Perhaps you just finished installing your brand-new faucet. It looks pretty spiffy, but the handles are off – to turn them off, you have to turn them past the point where they should stop. Or, maybe they don’t even rotate the right way. Now what?
Just when you thought you were done, you have a few extra steps. Luckily, it’s not a complicated fix. So, before you throw in the towel and just leave it how it is, read through our guide.
How Do You Realign Faucet Handles?
If the faucets are slightly misaligned, one might be slightly forward or back when it’s off. When the water is off, the handles in a cartridge-style tap should sit one of two ways: perpendicular or parallel to the countertop. They should be identical, mirroring the other’s position.
When one handle is askew, it messes up the aesthetic. Plus, someone might try forcing it into position, thinking the water won’t shut off all the way if they don’t. That could result in a broken handle, so it’s best to fix it now.
Here’s what you might need:
- Allen wrench
You might not need any tools – it depends on the type of faucet you’re working with. Start by turning off the water to the sink. There should be shut-off valves beneath the sink. Turn both valves clockwise until they stop turning, but don’t force them.
Once the water is off, drain the water from the lines by turning the faucet on. After you drain the lines, remove the handle. In some cases, there might be trim holding the handle in place, or there could be a set screw. Remove the handle and set it aside.
Next, loosen the valve retaining nut slightly, but don’t remove it. Put the handle back on without the screw and gently push it in the direction it needs to go. You should be able to move it easily enough, but if you can’t, don’t force it.
If you can move it, move the handle into the correct position, then tighten the nut. Replace the handle and tighten the screw.
If you can’t move the handle, pull out the cartridge. Then, put on the handle and replace the cartridge with the handle in the correct position. Reinstall the handle, then check your handiwork. Turn the water back on, check for leaks, and ensure the handle is positioned correctly.
How Do You Adjust Faucet Handle Rotation?
In some scenarios, the faucet handle might turn the wrong direction altogether. Cartridge faucets only rotate 90 degrees, so if the faucet turns the wrong way, you probably mixed up the handles when you installed them. Widespread faucets with separate handles aren’t interchangeable, so this might be the problem.
If the handle turns in the wrong direction, switch the two. The process of switching the handles depends on the particular faucet model you have. Remember to turn off the water supply before you get started!
When the handle levers are connected to the faucet base, like on a centerset faucet, you can’t make this mistake (it’s all one piece). However, you can make a different mistake. When the handle turns in the wrong direction, the faucet cartridge is the culprit.
The cartridges in these faucets are directional, so the wrong cartridge will only allow the handle to turn in the wrong direction. If you recently purchased a replacement cartridge and just noticed the issue upon installation, you bought the wrong one. So, you’ll have to buy the correct cartridge that matches the correct rotational direction for the handle in question.
Sometimes, the problem might not be as simple as realigning the faucets or the wrong cartridge. This is usually the case for older faucets, as the internal parts begin to wear out, allowing the faucet to turn further than usual.
Tighten The Handle
The screw within the handle might be loose, causing the problem. Here’s what you’ll need to check:
- Flathead screwdriver
- Philips screwdriver
Cover the drain with a towel to prevent losing any parts. Turn off the water beneath the sink. Once the water is off, remove the decorative cap with a flathead screwdriver (if applicable) to expose the set screw. If the handle is loose, allowing it to turn too far, try tightening the handle screw.
Using a Philips screwdriver, tighten the screw slightly. Don’t overtighten it, as you could strip or break the screw.
Check The Interlocking Notches
If tightening the handle doesn’t work, check the interlocking notches. Remove the handle screw, then pull the handle off. Look inside the faucet body and locate the interlocking notches between the handle and the faucet cartridge.
If they look fine, set the handle back on the cartridge in a slightly different position. Reinstall the screw, then check if the handle still rotates too far.
If they appear worn, you may need to replace the cartridge.
Replace The Cartridge
Sometimes, replacing the cartridge might be your best option. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Adjustable wrench or channel-lock pliers
- Philips screwdriver
- Flathead screwdriver
- Replacement cartridge
If you haven’t already, turn off the water, drain the lines, and cover the drain with a towel. Next, remove the handle. Remove the locking nut by rotating it counterclockwise with an adjustable wrench or a pair of channel-lock pliers.
Gently lift the faucet cartridge out with your fingers or channel-lock pliers. Bring the cartridge to the hardware store with you and select an exact match. If you don’t buy the correct cartridge, it might not work, or you could end up with a handle that turns in the wrong direction.
Insert the new cartridge precisely like the old one was installed, then screw on the retaining nut. Tighten the nut with an adjustable wrench until you meet resistance. Replace the handle, then tighten the screw to hold the handle in place.
Replace the decorative cap (as applicable), then turn the water back on underneath the sink. Check for leaks and proper handle function.