Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Using the Scientific Method to Fix A Leaking Faucet

Stating the Problem:
My wife noticed a noise in the bathroom which reminded her of the way it sounds when the outside water faucet is running. So, she asked me if I had heard it and I lovingly replied--HUH? WHAT NOISE!!! I had my iPod on listening to Adam Curry's podcast and at the same time watching Steve Job's Keynote at WWDC. I put everything on pause and ran to listen to the noise in the bathroom. I just knew it had to be something major. We just replaced the toilet in that same bathroom. I thought the toilet was making a noise so I instinctively wiggled the handle. The mysterious noise continued. So, my wife walked outside and turned the water on and off. It still made a faint sound. What was causing the sound? How can I stop it?

Researching the Problem:
After unsuccessfully Googling the topic, I decided to travel to Chadbourn's hardware, we do not have a Lowes or Home Depot within a 30 mile radius. That is not a bad thing. The clerks at the hardware usually are knowledgeable on how to fix stuff.
During my hardware store visit, the clerks were very busy helping local contractors and others doing their "research in to how to fix stuff." So, I walked to the isle with outdoor looking faucet in the shelf bins. I looked at the way they are built and noticed that one of them had a washer near a hole I looked into. The value on my fixture had to be similar to that one. However, a clerk walking by said, "ya ain't going to be able to repair them things." Hum, expert advice? I recorded this bit of information in my memory for future reference. I ran into a local guy, Johnny in the hardware. He is a truck driver/Chevy motor mechanic/mobile home installer/jack of all trades kind of guy. Johnny pulled me home one hot evening with his truck when my 1978 Blazer died on me along a busy four lane highway (US 74-76). I have always thought he was a Saint for helping me out. Anyway, back to my experiment...oh yeah, Johnny told me to go out to the over-pass this guy that lives in the second house on the left could sweat another fixture on that copper line in no time. Johnny told me his name was Earl something or other. I then created my first hypothesis.

If the water faucet is standard in its design (like the ones in the hardware store), over 20 years old, and used regularly, then its gasket or bushing must be worn out. So, I went home to experiment.

Testing My Hypothesis
Equipment List:
Phillips head screw driver, digital camera, and an adjustable wrench.
Procedure: I first turned off the water at the road. Used the adjustable wrench as shown in this image, I rotated the fixtures valve counter-clockwise to loosen it. I noticed some water spraying from the valve but it stopped in a second. Lifting the valve from the faucet, and inverting it, I immediately noticed that the gasket was significantly deteriorated. We call that worn out as Hell. The next step was to drive back to the hardware. Chadbourn once had a couple of hardware stores, and I stopped at the one that had just changed from a hardware store to a...I guess you might call it a Propane Gas dealer/gas station. I have no idea what to call it, but the still have some odds and end hardware merchandise. It is closer to my house and on the way to the hardware store. I asked the clerk working at the Propane dealership if they had a faucet gasket like this one...And I handed him the valve that I had removed. Without looking he said: "Naw, we ain't got d'at here". I looked on the old hardware shelf and found a brand new faucet like the one I had and showed it to the clerk. "Oh", he exclaimed without looking any further, "we don't know what is over there." I politely backed out of their store, and headed to the real hardware. With hopes of finding a clerk that could help me solve my problem.
Data note photos
After walking around in the hardware and finding the gaskets, I like looking around at all the fittings and hooks and things I have no idea what they are for. I carried my little gasket to the check out counter. The clerk had to go back to the shelf and get a number to enter into the store's computerized inventory database. Man, the screen flashed, and he flipped through four or five screens and finally he just said that will be $1.67. I did not want to be rude, he just works there. I just smiled and paid him. It does no good to complain. I could not have driven 60 miles round trip to Lowes. If I had, those big chains sell washers in a package with 3 or 4 washers.

It was the valve, it cost me all morning and two trips to the hardware and $1.67 for a pennies worth of neoprene. But, I fixed my leak without having to call in a plumber... Got lucky on this one!
This is going in my book....

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