If you use a tub/shower combo, definitely have a shower diverter on the tub spout. It's a fantastic design that allows you to have a bathtub as a shower tray, especially for people with small bathrooms.
A shower diverter is a small knob on the bathtub spout that regulates the flow of water. When the knob is pulled up, water comes out of the shower head. When you want the water to come out of the bathtub spout, just push the diverter button down.
After years of use, the shower diverter can get stuck in one position. This means you no longer have the option of using the shower or bath. But what causes it?
A stuck shower diverter is caused by dirt, pipe corrosion, and mineral buildup in the bathtub spout. Substances collect in the groove inside the spout, which restricts the derailleur's free up and down movement, resulting in binding.
People who live in hard water areas, old houses with steel pipes, and those who use well water are more prone to this problem. Fortunately, a stuck shower diverter is easy to fix and doesn't always need to be replaced.
Soaking the bathtub spout in a vinegar solution or spraying it with a penetrating oil are two great ways to unclog a stuck shower diverter. However, if the bath filler is very old and/or leaking, replacing it is always the best and most durable solution.
Instead of having a sticky shower diverter, you will sometimes find that it won't stay on. A shower diverter that won't stay open is caused by low water pressure in the plumbing or a faulty bathtub spout. Attach a pressure gauge to a faucet to determine house pressure. If the pressure is good, replace the nozzle.
How to fix a stuck shower diverter
There are several ways to fix a stuck shower diverter. The choice depends on the severity of the problems and, to some extent, on the materials available. The good thing is that all the materials needed for this job are readily available in most homes.
1. Use a penetrating oil
A penetrating oil like WD-40 works its magic to loosen stuck joints and prevent rust, so it's a must-have in any garage. In case you didn't know, the WD in WD-40 stands for Water Displacement.
In order for rust to form, water and oxygen must be present on an iron surface. By displacing water, WD-40 prevents surface corrosion. However, WD-40 is not the only penetrating oil you can use. Any penetrating oil works well, including non-stick cooking oil.
Due to their low viscosity, penetrating oils slowly penetrate through stuck fittings or parts (eg a stuck shower diverter), staining them in the process. Go to the garage and get a can of your favorite lubricant.
How to lubricate a stuck shower diverter:
- Dry the water first. If there is water in or on the nozzle, use a cloth or towel to dry it completely. As you already know, oil and water are not best friends.
- Spray the penetrating oil directly onto the shower diverter knob on top of the bathtub spout.
- Insert the straw from the oil can into the spout of the bowl and spray the inside as well.
- Pull and push the up and down button while spraying more oil. If the button is too tight, you should wait about 15-30 minutes.
- After the 30 minutes, try pulling up and down and pushing the shower diverter.
- If it seems less resilient than before, spray more penetrating oil and wait another 15 minutes.
- Keep spraying the penetrating oil and wiggling the knob until it's gone completely.
2. Soak the shower diverter in vinegar
For people who live in hard water areas, I assume that the cause of a stuck shower diverter is calcium buildup. Scale, which is basically calcium, is the whitish substance you might also notice on the bottom of your bathtub after you drain it.
After many years of use, limescale builds up inside the spout, which restricts the movement of the shower diverter. If this is the problem, your shower will also be affected and you will find that you arelow water pressureget out of the shower.
Vinegar is a mild acid that makes a fantastic cleaning agent, either alone or in combination with baking soda. It dissolves limescale deposits on faucets very effectively and will definitely solve a stuck shower diverter.
How to proceed:
- Look for a small plastic bag (preferably clear).
- Fill to the ½ or ¾ mark with vinegar.
- Bring the vinegar with you into the shower and squeeze the nozzle in the vinegar so that most of it (and especially the shower knob) is submerged in the vinegar. Secure the plastic bag to the spout with a rubber band.
- Leave the solution for 12 hours or preferably overnight.
- After 12 hours, remove the vinegar and try pulling and tightening the shower diverter knob. I can almost guarantee it will be a lot easier this time.
- Run hot water down the sink to remove any loose limescale.
