Perhaps you were doing some bathtub acrobatics (not recommended, but hey, to each their own). Or maybe your kids just showed up one day with the shower valve in hand, saying, “Oops.”
For whatever reason, you’re here because your shower cartridge is broken, and you need to fix it.
Most times, when you’re replacing a shower cartridge, you can follow a simple five-step process. First, shut off the water and remove the handle and faceplate over the valve.
Next, remove the retaining clip from the old cartridge, prying it out with a flathead screwdriver.
Third, note the direction/orientation of the old cartridge. That way, when you put in the new one, you can ensure it’s facing the right direction.
Fourth, you purchase and use a special cartridge-pulling wrench. This wrench screws onto the end of your old cartridge, and you just pull it straight out using the wrench.
Lastly, you insert the new cartridge into the faucet body.
But what if the stem in your cartridge is broken and you can’t use the special wrench? Sometimes, your old cartridge might break in such a way that you aren’t able to screw on the valve cartridge puller.
Well, you can still get the old stem and cartridge out. It may just take a bit more work. We’ll show you below a few handy ways we found for removing a Moen shower cartridge with a broken stem.
Removing Moen Shower Cartridge With Broken Stem
There are a variety of methods for removing broken valve cartridges. In some methods, you can just use a pair of pliers and pull the old cartridge straight out. In other methods, you have to attach a screw or bolt to the old cartridge, which you can then use to pull it out.
The first two steps are the same for each of the methods below. Step 1, turn the water off. Step 2, remove the retaining clip from the old cartridge.
Method 1: Pliers and Brute Force
Grab yourself a good pair of needle-nose pliers. You can try regular pliers, but they’ll likely be too thick to grab the small hole in the cartridge. Grab the cartridge with your pliers and pull it straight out. You may need to give it a few gentle wiggles to pry it loose, but if you can get a good enough grip, you should be able to pull out the cartridge.
We found at least one report of a homeowner who was successful with this method. However, this method may not work for everyone. Some people may be unable to grab the cartridge or generate enough force to pull the cartridge out. Those things can get wedged in there pretty tight, after all.
Method 2: A Drill and Brute Force
If you can’t grab the cartridge with pliers, you may have to create something else you can grab onto. If your old cartridge had a plastic casing, you could drill a screw or bolt into the plastic casing of the cartridge.
First, find a spare screw somewhere. It doesn’t need to be too big a screw. A #6 screw should do.
Next, drill a pilot hole with a drill bit. If you’re using a #6 screw, you can also use a #6 screw extractor to make the pilot hole. This is probably the best method, but not everyone has a screw extractor on hand. A regular drill bit will probably work. Be prepared for a semi-tough job. The plastic on your old cartridge may be thick and a bit of a challenge to drill.
Now, manually screw your screw into the pilot hole. Don’t use a drill. Screw it in by hand for a tighter grip, but don’t screw it in all the way. Leave enough of the screw out that you have something to grab.
Use your needle nose pliers to grab the screw and pull the cartridge straight out.
Method 3: A Drill and a Lever
Perhaps you’ve tried all the steps in Method 2 and still can’t pull it out. Or perhaps you just prefer a little ingenuity over brute force. In this method, you will use all the steps outlined in Method 2, except instead of grabbing the screw with pliers and pulling it out, you will use a hammer as a fulcrum and lever.
After you’ve screwed in your screw, grab a piece of wood and place it flat against your wall. The thickness of the wood should be about the same width as the distance your cartridge/valve comes out from the wall. The wood is used to protect your wall from any damage from your hammer.
With the wood placed against your wall, use the peen/claw of your hammer and lock it onto the screw head. Now, press the head of your hammer against the wood like a fulcrum. This will cause the claw to pull the screw out. Repeat this as needed to pull out the old cartridge.
If necessary, grab a second, thicker piece of wood to help compensate as the cartridge pulls out a bit.
This entire method is shown in a helpful video.
Method 4: Tap and Die Method
This method works well if your old cartridge is metal.
You can create a new core to slip inside your old cartridge, which you can pull out relatively easily. You will need to use a tap and die kit for this method. You need to put the tap inside the core of your old cartridge and turn it with a wrench. Usually, a ½-inch size thread will work.
As the thread/tap goes inside the cartridge, you will likely hear it squeak. This is good. It means the threads are working. So don’t worry if it starts to squeak.
Once you’ve screwed in the tap, you can unscrew it and take it out. The cartridge is now prepared to take a bolt.
Next, you need a bolt the same size as your thread—in this case, a ½-inch bolt. Make sure to use a nut and washer over the bolt. First, screw on the nut toward the bottom of the bolt and then place the washer. Place the bolt into the cartridge inside the center hole where you previously placed your tap.
Screw it in a bit, and then tighten your nut. From there, you can use your wrench to turn the bolt. If you keep doing this, the cartridge will slowly pull out from the wall.
The old cartridge may break further during this process. If so, that’s okay. Just repeat again from the beginning until the full cartridge is removed.
Here’s a video of the full method.
One Final Step
With all of the above methods, you may also want to take some steps to clean out the valve/pipes after you’ve removed the cartridge. You can do this with a vacuum, by running some water, and/or with a magnet. This will help remove any remaining broken pieces that may still be inside.
Now, you’re done. Just push in your new cartridge, test the water to ensure it’s working, and you’re finished. If the hot and cold water is reversed, you must rotate the cartridge 180 degrees. This will return the hot and cold back to normal.
Any of these methods will work to remove a shower carriage with a broken stem. So, choose the one that suits you best, and you’ll be on your way to enjoying a relaxing shower in no time!