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Thread: Frozen Shower Stems

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member SRichards's Avatar
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    Question Frozen Shower Stems

    I am stuck and so are my shower/bathtub stems. Every video I have watched just has them turning right out for people so either I am doing something wrong or I need a trick from someone who does this stuff all the time. So here is the background. The shower faucet (the hot water is the worst) has a slow leak evident by the watermark on the shower floor and on the underside of the shower handle. I also think that the shower head also has a slow leak or drip (because we cannot completely turn off the faucet) but gravity keeps it from being a big problem since it is simply a shower but I don't know just guessing.

    Set up is a stand alone shower with a two handle shower faucet (no idea of the brand) constructed in the early 1980's. Everything in this home has been low cost builders grade material. (In working in the other bathroom I encountered a similar problem when trying to upgrade the shower head and found something on the threads that had made it almost impossible to unscrew.)

    So being the diy gal I am, I did some research and was able to remove the handle, etc to get to the stem. Then that is where I get stuck. I have to turn off the main water to work on it so this is becoming frustrating since it halts all household activity. I tried tightening the packing nut to see if maybe it was just loose but it is super tight and does not stop the leak. I think the previous owner overtightened it because they couldn't do anything either. So I figured I would take the time to replace the stem, seat, etc. since it looks as if it hasn't been touched since first installed. But the stem isn't moving. I have soaked it in liquid wrench, hair dryer, hammered it, man muscle (had my husband try), and a mini propane torch. And I even let the liquid wrench sit for a few days because I got annoyed with it. I am beyound frustration. So I am hoping that someone out there has a miraculous tip that will save me because I need to fix the diverter on the tub/shower in the other bathroom and it too has the same problem (after I chip away at the tile to even get access to it.)

    Oh and I have tried turning in both directions (just in case it went the other way) and the nut is actually starting to strip from the socket wrench (too much man muscle and not a perfect fit). Someone suggested getting a mechanics socket to get better grip and prevent stripping so I tried that and found that it is a 1 inch socket but now I have no good way to get a grip to turn the socket. I thought maybe trying and extra deep socket so I can get some leverage but I need to find the tools. After four stores still no luck so maybe it doesn't exist (6pt 1 inch extra deep socket).

    The cold water stem is set even further in the wall and I haven't even tried to tackle that one (it has a slower leak). And it looks like a second bathroom with three more stems that will be just as difficult.

    I tried to focus the pic on the shoulder of the stem so the stem itself is a bit blurry. If a different picture would be better just let me know.



    Thanks for any wisdom/tricks you may have. I will try anything and I really don't want to have to do a rebuild this isn't our forever home.

    Thanks again

  2. #2
    DIY Junior Member SRichards's Avatar
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    So from the lack of responses either my question is the only question people ask and everyone is tired of saying the same thing or there is nothing else to do. That or everyone is just extremely busy. This is when someone is supposed to stop me from grabbing a hammer and start pounding on it. I hate these bathrooms leaks are getting worse and apparently I am doing something wrong.

  3. #3
    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
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    A better, sharper picture may help.

    Sometimes you are better off cutting out some tile and replacing the valve though.
    They make remodel plates that cover the old holes in the wall. This way you can get a new single handle, pressure balanced faucet in there. We find it's sometimes cheaper to just cut away and replace with new parts, then scurry around hardware stores trying to match up something that old.

    Normally, If you can find the right size socket, they spin out. I have come across some where that wasn't really an option.


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    DIY Junior Member SRichards's Avatar
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    Thank you for the response. Sorry for the rant but these bathrooms are really getting frustrating.

    I tried to get better pics. I just have a feeling there is something I am not doing right because it is not just one bathroom but both that we cannot get the valves to move no matter how much we try to turn them. I really hate to make the investment to redo them and I miss having my own bathroom. I am trying to keep it as a last option.

    Bathroom 1:
    Complete pic of the handles down to stems:


    Hot faucet:


    Bathroom 2:
    The diverter desperately needs changed.

  5. #5
    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
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    This is interesting.
    The knob on the left is a Price Pfister. I don't know what the other two knobs are.
    It looks like you should be able to spin the stems out though. They come out counter clockwise.

  6. #6
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    You may need help here, since as Terry pointed out someone has been "mix-and-match" on your parts, and that does NOT work!

    You need special ( not expensive) deep well shower sockets. The part that turns out is the INNERMOST , largest, hex that you see. Make SURE that before trying to unscrew, you turn all the valves at least 1/2 way to OPEN.

  7. #7
    DIY Junior Member SRichards's Avatar
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    Thanks for your responses. I am glad to know that I am at least turning the right part and have done everything the right way...opening the valves...turning counterclockwise. I guess they are just really in there and this isn't going to be easy no matter who does it.

    I believe the handle that looks like a Price Pfister is a universal handle. If you take the handle off the previous owners put a square universal adapter that has stripped the broach on the other two handles. I switched the handles to handles I found at the store that fit but haven't messed with that one since it wasn't stripping it yet. So you can see the disaster I am left with.

    Thanks again

  8. #8
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    A deep socket on the hexagonal piece next to the "round" faucet body, and a lot of force in a counterclockwise direction will remove the stem. Then a good parts catalog will tell you which stem and seat you need to replace it.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

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