Why You Need Locking Pliers For Fixing Plumbing Issues

The other day I visited my grandma and she couldn’t hide her distress from a plumbing problem she was experiencing in her old house. The European-style Pegler bib tap in her kitchen sink was starting to give up and could not close properly. And when it did, it was after turning the valve gently many times to find the sweet spot.

If you turned the spindle quickly, it skipped the threads and could not shut off the water. This wasn’t easy for her. Another problem I noticed was that when the spigot was open, some water leaked through the top. This indicated that the packing washer was not sealing properly. In short, the entire valve stem was due for replacement.

It wasn’t my first time fixing a leaking faucet. It is only that the last time I fixed a faucet it was an American water spigot for outside, which is somewhat similar to the European bib tap.

As is the norm, I don’t go without a nice pair of pliers because I know they can be a lifesaver. If I am not carrying trusty 5-inch cobra water pump pliers in the pliers holster then you will find a pair of needle nose locking pliers. These are among my favorite and most versatile EDC pliers that I use to fix things around.

On this particular day, I had stashed the 6-inch curved locking pliers in my CLC leather belt pliers sheath. This is how I prefer to carry edc pliers. So, after inspecting the bib tap, I established that the valve was worn and needed replacement. I rushed to the local hardware store and got a replacement tap. Same size and the same brass style.

Signs Of A Worn Out Bib Tap Valve?

leaking water spigot

Different parts of a spigot can fail but the main culprits are usually the valve stem washer and the packing washer. You can tell when the stem valve washer is worn and needs replacement if water continues to drip from the spout with the tap closed. And when water gushes from the top of the faucet, you know that the packing washer is not sealing properly or the packing nut is loose.

In some cases, a bad spigot valve stem may not close at all and some people try to use a rubber band to keep the valve stem from popping up. This often does not work well and even though it prevents excessive leakage, you will have to live with water dripping constantly from the spout or being unable to control the water flow rate.

How To Fix A Leaking Bib Tap With Locking Pliers?

removing bib tap with locking pliers

It is very easy to fix a spigot that won’t shut off. You only need a reliable gripping tool to remove the valve stem assembly or the entire faucet. Sometimes you may also need a screwdriver to unscrew the valve if you just want to replace the stem washer.

Generally, an adjustable spanner or Stillson wrench is what you would need to remove a faucet. But there are some pliers that offer a better grip and more versatility. In my case, I used locking pliers a.k.a mole wrench pliers.

Locking pliers provide the firmest grip, allowing you to use all your hand strength to turn a workpiece. This is how I utilized the pliers to fix the leaking spigot in my granny’s kitchen.

Step 1: Turn off the main water supply valve or gate valve.

Usually, you can find the main water supply valve outside the house or in the basement. But if you don’t want to spend a lot of time looking around, it won’t hurt to ask. In my case, I had to ask because I wasn’t familiar with the plumbing of the old house.

Step 2: Open the tap to drain water from the supply line.

To avoid getting wet, just open the tap to drain off the water trapped in the line after closing the main supply valve.

Step 3: Clamp the valve stem with locking pliers firmly.

Just turn the adjustment screw on the pliers until you get a tight grip on the workpiece. You should feel the pliers click into place to lock.

Step 4: Remove the valve stem.

Use the pliers to turn the valve stem counterclockwise to break it loose. Sometimes it can be too tight so you need good hand strength.

Step 5: Install the new valve stem.

Replace the valve stem only when the threads on the old spigot are in good condition. You can buy a new spigot valve stem in a few hardware stores but most stores sell the whole bib tap.

If you are lucky to get the valve stem, that is what you will need to install. Just make sure it is the right size. Otherwise, if you purchase the entire bib faucet, you will need to disassemble it to remove the valve stem that you will install on the old tap.

But if the threads on the old tap are worn out, just replace the entire faucet. To do so, you might need a stronger tool such as water pump pliers or bigger locking pliers, and a few supplies including thread tape.

Wrap Up

Well, that is how locking pliers can make you a hero to the people you care about. You can use the pliers to fix small plumbing issues in and outside the house including fixing a water spigot that will not turn off. And now you know why you should get yourself a pair of these clamping pliers if not a whole set!

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Julio a.k.a Pliersman is the owner and creator of the Pliersman Website. A blog that informs and educates you about different types of pliers and their uses. Julio is a handy person and has used a variety of pliers including general-purpose and specialty pliers to accomplish tasks. He holds an electrical engineering degree and has previously worked as an O&M manager for minigrids where his love story with pliers and other tools began.