I thought I was an adequate home handyman until I gave up my unreliable but simple rubber-washer faucets for washerless faucets. Now I’m afraid to do anything with them, and every time a plumber comes in here it’s like $500. And the kitchen faucet was dripping and leaking around the handle like a sunufuhbitch.
I discovered that it didn’t drip if I pushed the handle all the way over to the right. So I announced that I’d fixed it! But The Woman wasn’t very impressed. After a while she pointed out that it had started dripping even in this position.
My next move was to pick up a cheap “easy to install” faucet at Costco. But then after watching some installation videos and giving the matter more thought I realized that the hard part of the project would be removing the old faucet. I’d done something like this once before and it had turned out badly. Also I discovered the new faucet got crappy reviews on Amazon. (Memo to self; research stuff before buying it, instead of after.)
I persuaded the new faucet and its various accouterments back into their package for The Woman to return to the store. Surely there must be a video on YouTube about how to replace the ceramic cartridge in my particular faucet? I just needed to find out what make and model of faucet it was.
A little red and white emblem on the handle said “Moen,” a promising start. I went to Moen’s website to look at a gallery of photos of faucets. There are a million of them, and none of them is like mine. I stumbled onto a customer support page that had instructions on how to find my faucet’s series number; 7730. With this as a search term I found David Trebacz’s excellent cartridge replacement video. If you’re facing the same job, I recommend you study it well.
What follows is a commentary on me following David’s wonderful video to get this job done. Back when I was working I was an IT guy; so I’m reasonably clever behind a keyboard. But my hardware experience, and for that matter my experience in anything practical, is close to zip. The cartridge instructions said this job would take a beginner an hour; it took me two and a half hours. Okay, I was being slow and careful, taking pictures and watching David’s video over and over. Anyhow, if even I can swap out a Moen cartridge, so can you.
David is careful to get a good camera view of each piece of hardware, every step and every tool. He fast-forwards thru stuff that’s boring, like turning a screw again and again, not leaving it out but just letting you know you’ll be doing it not-fast-forward. He makes a few mistakes and deals with them, a nice touch. And his tools are way better than my tools. I ended up using a few different tools:
- Hammer (to tap down stubborn new cartridge)
- Straight screwdriver
- Philips screwdriver
- 7/16 inch hex driver
- Plastic dealie that comes with a new cartridge
- Small, wide rubber band that comes with fresh broccoli
- Crescent wrench
- Needle-nosed pliers
- Channel-lock pliers
- Rag towels for wiping up, kneeling on, etc.
I used a small slot screwdriver to pry off the Moen emblem. Inside were two holes, small and big. The big hole is the one to put the 7/16 inch hex driver into (it’s the hole that’s in the center, duh). I realized this after I’d rotated the hex driver in the little hole for a while with no effect. The little hole turns out to match up with a stud in the emblem that keeps the emblem from swiveling around; and I guess it would stop you from attaching the emblem upside-down. I checked the video; David’s faucet just had one hole in the handle, as far as I could tell. I used a flashlight to see that the hex driver went into the square hole in the screw head deep inside the handle, unscrewed it, took out the screw and pulled off the handle.
Having survived the first crisis, I tried my Philips screwdriver on the obvious screw sticking out of the top of the assembly. The whole assembly wanted to swivel around; David’s hadn’t done that. I handled this emergency by holding the outer assembly steady with pliers while unscrewing the screw. I didn’t have a cameraman like David did. What a good trick to have my hands full of tools and still take a picture.
Next problem I ran into was how to loosen up the threaded black plastic thingie without stripping it. I solved this problem by wrapping it with a small wide rubber band, protecting it and giving me a better grip. I hadn’t noticed yet that it has two flat sides, as you can see in the picture below. Those are the right place to put your channel-lock pliers. I got it off somehow anyway, and found the flat sides later when I was putting the faucet back together.
