Can’t Turn Off Your 3 Handle Shower? Here’s How To Fix It

Is your outdated three handle shower valve causing you grief? Can’t get the water to stop flowing completely no matter how hard you crank the handles shut? A shower that won’t turn off is incredibly frustrating, not to mention it keeps running up your water bill. Unfortunately, it’s a common issue with older three handle or “triple handle” shower fixtures. But don’t tear out all your hair just yet – in most cases this problem can be fixed with some simple maintenance or repairs. We’ll walk you step-by-step through troubleshooting and resolving a shower faucet that won’t turn off fully, using basic DIY plumbing skills. With a little time and elbow grease, you can get your stubborn three handle shower working good as new again.

Problems With 3 Handle Showers

First, let’s quickly look at why three handle shower valves often fail to fully shut off the water.

This style of shower faucet has three separate handles – one for hot water, one for cold water, and a third that adjusts the mix between the two to get the desired temperature. Inside is a cartridge and stem system that controls the flow and blending of hot and cold water streams. While these showers used to be common, they are now considered outdated and do not meet modern plumbing codes.

3 handle shower faucet won't turn off

The main reason three handle showers won’t turn off completely is their antiquated design. The separate hot and cold valves tend to wear out over time and no longer seal properly when closed. This allows water to continue passing through the valves even when you’ve cranked the handles all the way off. The outdated cartridges also don’t maintain a safe balance of temperatures as they age. This presents a dangerous scalding risk, especially for children or elderly users.

Signs Your Three Handle Shower Needs Repair

  • Water keeps dripping or flowing after turning handles off
  • Temperature fluctuates randomly between hot and cold
  • Handles are difficult to turn or completely stuck
  • Noticeable decrease in water pressure

Diagnosing A 3 Handle Shower That Won’t Turn Off

Before attempting any repairs, it’s important to thoroughly diagnose the issue. Start by visually inspecting the shower handles and valves while the water is on. Check for any drips or leaks when the handles are in the “off” position. Be sure to test both the hot and cold handles independently – not just one may be the culprit. Verify that each one shuts the water flow off 100% when rotated all the way.

Also take note of the condition of the handles themselves. Try jiggling them up and down while in the closed position to check for any looseness or uneven rotation. Examine the handle screws as well. If they are loose, simply tightening them may help get a better seal and stop the dripping. We’ll cover this quick fix in more detail shortly.

Diagnosing Issues With 3 Handle Shower Faucets

  • Inspect valves for drips and leaks when handles are off
  • Test hot and cold handles independently
  • Check that water flow stops completely when closed
  • Note any stiffness or looseness in handles

Tightening A Loose Handle Screw

One of the easiest solutions for a leaky three handle shower is to check for loose handle screws. The screws attach the handles to the stem, helping to create a water-tight seal when closed. If they become loose, it can allow water to continue passing through the seals.

Start by prying off the handle cover with a small flat head screwdriver. This will expose the screw underneath. Use a philips head screwdriver to tighten the screw snugly, but be careful not over tighten. Replace the handle cover and test the shower. If the handle moves more smoothly and no longer drips, this simple fix did the trick!

Tightening A Loose Shower Handle Screw

  1. Pry off handle cover with flat head screwdriver
  2. Tighten screw firmly with philips screwdriver
  3. Replace handle cover
  4. Check for improved operation

Replacing A Damaged Stem

If tightening the screws doesn’t solve the problem, the issue may lie with the stem. The stem is the inner rod inside the faucet that connects the handle to the cartridge/valve controlling water flow. Like other internal components, stems wear out over time. If damaged, they can prevent the valve from shutting water off completely.

Replacing a faulty stem requires shutting off the main water supply and taking the faucet apart for access. Start by removing the handle with the screw, then take out the bolt holding the stem in place. Extract the old stem and replace it with an identical new one, making sure all washers and seals are positioned correctly. Re-assemble the faucet and test for proper shut off.

