Why Is My Shower Handle Hard To Pull Out?

After a few years (or a few decades), your shower handle might become hard to pull out. It might be stiff and seem stuck, so when you turn on the water, you feel like you’re going to break the whole thing. 

Luckily, repairing a stiff push-pull shower handle is usually a straightforward task. Most homeowners can complete the task without any issues within a few hours. Here’s how to do it. 

How Do You Lubricate A Push Pull Shower Valve?

Sometimes, lubricating the shower parts might help correct a tight or hard-to-use shower handle. The part you need to lubricate is the area behind the cartridge collar. This is the part that moves, so lubrication here will help things move smoothly. 

If you want to use this method, follow the instructions below for accessing the cartridge, then lubricate the collar and re-assemble it. 

How Do You Fix A Stiff Push Pull Shower Handle?

Moen T2901 Gibson Posi-Temp Pressure-Balancing Modern Valve Trim, Valve Required, Chrome

Repairing a tight push-pull shower handle is a relatively simple task that should only take a few hours from start to finish. In most cases, replacing the cartridge in the assembly will make it work as good as new. 

But if you’re not too keen on buying a replacement cartridge, you can always try lubricating the cartridge, as that might alleviate the issue. Keep in mind that many major shower manufacturers offer solid warranties on their products, so you might be able to get a replacement cartridge for free. So, before buying one, check with the manufacturer’s customer support. 

Here’s what you’ll need for the process:

  • Flat-head screwdriver
  • Philips-head screwdriver
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • WD-40
  • Replacement cartridge
  • Silicone plumber’s grease
  • Vinegar cleaning solution (as necessary)
  • Rag 
  • Towel 

Turn Off The Water

To kick things off, turn off the water supply. You might be able to turn off the water to the shower itself. If you can, there’s usually a control panel hidden in a closet in or near the bathroom. If not, you might have to turn off the main water shut-off valve. 

Once you turn off the water, drain the lines by turning on the shower and allowing it to run. Once the water stops flowing, turn the handle into the off position. Cover the shower or bathtub drain with a towel to catch any parts you might accidentally drop. 

Remove The Handle

Once the water is off, your next step is to remove the handle. Every shower handle is slightly different, so the steps might vary here. Generally, you need to remove the index button, which will expose a set screw in the middle of the handle. 

Use a flathead screwdriver to carefully pry the index button, then set it aside. This will expose a set screw, which you can remove with a Philips screwdriver. Now, you can remove the entire handle and the set screw by pulling the handle straight back. 

Remove The Trim And Sleeve

Shower and Bath Handle

You can remove the shower trim with the handle out of the way. Generally, there’s a screw near the base of the handle, which secures the plate to the wall. Unscrew the plate with a screwdriver, then set both parts aside. 

Now, remove the sleeve. This is a metal tube that protects the cartridge. Pull it out using your hands or with needle-nose pliers. If you use needle-nose pliers, be careful not to use too much pressure, or you might dent the sleeve. Set it aside. 

Remove The Clip

Next, remove the clip securing the cartridge in place. You’ll usually find the clip on the top side of the assembly, and there should be a raised portion that you can grab with your needle-nose pliers. Lift it out of place, then set it aside.

If there’s corrosion on the clip, use WD-40 to lubricate it and loosen it enough to remove it.  

Take Out The Cartridge

With the clip out of the way, you can remove the cartridge. Grasp the cartridge with pliers, then gently pull the cartridge out of the assembly. If you have a tough time removing it, there might be corrosion fixing it in place. 

If that’s the case, spray the area with WD-40 to try to loosen the cartridge. After a few minutes, try removing it again. In some cases, you might not be able to remove the cartridge. Don’t force it, as you could damage the pipes. You might need a special removal tool to take out the cartridge. If the cartridge doesn’t come out, call a plumber to remove it. 

If there’s mineral buildup inside where the cartridge sits, spray it out with a vinegar solution. Allow it to sit for a few minutes, then wipe out the residue with a clean rag. 

Lubricate The Cartridge

Moen 1222 One-Handle Posi-Temp Faucet Cartridge Replacement for Moen Tub Shower and Shower Only Configurations, Brass and Plastic

Now, you can replace the cartridge with the new one. Spread a thin coat of plumber’s lubricant over the cartridge to make removal easier next time. Slide the cartridge into place, then secure it with the clip. 

Note: If you don’t want to replace the cartridge altogether, you can try lubricating the old cartridge. If there’s visible damage, you’ll need to replace it, but if not, lubricant might do the trick. Lightly grease the cartridge, then reinsert it into place and replace the clip. 

Reassemble The Handle

Slide the sleeve back over the cartridge. Position the shower trim back into place, then secure it with the correct screws. Re-install the handle by sliding it into place and securing it with the right screw. Then, snap the faceplate back into place over the screw.

Turn On the Water And Check Your Handiwork

Once you’re done assembling the faucet handle, turn on the water supply. Test the water to ensure the hot and color are in the correct position. If they aren’t, you’ll need to rotate the cartridge to correct the issue. Follow the same steps to access the cartridge and turn it. 

If you decide to try lubricating the old cartridge, check for good function. Sometimes, the fix might not work, so you might have to replace the cartridge altogether.

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