3. File the shower diverter groove
You need a little flexibility to do this, especially if you have no idea what the inside of a bathtub spout looks like. However, it's not rocket science and you can do it in 10 minutes.
A shower diverter doubles as a gate inside the bathtub spout. There are 2 grooves in the tub spout that the shower diverter attaches to, allowing it to move up and down. A piece of nylon is responsible for blocking the spout and thus diverting the water into the shower.
If you find that the shower diverter is sticky, it could be that the groove has corroded. Although most of these faucets appear to be made of brass, in reality they are just plated with iron/steel to look like brass and therefore will rust/corrode.
To fix this problem, find a small file that fits over your bathtub spout. The file should also have teeth on the edges. You use the edge of the file and not the flat side. Here's how to do it.
- Pull the shower diverter knob up. This can be difficult, but just push it. In this way you can access the 2 slots of the bathtub spout opening.
- Slide the file into one of the grooves and start filing up and down. Don't be too aggressive as you don't want to sand the eyelet body. All you have to do is remove rust and mineral deposits.
- When you're satisfied that the groove is clean, move on to the next one and sand that down as well.
- Push the shower diverter knob down and pull it up. You'll notice that this time he moves up and runs freely.
4. Dip the entire bathtub spout in vinegar
Sometimes the best way to fix a sticky shower diverter is to soak the entire assembly in a bowl of vinegar. This is a much better solution than tying a plastic bag around it, as the vinegar will reach and work all over the spout.
There are 2 common types of bath enema. One that is usually screwed onto the water supply pipe and one that usually connects to the pipe with a pan head screw. Check the bottom of the spout to see if there is a screw connecting the spout to the steel pipe.
Proceed as follows:
- Get a set of allen wrenches and use the right size to loosen the screw. In fact, you don't need to remove the screw completely. Just release it and slide it off the spout. To be on the safe side, unplug the bathtub drain so you don't lose the screw in the drain.
- If there is no screw under the spout, the spout is screwed onto the feed tube. Often this type of spout is also caulked into the bathroom wall. Use a knife to cut the caulking.
- Wrap a rag or tape around the nozzle (to avoid scratching it) and use a wrench to loosen it by turning it counterclockwise.
- Once the spout is out, place it in a bowl and add vinegar until all parts of the spout are submerged in the vinegar.
- Leave the beak in the vinegar for 12 hours or overnight.
- While waiting for the spout to be completely clean, use a toothbrush or other drain brush to clean the inside of the supply tube to which the spout was connected. Turn on the water and wash the line for a few seconds.
- After 12 hours, clean all parts of the spout with a brush or sandpaper so that the shower diverter works like new.
- Reconnect the bathtub spout to the steel tube. If necessary, caulk it.
5. Replace the bathtub spout
If your current bathtub spout and shower diverter are in bad shape and therefore not worth repairing, the best and most lasting approach is to replace them. That way, you can rest assured for the next 10 years or more.
There are 2 things you really need to look out for when purchasing a new bathtub faucet. These are:
- The type of spout - Buy a bathtub spout designed to match the old faucet. If the old pipe was threaded, that means the supply pipe is threaded as well, so you should buy one that is threaded as well. The same applies to plugs that are secured with a hex socket screw.
- The length of the supply line. Measure the length of cable from the wall to the end. Write down the measurement and use it to purchase a new nozzle. You don't want to buy a longer or smaller nozzle that leaves the supply line exposed.
Once you have the new nozzle, go ahead and install it. How to install a bathtub spout
- If the feed tube is threaded, use a wire brush or toothbrush to clean it and remove the old tape.
- Apply a new coat of Teflon tape to the threads and screw the grommet onto the pipe. Tighten it with a wrench. You need to be careful to get the right amount of tension on the nozzle without damaging it, and also make sure the nozzle orientation is correct.
- If you have an Allen screw nozzle, simply slide it into the tube and screw it into place.
- Test the new shower switch.
Here's how to fix a stuck shower diverter. I'm sure one of these 5 ideas will work perfectly for you.