Leaks No More: How to Replace a Shower Cartridge in 8 Simple Steps

You might be surprised how many little parts are hiding behind your shower handle

Ben Kissam
Written by Ben Kissam
Updated March 23, 2022
Glass shower stall with white tile
Photo: Justin Paget / DigitalVision / Getty Images Plus


Perfect for handy homeowners.

Time to complete

2 hours



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What you'll need:


  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Cartridge puller tool or adjustable pliers
  • Allen wrench


  • Towel(s)
  • Optional: Silicone caulk or plumber's grease

Noticing a leak here and there when you're taking a shower may not seem like a big deal at first—a shower’s designed to handle wetness, after all—but it’s something you’ll want to investigate. A broken shower cartridge can cause rust and erosion behind your shower valve, and over time, prevent your shower nozzle from making water hot or cold.

Fortunately, as far as common shower problems go, this one's not too difficult to resolve and won't cost an arm and a leg. Learn how to replace a broken shower cartridge in this eight-step guide.

  1. Shut Off Your Water Supply

    Man shutting off main water valve
    Photo: Grigorev_Vladimir / iStock / Getty Images Plus

    You have two options for turning off your water before beginning the project, and your home's water setup will determine which to choose.

    In most cases, you'll want to shut off your water supply at the main valve. Some showers have individual valves stationed behind the shower handle that you can shut off, so shutting it off there is fine if your shower has one. 

    If you shut off the main valve, run the bathroom faucet for 30 to 60 seconds to relieve pressure and let the water in your pipes drain. Ask a plumber for help if this task feels out of your wheelhouse.

  2. Shut and Cover Your Bathtub Drain

    Hand pulling bathtub drain plug
    Photo: SpotX / iStock / Getty Images Plus

    It's best to shut your bathtub drain before starting. You can clog it with a towel or cover it with tape. This way, you won’t accidentally drop anything down there while working—an easy step with a huge potential payoff.

  3. Remove Your Shower Handle

    Plumber installing new shower handle
    Photo: yunava1 / Adobe Stock

    First, you'll need to remove the shower handle to see if the cartridge is the reason your shower is leaking. Use a flathead screwdriver to pry the plastic cap off the shower handle.

    Every handle is a little different. If it's not apparent by looking (i.e. a screw is attached to the handle), do an online search for the make and model of your handle with the term "removal” to find instructions for removing it.

    If your shower handle design is a single lever, you might need an Allen wrench to loosen the screw underneath and remove the handle.

  4. Remove the Escutcheon

    Plumber removing shower escutcheon
    Photo: yunava1 / Adobe Stock

    Next, you'll need to remove the escutcheon, the piece of metal (usually shaped like a ring or sphere) that covers the hole in your shower's wall. It’s typically attached to the wall with screws. Set it aside with all the screws for reinstallation later.

  5. Remove the Clip Underneath

    Behind the shower handle and flat metal plate, you should find a clip holding the shower cartridge in place. Again, different models will look different. Some are covered with a metal sleeve, while others are exposed. 

    Use a flathead screwdriver to unhook the clip holding the cartridge in place. Set it aside in a safe place.

  6. Use the Puller Tool to Remove the Old Shower Cartridge

    Closeup of an old shower cartridge
    Photo: asadykov / Adobe Stock

    Locate your shower cartridge pulling tool. If your model is older, you can simply remove it with pliers. Hook the puller tool onto the edges of the cartridge and slowly turn until it loosens.

    Note the position of the cartridge before you begin unscrewing it. You'll need the new shower cartridge to be in the same orientation to ensure hot and cold water comes out the same way when you turn the handle.

  7. Install the New Shower Cartridge

    In some cases, a shower cartridge's O-rings may simply have mineral deposits on them that cause them to leak. If you like, you can try removing these and reinstalling them before buying a new kit. A new shower cartridge costs around $50 and may come with a shower cartridge pulling tool.

    Otherwise, position the new shower cartridge into the vacant space. If your new shower cartridge comes with a model-specific tool for installation, use it. Make sure it's tight and in the same position as the old one was.

    Retrace the steps you've followed thus far: put the clip back on, re-install the escutcheon, and screw the shower handle back on. To protect your new investment, consider adding a bit of plumber's grease to prevent erosion over the surface of your new shower cartridge. A tube costs $2 to $5 at home improvement stores.

  8. Turn Water Back On, Then Test

    Hand holding shower handle to adjust temperature
    Photo: Moyo Studio / iStock / Getty Images Plus

    Once everything's back in place, turn the water valve back on and test your work. If there's still a leak, you may need to double-check that everything is tight.

    If you still notice leaks but are confident it's not the shower cartridge—for example, maybe you notice only a few beads of water running down, suggesting that a pipe is loose or maybe your shower is just old—you might choose to reinforce the edges of your escutcheon and valve with silicone caulk. Read the directions carefully and adhere to dry times before retesting.

DIY Shower Cartridge Replacement vs. Hiring a Pro

Replacing a shower cartridge DIY can be a bit of a challenge if you don't have plumbing experience. But doing so will definitely save money, as the parts to replace yours start around $50. Hiring a pro to replace your shower cartridge will cost, on the other hand, between $200 and $400 for parts and labor.

So long as you aren't fearful that you'll break the shower (and you won't if you follow the steps outlined above diligently), it's a perfectly acceptable DIY project. Challenge yourself!

Alternatively, if you're still having trouble but don't want to hire a plumber, consider asking a local handyperson for help getting your shower faucet problem(s) fixed. This might be a good way to save a few bucks as well.

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Get quotes from top-rated pros.