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Old 09-01-2002, 03:11 PM
AZCowboy AZCowboy is offline
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Alpharetta, GA
Posts: 1,307
Plumbing Q, tub/shower diverter

I have plumbing question, and I am hoping someone can offer some expert advice. The question involves a tub/shower combination, and the diverter that controls whether the water comes out of the shower head or the tub faucet.

More detail to follow, but here is my problem:

When the diverter is turned to the tub faucet selection, a fair amount of water still runs through the shower head.

Here is my question:

Is this a do-it-yourself repair, or a job for a professional plumber?

Some background:
The tub/shower comination is the sort with three knobs, one for hot water, one for cold, and one for the diverter. The diverter is designed to turn (rotate) 180 degrees, at one extreme, water is to go through the shower head, at the other, the tub faucet.

The handles on the knobs are plastic, and have a small cover in the middle. Inside the cover is a small phillips head screw that holds the handle on the stem. Inside the plastic handle are small "gears" or "teeth", that slip over similar teeth on the stem.

For a while now, the diverter was "stuck" in the shower position, and the handle would just spin and spin without doing anything. Removing the handle, I could tell that the teeth were completely stripped, and the little phillips screw could not hold the handle to the stem with any force. A quick trip to the home improvement store solved that problem with a new diverter handle. With that installed, the diverter now moves through its 180 degree rotation without problem.

When the diverter is moved to the shower position, very little water trickles out of the tub faucet (no problem). But when the diverter is in the tub position, almost half of the flow continues from the shower head.

Even with the risk of again stripping the teeth on the handle, the diverter can be moved, with much force, about another 45 degrees (in the direction of the tub position). However, that additional 45 degrees does not appear to divert any more water from the shower head. This tells me that it isn't that the handle just isn't being turned far enough, but the problem is inside somewhere. This also explains to me why the previous handle got stripped in the first place.

While I have some basic plumbing knowledge, I have no specialized plumbing tools, btw. What I don't know is how exactly these diverters work.

A search of the web turns up a number of plumbing tips for fixing a diverter, but in every case I have found, the problem is the opposite. That is, people are complaining because when they move the diverter to the shower position, too much water continues to go through the tub faucet, and therefore does not provide enough water pressure for the shower. The recommended repair involves (somehow) removing the stem (or the core of the stem, it is unclear to me), and checking for some "white" washer. One other root cause to the problem I have run across is that particulate may be stuck in the pipe at the valve, and the recommended solution was to replace the diverter (which for me, is a professional repair).

If my repair is essentially the same as this repair, can anyone fill in the details about how to get to this washer, and whether any specialized tools are involved?

Any advice from the dopers?
Old 09-01-2002, 03:58 PM
happyheathen happyheathen is offline
Join Date: Nov 2001
Posts: 2,394
haven't seen a 3-handle job lately.

when you replaced the diverter, was the 'head' the same size and shape as the original?

if not, you are trying to hobble together a valve - something which will not work.

experiment - put the original diiverter stem back into into the unit, use pliers, whatever, to turn it.

if it works, you know that you need to either:

find an exact duplicate of the diverter stem


come up with another way to use the original

(like epoxy the knob onto the shaft - crude, but feasible)
Old 09-01-2002, 04:30 PM
AZCowboy AZCowboy is offline
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Alpharetta, GA
Posts: 1,307
I must not have been too clear, despite my best efforts...

I only replaced the HANDLE, I have not yet touched the stem, its core, or the diverter itself. It's becoming clear to me that I will need to, at least, remove it, to do a visual examination, but I am unclear how to remove "it". Hell, I'm unclear as to what "it" is.

For example, do I need to somehow remove the flange that butts up against the tile, or just the core of the stem (the thingy the handle attaches to)? And, if so, how? Is there a nut that I should be able to see?
Old 09-01-2002, 04:42 PM
ftg ftg is offline
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Not the PNW :-(
Posts: 16,404
You will probably have to remove the diverter stem itself. If there is a stanchion covering the stem, this will have to be removed first. Be careful it is easily scratched. One of the Bob Villa Sears strap tools will work. For the stem itself, if you're lucky you might be able to use a Crescent wrench. If not, like it's recessed, a fancier tool might be needed. Measure the hex head carefully and head to the home store.

I suspect something broke off and is lodged between the stem and its seat. On one like I have, there's a rubber O-ring around the stem. When it's broken, I get the opposite of your symptom so that's probably ok.

Also make sure that the pipe from the diverter to the the end of the spout is clear of debris. Usually gravity alone keeps the water from going up the pipe to the shower head if the tub spout is wide open.
Old 09-01-2002, 05:02 PM
NutMagnet NutMagnet is offline
Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: New Jersey
Posts: 787
Is the escutcheon (flange) attached with screw(s) to the wall$ If so, they can be removed and you should see the nut around the stem holding to the valve.

It should look something like this:

If you can't see it, you may need a tub-and-shower socket like this set:
These are about $6-10 at a hardware/Home Depot. (The $11.30 price on the above website is for a better-quality set - which you won't need. )

Use the socket to remove the stem and it will either have a washer on it or a nylon ball with holes in it. Take it to your local hardware and find an exact match. Also get a roll of teflon tape ($1-$2). Wind a couple of turns of it on the threads of the stem in the direction in which it turns, and screw it back in.
Old 09-02-2002, 12:01 PM
Yeah Yeah is offline
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: Valley of the Hudson
Posts: 1,292
You've got good advice from previous posters but I feel a need to warn you that although a lot of problems such as you describe are, in principle, easy to repair, what I have found is that obsolete parts and ill advised past repair efforts can leave you in a situation where you can't fix the problem and can't put the parts back the way they were. IIWY, I would #1 be sure I know where the cut off valve(s) for the tub/shower or for the whole house are and have the tools on hand to cut off the water before I did anything else (I know you have separate hot and cold valves that SHOULD cut off the water to the mixing valve you are working on but if the plumbing is old you could develop a leak) and #2 attempt the project on a weekday morning so that you can get a plumber out to fix it if you run into insurmountable difficulties.
Old 09-02-2002, 05:10 PM
AZCowboy AZCowboy is offline
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Alpharetta, GA
Posts: 1,307
It'll be a bit before I can attempt the repair, maybe even next week, but I just wanted to say thanks to all who posted.

The first link in NutMagnet's last post does appear to be what I'm up against.

I have renewed confidence to give this another shot.


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