How to fix a tap handle that won’t turn on

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Last week I went to a townhouse where the hot water tap handle wouldn’t budge to turn the water on. The owner had rented out the townhouse and was wanting to get the tap fixed before the new tenant moved in.

The reason the tap handle wouldn’t turn was because the spindle (the inner valve of the tap handle, see picture below) was jammed in place. When it was taken out of the vanity basin, it was green in colour and had a bit of calcification. The tap was in a bathroom that rarely got used and I explained to the owner that this was partly why it jammed in place.

TAP SPINDLE Explained

Taps need to be in constant use to keep them from jamming. If they get used and then are left abandoned, the spindle calcifies from the old water and stays locked in the off position. It doesn’t always happen, but I have come across this on hot water taps where the cold water tap is used more frequently than the hot.

To try and salvage the spindle, I got dad to spray a bit of WD40 to see if it would budge. But it wouldn’t. The only way we could fix the tap was to replace the spindle. We ended up having to order the spindles in so that the same tap handles could be utilized to match the rest of the taps in the other bathrooms.

So if you have a few bathrooms in your house, occasionally turn on each of the taps if they don’t get used to avoid them jamming up. If you’re trying to save water, next time you need to wash your hands, do it under a tap that doesn’t get used very often. The key areas to check are stand alone toilet and basin areas or bathrooms that are downstairs if you have a two storey house.

If you want to know how to fix a tap handle that won’t turn on, call a licensed plumber to see if the tap can be salvaged. If it can’t, the plumber will replace the spindle for you.