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 Removing stuck bathroom sink faucet handles
Author: bog-trotter (WI)

I'm trying to replace our bathroom sink faucet and handle set (unsure of the brand) with a new one, and I just can't seem to get the handles off. It's a pedestal sink, and there is very little room to maneuver underneath, but I did manage to get the faucet off easily enough. The handles are held in place underneath by some odd looking nuts (see images) one of which is very corroded. They are both extremely difficult to get a grip of.

But the two handles just won't budge. The set screws in both are completely stripped, and I've had no luck drilling them out. I'm going to try a larger drill bit tomorrow. I don't want to save the handles, so I don't mind breaking them off (just don't want to damage the sink), and I think if I can get the handle off the I'll have a better chance of unscrewing the entire faucet assembly from above while holding the nut underneath. There's very little room underneath. I've tried a basin wrench under there and there's not enough room to maneuver. I don't want to have to take the sink off the wall.

Any ideas how I can get these handles off? Either from above or below. Thanks!











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 Re: Removing stuck bathroom sink faucets
Author: stuckinlodi (MO)

On the setscrews I've had some luck using a drill and setting it to run backwards (CCW), like backing out a screw. Try different sizes of bits to find one that will hopefully grab enough with the turning action to get the setscrew out. It doesn't have to come all the way out, just enough so you can get the handle off. The setscrews are probably allen (hex) type but be aware some setscrews are spline.

On those nuts, I'd squirt something like PB Blaster on them and on the threads of the stems, then come back the next day. If you have a long metal rod or punch you might be able to hold it at an angle on the flat side of the nut and tap to loosen it.



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 Re: Removing stuck bathroom sink faucets
Author: bog-trotter (WI)

"If you have a long metal rod or punch you might be able to hold it at an angle on the flat side of the nut and tap to loosen it."

That's a good idea. Thanks for that.

They are both soaked in WD40, so I plan to give them a go tomorrow anyway.

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 Re: Removing stuck bathroom sink faucets
Author: stuckinlodi (MO)

Hopefully that will work, but I've heard more than once that a sink had to be removed from the wall and turned upside down to remove the old fittings.

Since the handles are separate from the faucet spout, after you get the handle removed you might be able to turn the valve body from topside and help loosen the nut underneath. Also, those large nuts on the stem have a notch cutout on one side, might be able to place the punch/metal rod in the notch and tap it.



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 Re: Removing stuck bathroom sink faucets
Author: North Carolina Plumber (NC)

A lot of times when I'm faced with that situation I'll take a 1/4" drill bit and drill right into the notch. It's made of brass, cuts easily, and when you get drilled thru nut it'll come right off. On a pedestal sink you may have to use an extension on the drill bit, and safety glasses are a must.

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 Re: Removing stuck bathroom sink faucets
Author: packy (MA)

this is why i ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS put silicone grease on the set screw before tightening it.
don't we wish the factory realized this and sent a little plastic envelope with some..

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 Re: Removing stuck bathroom sink faucets
Author: george 7941

packy, you are a big proponent of using grease on threaded fasteners. It helps in the short term, perhaps even a few years. Eventually the grease becomes saturated with moisture and other contaminants and then it actually begins to promote corrosion because it holds the moisture against the threads and does not let the moisture evaporate.

I prefer to use a mild threadlocker which still permits disassembly but, because it sets up, doesn't hold moisture.

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 Re: Removing stuck bathroom sink faucets
Author: packy (MA)

george, i'm not a chemist but i understand 100% silicone grease is not hygroscopic.
(Hygroscopy is the phenomenon of attracting and holding water molecules from the surrounding environment)
i understand what you are saying in that the moisture can get between the grease and the metal. but i don't believe the moisture can contact from metal to metal as the silicone grease is in the middle.
hey, as long as either method gives us a fighting chance to remove those (almost microscopic) set screws, i take it..

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 Re: Removing stuck bathroom sink faucets
Author: hj (AZ)

I have NEVER seen a faucet set screw with a Tork head.

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 Re: Removing stuck bathroom sink faucets
Author: bernabeu (SC)

...... perhaps a Torx head ?

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Retired U.A. Local 1 & 638 ~ Measure Twice & Cut Once

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 Re: Removing stuck bathroom sink faucets
Author: stuckinlodi (MO)

"I have NEVER seen a faucet set screw with a Tork head."
.......................................................

I've not seen a faucet with Torx (Tork) setscrews either, I don't think anyone mentioned Torx in the thread. But I have seen spline or bristol setscrews used after the original allen (hex) setscrew stripped out. Spline and bristol style gives much better gripping power to the removal wrench, less chance of stripping the setscrew. The maintenance guys at our facility changed all the bathroom setscrews to spline or bristol type, they are used a lot on the control knobs in aerospace parts so we kept a lot on hand in the parts bins. They come in the same standard size as allen setscrews. I agree that new faucets don't come with anything other than allen setscrews but someone could have easily replaced them as time goes by, so when you go to remove the setscrew it might not always be an allen.





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 Re: Removing stuck bathroom sink faucets
Author: hj (AZ)

The valve remove from the top and drop through the sink, so once the handles are off, the top nuts will loosen the faucet.

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 Re: Removing stuck bathroom sink faucets
Author: hj (AZ)

Not those either, LOL.

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 Re: Removing stuck bathroom sink faucets
Author: stuckinlodi (MO)

I know you've got lots of experience, but it's a big world out there and you haven't seen it all, hopefully.

Life gets boring when you no longer have anything to experience or learn.

We had bristol spline setscrews in the restrooms and kitchen break area, Rockwell International, when I was there.

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 Re: Removing stuck bathroom sink faucets
Author: hj (AZ)

As I said "I" have never seen it, and that covers over 65 years.



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 Re: Removing stuck bathroom sink faucets
Author: stuckinlodi (MO)

I was pretty sure you had a lot of experience, but didn't know you'd helped plumb Noah's Ark.

Anyway, congratulations on that long of a career, my hat's off to anyone that can do work like that for over 6 decades.



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 Thanks for all of the advice, folks. :thumb:
Author: bog-trotter (WI)

Thanks for all of the advice, folks. I ended up just taking the sink off the wall. Should have just done this in the first place, as it turned out to be a breeze. After we got it off the wall we had the old fixtures off, the new ones on and the unit back on the wall in a little over 30 mins. Now I just need to caulk. Live and learn.



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 Re: Removing stuck bathroom sink faucets
Author: hj (AZ)

The ark was a challenge. It was like plumbing a log cabin. Everything had to be outside the walls, (but inside the ark). You wouldn't believe what an elephant can do to a hollowed out log drain line.

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 Re: Removing stuck bathroom sink faucets
Author: stuckinlodi (MO)

Ha!

I was reading about wooden water pipes used for mains in older cities back east, like New York and Boston. Yes, WOODEN pipes.

Some are still in use today. That would require some different plumbing skills, more like carpentry. The author of the article claimed that back then when the firefighters got to the building on fire they would punch a hole into the wooden water main and attach their hose. Afterwards they would plug the hole in the wooden main with a wooden plug they had, it was called a "fire plug" since that was when it was used. And that's where we got the term "fireplug" for a modern day fire hydrant.

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