Tub/Shower Faucet Eventually Starts Dripping Again After Replacing Valve Stems

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New Member
Jul 24, 2020
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Bend, Oregon
Ah, the joys of older home ownership (1974). We thought our major plumbing issues were dealt with when we got rid of our orangeburg sewer line and our rusted out galvanized supply line to our house. It's still galvanized under the house, but we live in a very dry climate and the pipes/joints appear to all be in good shape -- the supply lines outside were buried and starting to leak so they were replaced a while back with plastic/pex/non-metal into the crawl space where it's not buried.

First off, an IT guy by trade, but not afraid to get my hands dirty with this stuff if it's something I can figure out. I'm hopefully using sort of the right terminology here. And this is a bit long, as I want to make sure I document what I tried so I make sure I don't miss something.

Anywho, earlier this year we started having issues with our bathtub/shower faucet after having no issues with it the first 15 years we've lived here. It would drip slowly (drip every second or so) like it wasn't shutting completely off properly. It's a two-handle faucet, not sure of brand.

See the album for reference:
I took the valves apart, noticed a small piece of white plastic in the supply the hot water side of things, behind the spring washer gasket thing. Pulled it out, figured if it was pushing on the spring gasket, took the valve stem down to the local hardware store, found a match (it appears to be a Delta part 3S-9H/C stem), flushed the line the best I could, replaced the valve stems (did both sides, just because they were fairly cheap parts) and the spring loaded gasket, and we were good for a month or two.

And then it started dripping again. Since my hot water heater is a ways from my tub, and my pipes are metal (and I live in a cold climate and it was winter), I couldn't easily tell if it was the hot or cold that was doing it, so I took them both apart. Found another piece of plastic in the hot side, yanked it out, flushed, put everything back together. I know I had a picture of the piece of plastic I yanked out last time, but I can't seem to find it, but it looked like very thin piece of white plastic/PVC pipe.

Did it again a couple months after that. More plastic. I've gotten pretty good at taking those things apart at this point :).

After doing a bit of research, I found that old hot water heaters (like mine at the time) had dinky plastic dip tubes that would slowly disintegrate and would break off pieces into the hot water line (I never did see plastic/anything in the cold side). Since we had been saving up to replace the likely-original-with-the-house heater, I replaced that about a month ago (it's an electric one, not super-hard to replace, and my father-in-law who has done several of them was helping). When I installed the new hot water heater, I tried my best to flush out the supply lines to remove sediment and such (following the directions in the manual) but something must have gotten into the tub supply line again as it was dripping. Took it apart, flushed it (didn't see plastic easily noticeable plastic, just some sediment). Replaced the valve stems again, and it worked fine.

Until this morning.

I woke up and the shower was dripping pretty quickly again this morning (several drips a second). I discovered if I applied pressure inward towards the wall on the hot water stem, it slowed down the drip (and putting my ear on the stem, I could hear the water running in there), so I figured the metal collar wasn't tight enough. So I tightened it down enough to slow the drip down to a drop a second so I could go to work today, but I'll need to open things back up again in there to figure out what's going on (as I can barely turn the handle, so it's obviously not the permanent fix).

So my questions:

  1. Before I go into this again, is there something I could be missing in doing this that would cause this to keep happening?
  2. When doing this, I notice that I can't seem to work on just the hot side of things without shutting off the whole house water supply. If I just shut off the hot water supply line (brand new shut off valve installed on the supply line going into the hot water heater), it still comes out. Slowly, but it still comes out. Is there some sort of anti-scald/mixing/something I should be looking for somewhere? I can't see it in the wall.
  3. Is there someplace online that sells the metal collar things that the stem fits inside? I can't find them at my hardware and COVID shut down my local small (and extremely helpful) plumbing supply shop.
  4. Based on the photos I took, can the valve stem mechanism be replaced with a different one that is more reliable or isn't two pieces (I didn't take a picture of the second piece the fits inside that collar and that the handle screws onto). I'd like to see if replacing as much as I can would fix it permanently. I'd love to replace it all with something more reliable or a single-piece, but that would likely require smashing out the tile and I'm not in the mood for that :)
  5. Can anybody identify the make/model/brand of things so I can possibly find replacements for the whole mechanism if need arise?
It's not a super-complicated mechanism, it should be this hard or troublesome.

Thanks in advance!


Fixer Upper
Staff member
Feb 5, 2013
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Erie, PA
First off I want to welcome you to the forum. :welcome:

I am not an expert on plumbing but I do feel your pain and agree you have some kind of junk working its way out of your plumbing and is causing the reoccurring drip.

Hopefully others will be along soon and offer some technical advice.

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