Next I ran into a little metal washer that I didn’t remember seeing in David’s video. I slipped the tip of a screwdriver under it to get it off. David makes up for this by putting two washers on the assembly when he’s putting it together, but I just had the one.
David used needle-nosed pliers to rotate and loosen the cartridge. He said that was because he didn’t have a new cartridge that comes with a special white tool-dealie that fits over its top. I put my white dealie on the cartridge; it has two legs that fit into the little wells on each side of the central post. This photo shows it about to go in. I tried to turn it and the cartridge with the adjustable wrench; nada. I’d forgotten to take out the clip.
The white plastic dealie is a crappy tool for rotating the cartridge anyway; it doesn’t hold well, and it strips itself. Instead I grabbed the central post, which has two flat sides, with the adjustable wrench and turned it. Eventually I realized the clip needed to come out, and after that it turned real well. Here the clip is, half-way out. It’s the same color as the thing it fits into, so I didn’t see it at first. The two prongs slide underneath projections on the front lip of the outermost pipe-fitting, so you have to pull it out sideways, not upward.
At last, after taking off way more parts than seem necessary, I yank out the cartridge, just like an old time dentist yanking out a tooth. Tada! Oh my god how am I going to get this thing back together so it won’t erupt like Old Faithful?
The phrase in Peter And The Wolf (get the version narrated by Peter Ustinov if you can find it) that I always liked the best is “Now here is how things stood …” I took this pic of the parts I removed, in the order removed, to make sure I put them back on in the same order:
Now I deviated from David’s video, because I’d read in some Moen instructions that I should wash out and flush the valve before putting in the new cartridge. I scrubbed its insides with a discarded toothbrush (or you could use a toothbrush belonging to somebody you don’t like). Nothing dramatic came out, just a little icky goo.
Next I put a bowl over the valve so Old Faithful would flow downward. I wrapped the vegetable sprayer around the bowl so it wouldn’t fall off the valve and get water all over the place. I cautiously turned on the cold water under the sink part way. I let it run for half a minute; I never saw any grunge wash out. But I don’t see too well so maybe something did.
Water off. Now to put in the new cartridge. I hadn’t paid attention to which way the old one was facing, so I just stuffed it into the valve, wondering whether the hot and cold positions would now be reversed like David warned. The center post slipped down too far. So I used the white thingie that came with it to push it in; this worked better. Maybe it’s what the white thingie is really intended for? It’s hard to tell; Moen’s instructions are little diagrams with no words, like Lego brick instructions.
I screwed down the threaded black ring, a tedious job with just a small turning space for the channel pliers, until it gave a lot of resistance. Again wrapping it in the rubber band, and this time I realized that gripping it by the flat sides would work better.
I slid the clip back in. A flat side of the center post has to face the gap in the front of the outer pipe exactly, or the clip won’t go in.
Next, I put the metal washer over the central post. Turns out the washer has flat sides too, that have to align with those on the central post or it won’t fit. Maybe it isn’t really quite a washer, but something else? If it has a special name and you know it, please reply. Any day I learn something is a good day.
Next, the gray plastic thingie. Extrusions on its underside slip into gaps in the assembly, so you can’t just cram it on anyhow. Here it is upside-down so you can see how they go in.
The top of it is a sort of collar. It’s not like David’s; in my case the tall side really did need to be in the front or it wouldn’t seat properly.
I screwed on the chrome dome. I popped in the rabbit-eared thingie, ears forward, and screwed it on with the Philips screw.
Now for the handle. Getting it aligned felt floppy and indefinite. I looked inside it and could see that the screw had to enter it just right to pass thru the rabbit-ear’s central hole, come out the far side of the rabbit-ears and enter a threaded block in the center of the handle. Once it realized I wasn’t going to settle for anything other than a straight shot, it let the screw go in the way it should.
$500 saved. Good luck with your faucet! And thanks again, David; you’re a hero to us nerds who can hardly lay a hand on a tool without hurting ourselves.