Is Your Shower Diverter Not Working?
A malfunctioning shower diverter can be very annoying.
One day you go from being able to shower whenever you want to, to being stuck having baths because water will only come out of your tub faucet.
Stranded in your tub, you’re probably wondering what you can do to get your shower back.
Fortunately, we have the solution.
We’ll explain how you can know if your shower diverter breaks or becomes disengaged and how you can get your shower water back by repairing it.
💧 How a Shower Diverter Works
Shower diverters have a fairly simple job.
In combination bathtub and shower systems, they divert water flow from the bathtub faucet to the showerhead.
Most often than not, this mechanism is controlled by a pin knob attached to the tub’s faucet, which, when pulled or twisted, changes the direction of the water flow.
Some shower diverters, like the two-valve or three-valve diverter, also control hot and cold water supply through an extra knob or faucet between the bathtub’s hot and cold knobs.
However, most homeowners have the tee-valve shower diverter, which does not have this function.
💧 What Can Cause Shower Diverters to Stop Working Properly
Problems with diverters come in two different kinds: minor difficulties where parts come out of place and need to be put back into place, and significant structural problems that generally require a new shower diverter.
During everyday use, parts can gradually move out of place due to pressure and tension.
For instance, the screws on the faceplate can become slowly undone, which disengages the shower diverter valve.
In these cases, simple retightening is necessary to solve the problem.
However, some problems require shower diverter replacement.
Typically, these are due to wear and tear on the internal components of the diverter, such as the inner rubber stopper.
It’s not worth trying to fix these parts individually, so you’ll need to replace the shower diverter completely if this is your problem.
💧 How to Repair a Shower Diverter
🧰 Turn Off The Water Supply and Seal The Drain
The first step for any diverter work should always be to turn off the water supply.
It’s common sense: if you leave the supply on, you might have to deal with a torrent of water spraying on you as you try to work.
Another crucial step is to seal the drain with tape.
Small screws and other miniature parts can easily fall down the drain while working on the diverter.
By sealing the drain with some duct tape or a drain guard, nothing should be lost to the drain.
If you don’t like buying new parts needlessly, this should be your priority.
🧰 Tighten the Faceplate’s Screws
In many cases where the water stops flowing to the shower head, it’s not the shower diverter that’s the problem but the screws holding the faceplate and the diverter in place.
When the screws become undone, usually due to normal wear and tear, this can cause the faceplate to fall out of place.
This disengages the valve, which leads to a breakdown in the water flow between the tub faucet and the shower head.
Instead of replacing the shower diverter, you might need to tighten the screws on the faceplate.
With just a few turns of a flathead screwdriver, your problem could be fixed.
If this solution works, you should be able to use your shower diverter seamlessly.
But if you still find that water leaks from the bathtub spout even after being engaged, you’ll probably still need to replace the shower diverter.
🧰 Wash the Spout
Sometimes, your shower diverter can stop working not due to damage or falling out of place but because of the accumulation of dirt and other substances.
By washing your bathtub spout, you may be able to fix your problem without needing to buy expensive replacements.
All you’ll need for this is a ziplock plastic bag and some white vinegar.
Put enough vinegar into the bag to submerge the bathtub spout, then wrap the tub spout with the bag and tie it in place.
Now all that’s left is to wait.
You’ll need to keep the spout submerged for three to four days in the vinegar until it looks spotless.
Once it looks good, you can untie the bag and return to using the shower diverter (it might smell a little.)
💧 How to Replace a Shower Diverter
If none of the previous methods resolve your problem, you’ll probably need a shower diverter replacement.
Before you start, follow the “turn off the water supply & seal the drain” step in the last section.
🧰 Remove The Diverter Valve
To install a new shower diverter, we need to remove the old one.
How you approach this depends on the type of shower valve you have.
Your shower diverter should have either a rotating valve or a gate-type valve.
As the name suggests, you’ll need to unscrew a rotating valve diverter.
With a screwdriver, locate the nut at the stem of the diverter and unscrew it.
Once you’ve fully unscrewed it, you should be able to remove the entire valve and the shower diverter with it.
Unscrewing a gate-type valve will require a different approach.
Instead of a rotating component, a shower diverter gate valve uses an opening and closing gate to control movement.
This means you’ll need to unscrew the threaded tub spout instead to release the valve.
🧰 Measure The Shower Diverter
Not every shower diverter is made the same.
They’re constructed not only with different numbers of valves and valve mechanisms but also in different sizes and materials.
This is because they are used in a diverse range of systems, all with different requirements.
To avoid buying an incompatible replacement, measure and examine the shower diverter you removed.
Knowing what size and material your system was already using will allow you to pick the right style out of the many shower diverters available.
✅ PRO TIP: Alternatively, you could bring your old shower diverter to the hardware store. There, you can compare the size and style of the broken shower diverter to the others in the store or get a worker to help you pick out a suitable alternative.
🧰 Install The New Diverter
You’re nearly at the end.
All you have to do now is install your new shower diverter in place of the old one.
If you removed and dismantled the old diverter, you shouldn’t have trouble installing the new one.
Once you’ve placed the shower diverter in position, you can use a wrench to put it in place tightly, but not too tightly. You don’t want to damage it.
You’ll need to set the new valve in place before using it.
The way you do this depends on the model you have.
For example, if you’re using a gate-type valve, you’ll need to twist the gate to create a good seal and pull it into position.
One important thing to avoid while installing the new diverter is cross-threading.
If you misalign the screws while screwing them in, they will break as you screw them in.
✅ PRO TIP: To avoid a cross-thread, check that the screws are properly lined up before screwing them in. If a screw is aligned correctly, it will only require light pressure for most of the thread before it gets tight.
Once all this is done, you can finally turn back on the water supply and unplug the drain.
You should now be able to change how the water flows using the diverter knob between the hot and cold handles or equivalent control without any difficulty.
To keep your shower diverter working correctly for as long as possible, turn it off for a few seconds before turning your bathtub faucet off.
This will reduce strain on the shower diverter from water pressure.
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💧 Final Thoughts
Your shower diverter plays a simple but important role in keeping water moving from your tub faucet to your shower head.
When the diverter stops, your showers will too.
To fix or replace your old diverter, you’ll first need to examine it.
Many diverters only require a quick retightening, but others will need a total replacement.
Is your shower diverter still not working and need assistance? Call your local plumber or check to see if Phyxter Home Services is in your area.
We offer professional plumbing services across North America.
Are you having other problems in your bathroom or with your plumbing? Check out our other plumbing articles.
Related Reading: DIY Guide to 15 Common Plumbing Problems & Solutions