How to Identify My Shower Faucet Cartridge

Some like it hot, some like it cold. But if you prefer your showers a blend of hot and cold water, you'll absolutely need a shower faucet cartridge. A shower faucet cartridge is an essential part of your faucet because it controls the mix of hot and cold water coming out. Having a working shower faucet cartridge means you can avoid showering in scalding or icy water, and you can adjust the temperature to suit your preferences. Of course, a new shower faucet comes with a working cartridge, but after a while, you'll have to change it. The key to replacing a cartridge is to buy the right model, so shower cartridge identification is a vital step in the process.

Hand turning water faucet in shower, close-up
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How to Identify My Shower Faucet Cartridge

What Is a Cartridge Faucet?

Everybody knows that the purpose of bathroom faucets is to turn the water on in the shower or sink. Although you'll find many variations on a theme out there, there are only a few basic shower valve cartridge types.

The original style was called a compression faucet and had two handles: One for hot water and one for cold. Each faucet has a valve regulating water flow and an onboard washer to create a pressure seal.

The washers are eliminated in cartridge faucets, also called "washerless faucets." Instead, this system uses a faucet stem cartridge to regulate water flow. Some cartridge faucets have one handle, used to regular both volume (up and down) and temperature (side to side). Others have two handles and look like compression faucets. The cartridge faucet was billed as an improvement over the original, old-style faucets.

Finding a Brand or Identification Number

Most people know the brand of car they drive and whether their computer is made by Dell or Apple, but few can tell you off the top of their heads the brand of their shower faucet. It's critical to figure out the brand when you need to replace a cartridge because every brand now makes its own unique replacement parts. You can't use one company's parts for another brand's products. A stamped brand is a sure-fire shower valve cartridge identifier.

The major faucet brands include Delta, Price Pfister, Danco, Kohler, American Standard and Peerless. If your faucet is one of the big brands, it may well be stamped with a mark identifying it. Easiest of all is when it says the brand name right on the faucet face. But you should also look at the bottom of the faucet, on the handles or on the round plate behind the handles. If you find a brand name, go to the manufacturer's website and call the contact number for assistance.

Faucet Cartridge Identification and Removal

If you see no brand name anywhere, you'll need to remove the shower cartridge. Before you take it out, remember to turn off water to the shower. If you don't know how to shut off the water valves to the shower, just close the water valve to your entire house. This is often located behind the hot water heater, but you can also use a curb key and shut it down in front of the house.

To take the shower cartridge out, loosen the screws – often located on the side of the handle – with an Allen wrench. If you can't find any visible screws, remove the handle cover to find them. Once the screw is loosened up, remove the handle. It will be held in by either a bonnet cap or a cartridge clip. If it is the former, just turn it left to remove it. Cartridge clips must be pried off. Keep removing any other pieces holding the cartridge until you can slide it out.

At this point, your best bet is to carry the cartridge to the hardware store to get help with shower cartridge identification. Plumbing shops and home improvement centers usually have books that the clerks use to identify faucets. And many employees will have a working knowledge of brands.