Fix a Leaky Outside Frost Free Faucet

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Before performing this maintenance you should find out if the reason the faucet is leaking is because it was frozen and parts on the inside may be damaged. frost free hose bibs may freeze during freezing temperatures if a hose is left attached to it or if the hose bib is installed with the slope of the hose bib sloping in toward the house. Both conditions prevent the hose bib from draining when it is shut off and then when freezing temperatures happen the hose bib freezes up and is damaged. This article teaches you how to recognize problems with leaky frost free hose bibs and fix them.

Tools and Materials:

  • Screw driver, usually a phillips head
  • Adjustable pliers
  • Adjustable wrench’s (2)

Find Out Where The Leak Is Coming From There are four areas that a frost free faucet or outdoor hose bib can leak from:

  • Through the vacuum breaker (when its turned on)
  • Around the handle (when its turned on)
  • Out of the faucet spout (when its turned off)
  • Freezing and splitting the tube

Leaky outside faucets that are frost free can be deceiving because they will drain water for several seconds after they are turned off. The reason they continue draining is because the valve that shuts the water off is several inches behind the faucet, usually about 12 to 18 inches. This is so there will be no water close to the outside of the house where it is more likely to freeze. It is normal for a frost free hose bib to drain water after it is shut off. If the water does not stop after a few seconds or water is coming from some other part of the faucet than the spout then you most likely have a leaky faucet. Keep reading to learn how to fix the most common leaks for an outside faucet.

Leaking Through The Vacuum Breaker: Frost free hose bibs have a vacuum breaker that sits just above the faucet handle. The vacuum breaker allows air to come into the faucet when it is shut off so that the water can drain out of the stem that goes back into the wall of the house. Water should not come out of the vacuum breaker when the faucet is turned on, it is a one way valve that should only let air in. If water comes out of the vacuum breaker then the internal parts are most likely not working properly.

Repair The Vacuum Breaker: Remove the cap covering the vacuum breaker by applying even and upward pressure on both sides of the cap. Under the cap you will see the vacuum breaker parts. Try to clean them. If cleaning the vacuum breaker parts does not stop the leak then you will need to buy replacement parts at a local plumbing store.

Leaking Around The Handle: Make sure you turn the water off before removing the packing nut or other valve parts. There are several nuts and washers inside the leaky faucet. The packing nut is directly behind the faucet handle, it holds the parts inside the faucet stem. There is a washer directly behind the packing nut.

    • Repair The Leak Around The Faucet Handle: First try to tighten the packing nut. Use the adjustable wrench to tighten the nut until it is snug. Don’t over tighten the packing nut just make it snug. If you tighten the packing nut and still have a leak around the faucet handle then you will need to replace the washer behind the packing nut. Remove the packing nut and pull the stem out of the faucet body. The handle must be removed from the stem in order to get the packing nut and washer off. Take the faucet to a plumbing supply store and match the washer. Re-assemble the washer and packing nut in the same order they were removed from the stem. If you purchased a repair kit you should replace all the other washers at this time to help prevent further leaks from other parts wearing out.
    • Leaking Out Of The Faucet End – -Make sure to turn the water off before removing the faucet stem! Continual leaking from the faucet after it is shut off is caused by bad washers at the end of the valve stem.
    • Repair The Leaky Faucet End: A leak coming out of the faucet when it is shut off is repaired by replacing the washers at the valve end of the stem which is deep inside the faucet body. Remove the faucet stem by loosening the packing nut on the front of the faucet, immediately behind the faucet handle. After the packing nut is off you will be able to pull the valve stem out of the faucet. There are three washers on frost free hose bibs. The washers that are farthest from the faucet handle are the washers that stop water from leaking when the faucet is shut off. All the washers should be replaced when the faucet is taken apart. Use a screw driver to remove the screw holding the washer and valve parts onto the end of the valve stem. Roll the washers off the stem and then install the new washers in the same order and direction. Put the valve stem back into the faucet and tighten the packing nut. If the faucet still leaks after replacing all the washers then it may be time to replace the leaky faucet.
    • Leaking From The Stem Behind The Wall: This leak is usually the most damaging to a house because it allows water to run inside the house when the leaky faucet is turned on. If when the faucet is turned on it leaks inside the house this means that there is a hole in the wall of the faucet tube.
  • Repair The Leaky Faucet Stem: The only way to fix this leak is to replace the whole faucet. Remove the faucet by putting a wrench on the faucet and unscrewing it from its connection behind the wall. Take the faucet to a plumbing supply store and match the tube length with a new one. Install a new faucet by putting 3 wraps of teflon tape around the threads on the valve, screwing it into the threads of the fitting inside the wall and tightening it. Make sure that the faucet slopes slightly to the outside of the house so it will drain when it is shut off.

After fixing the leaky faucet test it by turning it on and off. Remember that a frost free hose bib should drain for a few seconds after it is shut off. When the water stops running you know you have fixed your leaky faucet!


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