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I have a dripping shower/bath mixer tap (read "running hot water and rapidly getting worse") which I need to fix. I have found the water switch off valves for the apartment, but I cannot close them fully - the apartment is ~45 years old and the whole building is due to have the pipe system changed in the fall so it's probably quite an old valve. There is quite a lot of calcium deposit around the taps so hard water may be a factor.

Here is the valve in the open state:

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Here is the valve, as far as I can get it:

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How can I get it to close fully? What should (and shouldn't) I do? I'm concerned about applying too much force such that the handle or valve gets damaged and I'd be left stuck without water - is this a risk, and how can I best apply enough force to close the valve while minimising the risk of damage? E.g. is there a way to grip the handle properly? Should I also grip the pipes around to ensure they aren't put under force?

The black tap handle is actually removable, it just pulls of, and reveals that it is just a glorified hex-key. Could I just use a longer hex key to provide better leverage or is there a problem in applying too much force?

I've seen also suggestions of the following too, are they good or bad ideas?

  • tap gently with a hammer as I turn the tap
  • use spray oil (e.g. WD40) and let that soak in
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How can I get it to close fully?

The plastic handle is expendable. It will break long before the valve spindle. This is good. I would use an indelible pen (sharpie) to mark the maximum angle it turns, then wiggle it back and forth vigorously a few hundred times and see if it is improving. If so - continue, if not - stop.

The black tap handle is actually removable, it just pulls of, and reveals that it is just a glorified hex-key. Could I just use a longer hex key to provide better leverage

I would try that. but I wouldn't extend the leverage very far.

or is there a problem in applying too much force?

Most ball valves seem to be pretty robust but I'm sure you could destroy one (or the surrounding pipework) with a 6-foot lever.

Should I also grip the pipes around to ensure they aren't put under force?

Yes. I would try to do that when you start to apply greater forces than normal. Maybe it is possible to firmly clamp the valve body to a strong length of wood or steel and hold that when applying leverage to the valve handle (or hex key)

tap gently with a hammer as I turn the tap

Worth trying even if there is a 1:100 chance of having any effect.

use spray oil (e.g. WD40) and let that soak in

I can't imagine that would help, but again, it is a cheap and easy option to try, and less likely to cause damage than the other ideas you listed. So if you have lots of time, this is one to try first.

enter image description here

If all fails, I would rent or buy a pipe-freezer and just replace the valve. You need a plan B immediately ready to hand in case this goes badly wrong. My plan B would be to turn off the water to the building using the valve in the street but that option might not be available to you.

  • Thanks - a combination of repeated opening and closing with a hex key, WD40 and some light knocking got it. Now I just have to get the cold water ball valve unstuck as well but it seems more stubborn! – rg255 May 25 '16 at 14:58

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