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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
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    Default Shower handles turn on their own

    I have an odd problem that the local hardware store associates couldn't answer for me.

    I have an old American Brass style shower with independent handles for hot and cold. Earlier this week they were leaking even when shut off. I have replaced the valve stems and that stopped the leaking but another problem persists.

    When I turn these handles on they keep turning until they are open all the way, making it impossible to adjust the temperature. What would be causing this and is there any way to fix it without ripping out all the plumbing and switching to a pressure balanced system (our funds for home repairs are limited right now).

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
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    6,480

    Default Re: Shower handles turn on their own

    Tighten your packing nuts until the stems no longer freely turn on their own. The packing nut is what holds the stem into the fixture. You did install new packing seals with the new stems, right?
    Last edited by A. Spruce; 10-15-2012 at 06:47 PM. Reason: clarity
    I suffer from CDO ... Its like OCD, but in alphabetical order, LIKE IT SHOULD BE!!!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Boston
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    820

    Default Re: Shower handles turn on their own

    sounds like a ghost to me.....how about an exorcism?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Houston Texas
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    Default Re: Shower handles turn on their own

    The house I grew up in was haunted - but that was limited to electrical issues. I guess your ghost prefers water.

    What Spruce said plus:

    did you lube the new stems before replacement?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
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    3

    Default Re: Shower handles turn on their own

    Packing nuts are tightened fully. Did not lube the stems.

    A (retired) master plumber in the area thinks that I have too much water pressure in the house causing this issue. Turns out this is a problem that has been going on all over the city due to the addition of another water tower a couple years ago. Pressure throughout the city jumped from 100 psi to 150 psi after that.

    Later this year I'm going to pull out the wall hiding the plumbing, run a pressure test, look for pressure reducing valves and add them if needed. If anyone has any other ideas I would still appreciate your thoughts.

  6. #6
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    Aug 2007
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    Default Re: Shower handles turn on their own

    There should be a hose bib near the water main, do your pressure test there instead of tearing apart a wall.

    Even with increased pressure, you shouldn't have an issue of the valves opening themselves. How much friction do you have when you turn the knobs? Can you spin the knob with a finger tip or does it take a fairly firm hand grip? If you can spin it with your finger, replace the packing around the stem.
    I suffer from CDO ... Its like OCD, but in alphabetical order, LIKE IT SHOULD BE!!!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Houston Texas
    Posts
    2,358

    Default Re: Shower handles turn on their own

    Much over 70 psi and you'd be blowing out your plumbing fixtures. For example, most toilets have a maximum static pressure of 80 psi.

    Put a gauge on your incoming line. You may need a pressure reducer added.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Posts
    3

    Default Re: Shower handles turn on their own

    It takes a firm hand grip to turn them, but once they're open they keep going and adjust with just a finger.

    As far as the pressure test it's going to be a few months before I get around to that. I'll likely do it down by the main. The rest of the plumbing in the house seems to be working fine so I'm not worried as of yet. I'll be addressing these issues as I go and I'll likely find more problems. I'll keep you updated on my progress.

    For now we're setting the temp we want and wrapping some yarn around the handles to keep them in place until we're done. It's not perfect, but it will work until we start the rest of the bathroom project.

    Oh... and did I mention the water heater is up on the top floor on the other side of the wall from the shower? That's going back in the basement next year too, so this project is far from over.

    Thanks for the tips guys. I really do appreciate it.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Posts
    6,480

    Default Re: Shower handles turn on their own

    This latest info tells me that the packing isn't tight enough. Replace it, add more, tighten the nuts, whatever it takes to get a little more friction on the stems. With fresh seals on the base of the stem you shouldn't have to crank the valves very hard to shut them off tight, unless your seats are pitted, then I can understand cranking them down.
    I suffer from CDO ... Its like OCD, but in alphabetical order, LIKE IT SHOULD BE!!!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Pacific Northwet
    Posts
    1,356

    Default Re: Shower handles turn on their own

    Cranking faucets tight when shutting them off is what wears out the seal washers. Stop turning when the water stops. It will take some getting used to because it doesn't feel like it's shut off, but if the water isn't flowing then it's off.

    If you have to crank it tight, replace or grind the seats (what Sprucey said).

    And do install a pressure regulator if the pressure is too high, set it to around 60 PSI. You may not have problems right now, but excess pressure can cause premature failure of fittings, fixtures, and hoses.
    The "Senior Member" designation under my name doesn't mean I know a lot, it just means I talk a lot.I've been a DIYer since I was 12 (thanks, Dad!). I have read several books on various home improvement topics. I do not have any current code books I can refer to. I was an apprentice plumber for two years.

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