘faucet cartridge.’ This piece may seem inconspicuous, but it plays a critical role in ensuring the proper functionality of your faucet.

In this comprehensive, SEO-optimized guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about faucet cartridges—from identifying signs of failure to repair and maintenance tips.

What is a Faucet Cartridge?

The faucet cartridge is the component located within the handle of your faucet and serves as the faucet’s “engine.” It controls the flow of water through the faucet and the mix of hot and cold water. These cartridges have chambers or slots that align with the faucet’s hot and cold inlets, allowing you to adjust the water temperature to your liking.

What Are the Symptoms of a Bad Faucet Cartridge?

Recognizing the signs of a faulty cartridge can help you address the issue before it becomes a more significant problem. Symptoms include:

  1. Leaky Faucet: One of the most common signs is a constant drip even when the faucet is turned off.
  2. Uneven Water Flow: If the water sputters or comes out unevenly, it might indicate a bad cartridge.
  3. Difficulty in Turning the Handle: Struggling to turn your faucet handle can signal a worn-out cartridge.
  4. Irregular Temperature Control: If the water temperature is inconsistent, the cartridge may be to blame.

How to Tell if Your Faucet Cartridge Needs Replaced?

Rubber seals on the valves of older faucets made it possible for homeowners to perform repairs on their own. Modern faucets rarely feature such valves anymore. A ceramic or nylon insert now serves the same purpose as the old seals.

The cartridge’s major purpose is to ensure the continuous operation of hygienic machinery by blending and regulating the intensity of cold and hot water streams.

Limescale-laden water is more damaging to plumbing systems. Many water setups and cartridges need to be updated because minerals build up around drain pipes, faucets, and other joints and cause damage.

A leaky faucet is an indication that the cartridge inside the faucet has worn out. Having trouble adjusting the temperature of the water. And even having cold water leak into the hot water outlets are both signs of a faulty cartridge in your faucet.

Why Do A Faucet Cartridge Fail? (4 Common Reasons)

The water pressure and flow rate are controlled by cartridges in the faucets. A cartridge only serves its function when all other components are operating normally. There are a few possible explanations for why your cartridge isn’t working.

Worn O-Ring

Rubber O-rings prevent water from leaking around the spout by filling the space between the faucet and cartridge (nozzle of the faucet).

Worn Washer

Below the valve stem in a faucet is a rubber washer that acts as a seal when the valve is closed. When the tap is turned off, it prevents water from dripping out of the spout because it seals off the gap between the seat and the spout.

Loose Parts

The internal components of the faucet may become dislodged over time. When this happens, water will trickle from the faucet’s spout or seep from the faucet’s base.

Broken Pipes

If none of the aforementioned is the cause of your cartridge’s failure, then you may have a leak in your faucet’s piping. A broken pipe can quickly lead to a flood in your home, therefore it is important to get it mended as soon as possible.

There is a risk of damage to the floor, electrical cables, ceiling, walls, and other structural components if it is not corrected.

What Happens When a Faucet Cartridge Fails?

A failing faucet cartridge can lead to a range of issues:

  1. Water Waste: A leaking faucet can waste significant amounts of water.
  2. Increased Utility Bills: The water waste will inevitably reflect on your monthly bills.
  3. Potential Water Damage: Leaks can cause water damage over time, affecting your home’s structure and furnishings.

How Long Should a Faucet Cartridge Last?

The lifespan of a faucet cartridge depends on several factors such as water quality, frequency of use, and the cartridge’s material quality. However, a good-quality cartridge can last anywhere between 5 to 10 years.

How Do I Know if My Faucet Valve is Bad?

Identifying a bad faucet valve involves observing the following:

  1. Water Leaks: A leak directly from the valve points towards failure.
  2. Rusty Water: If the water appears rusty or discolored, the valve may be corroding.
  3. Handle Issues: Difficulty in turning or a loose handle can indicate a worn-out valve.

How Do You Fix a Faucet Cartridge?

Repairing or replacing a faucet cartridge involves the following steps:

  1. Turn Off Water Supply: Locate the shut-off valves under the sink and turn them off.
  2. Remove the Handle: Unscrew and remove the faucet handle.
  3. Remove the Cartridge: Locate and carefully remove the cartridge.
  4. Replace or Clean: Either replace the cartridge with a new one or clean it if it’s salvageable.
  5. Reassemble and Test: Put everything back and test to ensure the issue is resolved.

Are Faucet Cartridges Repairable?

While some minor issues like clogs can be fixed by cleaning the cartridge, most problems will require a complete replacement, especially if the cartridge is worn out or damaged.

How Do You Clean Faucet Cartridges?

Cleaning a faucet cartridge involves:

  1. Dismantling: Remove the cartridge as described above.
  2. Soaking: Soak the cartridge in a vinegar-water solution to remove mineral deposits.
  3. Scrubbing: Use a soft brush to scrub off any residue.
  4. Rinsing and Reassembling: Rinse thoroughly and reinstall the cartridge.


Leaking water from a faucet after it has been turned off could be caused by a damaged or loose seat washer. Washer problems are a common cause of dripping sink faucets. Over time, the seat washer screw can become loose, resulting in dripping or clattering from the faucet.

Understanding the role and mechanics of a faucet cartridge can save you time, money, and potential water damage in the long run. It’s a crucial part that, when failing, will exhibit certain symptoms that shouldn’t be ignored.

Although cartridges are generally low-maintenance and can last for several years, they are not immune to wear and tear. Being proactive about recognizing signs of failure and understanding basic repair techniques can be highly beneficial.

Whether you opt for cleaning or replacing, ensuring your cartridge is in optimal condition is essential for a fully functional faucet.