Stiff Mixer Tap? Here’s How To Fix It

This one’s gonna be short and sweet, folks. It’s a super common problem with a surprisingly easy fix. Shoot, I should’ve gone with Top Tricks Your Plumer Will Hate!! for the title… probably would’ve gotten more clicks. Anyway, it’s a super easy fix. The there are a few potential causes, but they’re all super basic and require nearly no plumbing know-how to solve.

The most common causes of a stiff mixer tap are an overtightened packing nut, a clogged tap bonnet, or an issue with the spindle thread O-ring.

Let’s get right into the fixes and then we can wrap for the day. You can celebrate with a nice, refreshing glass of water from your renewed tap!

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How to Fix a Stiff Tap

Okay, as Isaid, there are three causes, which means three fixes. Let’s get to it!

Just a note, please remember to turn off the water at the mains before doing any of this. You really don’t want water everywhere. At least, I assume not.

Overtightened Packing Nut

First things first, you’ll need to remove the top of the tap. This is generally done by removing a cap or plug at the top of the tap. They’re generally attached with a screw or lever which can either be unscrewed or levered up with a screwdriver.

Once that’s done, if you look down the shaft, there will be a nut. This is called the packing nut, and it forms a seal to stop water from coming back up (towards you). It can occasionally get overtightened, so turning it slightly can often solve the stiff tap handle issue. Be sure to do so slowly and stop before water starts to seep out.

If you notice that limescale or sludge has built up on the nut, clean it off, potentially replacing the nut if it’s bad.

Clogged Tap Bonnet

This one is a super easy thing to do. Once the water is off and you’ve removed the cover as in the solution above, it’s just a matter of cleaning everything out. At times, the bonnet can get a bit gross. Whether it’s from mystery sludge, corrosion, or limescale, it’s usually easily solved with a good scrub with some vinegar.

Be careful not to dislodge or adjust anything, and you should be set. If this wasn’t the cause, at least it’s clean!

Spindle Thread O-Ring

Another fix that’s slightly less easy, but still totally doable by yourself.

Remove the top cap to the faucet handle. It will expose the valve stem, as in the previous steps. Remove the centre screw and pull the handle straight up. Depending on the tap, you may need to remove various caps that may be threaded on as well as the spout itself.

Adjust a wrench or pliers around the base of the valve and rotate it counterclockwise to remove it. Pull it out. Remove the old O-ring and install the new one. Return everything to its proper place and reinstall everything as you found it. Test it out, and you should have a much less stiff mixer tap.

Final Thoughts

Like I said, a super quick and easy article. There are three main causes (usually) for a stiff mixer tap – the spindle O-ring, buildup inside the tap bonnet, or an overly tight packing nut. Each of these is entirely manageable without a plumber, though the O-ring requires a tiny bit more work to get done.

No matter the cause, this should have solved any stiff mixer taps. Now get back to enjoying life, and run while you can!