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What are the Best Tips for Fixing a Bathtub Drain Stopper?

By CW Deziel
Updated May 16, 2024
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When a tub won't hold water or drain properly signaling a fault with the bathtub drain stopper, the repair is usually straightforward. On many tubs, the stopper is connected to a rocker arm that is, in turn, connected to a handle on the end of the tub by an internal mechanism known as the linkage. Fixing a bathtub drain stopper is often a matter of removing this linkage and adjusting its length or replacing worn and/or damaged parts. In some cases, it may involve removing the stopper and repairing the rocker arm.

The linkage of a bathtub drain stopper is connected to the handle and can be accessed by unscrewing the handle plate and lifting the handle up and away from the tub. The linkage consists of a long U-bracket and a threaded adjustment rod with a weight attached to the end. When the mechanism is working correctly, lifting the handle lowers the weight onto the rocker arm to lift the stopper. If the drain doesn't open fully and the tub drains slowly, the problem can often be corrected by turning the nut on the adjustment rod to lengthen the linkage.

When the tub won't hold water because the bathtub drain stopper doesn't close fully, the problem is could be debris in the drain line or it could be a a corroded or broken spring in the rocker arm mechanism. The design of most stoppers allows them to be pulled out of the drain to make the necessary repairs. The spring on the rocker arm attached to the stopper should be inspected for corrosion and replaced if needed, and the drain should be thoroughly cleaned with a plumbing auger, or snake. The washer around the stopper may also be worn and need to be replaced.

If the design of the bathtub drain stopper does not include a handle, the stopper usually has a self-locking mechanism that keeps it down when pressed and a spring that pops it up when pressed a second time. This type of stopper won't hold water if the washer around the stopper is worn, and the tub won't drain if the spring is worn. If replacement of either becomes necessary, it is usually possible to unscrew and remove the stopper. Most hardware and plumbing supply stores carry a wide enough assortment of bathtub hardware that finding replacements for these essential bathtub parts is not usually a matter of great difficulty.

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Discussion Comments
By pastanaga — On Nov 26, 2011

@browncoat - I would also like to add that you should know what you're doing so you do know when to bring in the experts. I mean, you don't need them for a job like to unclog a bathtub drain or fixing a drain stopper, but you should learn to recognize when something serious is busted and when you need to turn to someone who makes a living from plumbing.

By knowing a bit about what you're doing, you'll be able to tell whether they know what they're doing as well.

By browncoat — On Nov 25, 2011

@KoiwiGal - While I agree that it is simple enough for people to do this kind of thing, like changing a drain stopper, it is a good idea for them to have a clear understanding of what's happening before they try it. Following step by step will work 90% of the time, but if you make a misstep and don't understand what you did wrong it can be very frustrating.

There are all kinds of household plumbing guides at the library, I think it's a good idea for everyone to go and make sure they have at least a rough idea of what goes on with their pipes.

But, don't be afraid to take what you know and fix the bathtub. You'll get quite a sense of pride when you manage it.

By KoiwiGal — On Nov 24, 2011

I've found that with many kinds of simple plumbing problems it's much easier to fix them than you might expect.

We have that kind of joke about the guy who tries to fix his own plumbing and ends up spraying water all over the place and all over himself until he agrees to bring in an expert.

I think a lot of people take from this joke that it's more complicated than an ordinary person can handle to fix a tub drain stopper or to change a washer on a dripping tap.

But I knew nothing at all about plumbing, and I just followed a step by step guide and managed it just fine. I don't think there's a lot you can really do to mess up the system if you are only looking at the taps or drains and not the pipes.

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