I Have an Old Bathtub, and the Shower Won't Turn On

Written by steven symes
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I Have an Old Bathtub, and the Shower Won't Turn On
Some shower diverters sit inside the bathtub's spout. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Bathtub and shower combination faucets use a diverter valve to switch the water from the tub's spout to the shower head. When a diverter gives out, you will no longer be able to turn the shower on. Fixing the problem does not require you to call a plumber, since the repair requires few tools and little plumbing experience.

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Diverter Function

The diverter valve in a bathtub and shower combination faucet will change how the water flows out of the faucet, switching the flow from the tub spout to the shower head above. Diverters will work for years or decades without problems. A diverter will first start to leak water out of the bathtub's spout when you take showers, signalling that the diverter needs to be switched out. Eventually the diverter will stop working altogether, meaning the shower will no longer turn on.

Diverter Location

Not all diverters sit in the same part of the bathtub and shower combination faucet. Some older faucet setups have three handles, with the middle handle controlling the diverter valve. You twist the handle one way to direct the flow out of the tub spout and the other way to direct it out of the shower head. Other diverters sit in the tub's spout, and you pull up on a small handle to direct the flow of water to the shower head.

Changing Spout Diverters

Changing a shower diverter located in a spout involves removing the bathtub's spout. You do not need to shut off the water in the house beforehand, but you do need to inspect the underside of the spout to see how it attaches to the water pipe. If you see a small screw on the spout, you must remove the screw with an Allen wrench and then slid the spout off the pipe. If you do not see a screw, twist the spout counterclockwise until it comes off the pipe. You must install a replacement spout, with a diverter, that attaches to the water pipe the same way as the old spout.

Changing Handle Diverters

Diverters that you control with a handle do require you to shut off the water in the house. Drain the leftover water pressure in the plumbing by opening a faucet all the way. Remove the screw holding the diverter's handle in place, which is located either under the small cap in the middle of the handle or near the base of the handle. Remove the handle and use an adjustable wrench to unthread any retaining nut or metal sleeve covering the diverter valve. Use the same adjustable wrench to twist the diverter counterclockwise out of the faucet. Install an exact match to the old diverter valve, coating the threads with plumber's grease. Put the rest of the faucet back together

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