Replacing A 3 Handle Shower Stem

  1. Turn off main water supply
  2. Remove handle and access screw
  3. Extract worn stem & seals
  4. Install replacement stem
  5. Re-assemble faucet
  6. Confirm water shuts off

Fixing A Faulty Cartridge

The heart of a three handle shower faucet is the cartridge. This internal component controls the flow and blending of hot and cold water streams. If the cartridge becomes damaged or excessively worn, it can lead to the shower failing to turn off.

Signs of a defective cartridge include fluctuating water temperatures and the handles becoming very difficult to turn. To replace the cartridge, carefully disassemble the faucet handles and valves to access it. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to remove the old cartridge and install an identical new one. Be sure to replace any seals or O-rings in the valves as well. Re-assemble and test for proper operation.

Replacing A Bad 3 Handle Shower Cartridge

  1. Turn off the main water line
  2. Remove handles and valves per instructions
  3. Extract the worn cartridge
  4. Install new replacement cartridge
  5. Replace seals/O-rings in valves
  6. Re-assemble shower
  7. Check that water turns off

Installing A New 3 Handle Faucet

In some cases if the shower is very old, making repairs may not be worth the time and cost. The valves may be so corroded or calcified that they can’t provide a reliable water seal. Or you may want to upgrade to a more energy-efficient model. Installing a brand new faucet is the best solution here.

Upgrading to a fresh, watertight faucet will provide peace of mind knowing it’s up to code. When choosing a new three handle replacement, look for an anti-scald pressure balanced valve for safety. Make sure to pick a finish that matches your existing hardware.

The installation process is straightforward but does require shutting off water supply lines. Remove the old faucet, making note of how the pipes are oriented. Place the new faucet and re-attach the supply lines. Make sure all seals are tight and check for leaks. Enjoy your upgraded, fully-functional shower!

Installing A New 3 Handle Shower Faucet

  • Select new pressure balanced valve for safety
  • Match the finish to existing hardware
  • Shut off main water supply
  • Remove old faucet & supply lines
  • Install new faucet on wall
  • Re-connect supply lines
  • Check for leaks

Preventative Maintenance

To extend the life your shower valves and prevent issues down the road, be sure to perform periodic maintenance.

At least once a year, check inside the shower for any leaks, corrosion, or mineral deposits around the valves. Clean away any buildup and lubricate the stems and handles so they continue operating smoothly.

As internal seals and washers age, replace them proactively to prevent drips or leaks. Use pipe joint compound to re-seal any leaky connections.

Eventually you may want to replace the valves entirely with a new pressure balanced, thermostatic faucet. Performing regular maintenance allows you to get the most life out of your existing hardware.

Caring For A 3 Handle Shower Faucet

  • Annually inspect for leaks & corrosion
  • Remove mineral deposits
  • Lubricate stems and handles
  • Replace worn seals and washers
  • Re-seal pipe connections as needed
  • Upgrade valves to prevent issues

When To Call A Professional Plumber

Some three handle shower repairs like replacing cartridges or stems may seem a bit daunting. If you don’t feel fully comfortable taking on these fixes yourself, don’t hesitate to call for backup.

A licensed, professional plumber has the skills, tools and experience to quickly diagnose and resolve all kinds of stubborn shower leaks and valves that won’t turn off. They can safely handle replacements and installations as well.

While a plumber costs more than DIY, it saves you time and frustration wrestling with a complex repair. Get an estimate upfront and compare it against any parts or tools you’d need to do it yourself. The convenience may be worth the expense.

Reasons To Hire A Plumber For Shower Repairs

  • For tricky diagnoses and repairs
  • If you’re uncomfortable doing it yourself
  • For any full faucet replacements
  • To save time and frustration
  • Compare costs vs doing it yourself

Dealing with a three handle shower that refuses to turn off completely can be a headache. But in most cases, the problem can be resolved with some simple troubleshooting and repairs. Tightening loose handle screws, replacing worn out stems and cartridges, and maintaining the valves can typically get your shower back to working order.

If repairs are unsuccessful or replacement is needed, don’t hesitate to hire a professional plumber to get the job done properly. The key is identifying and addressing the root cause of the issue, so you can enjoy your refreshing showers with confidence again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *