Shower diverter valve types control whether water comes out of the tub spout or out of the showerhead. The diverter valve is connected to a rod on the tub spout, to a handle on the shower wall or to a button located below the shower handle. All styles can become ineffective over time, resulting in water that won't come out of the showerhead or that drips out of the tub spout and/or showerhead.
Fixing shower diverter valve problems can help you once again enjoy a shower with full water pressure. Fortunately, it's relatively easy to remove and replace shower diverter valves.
Why Shower Diverter Valves Fail
A common type of shower diverter valve attaches to a rod on the tub spout and may also be called a "liftgate." They are composed of three pieces: a plastic gate that physically blocks the water's exit, a rubber gasket that tightly seals the exit pipe and prevents leaks and the rod that enables the user to move the gate and gasket into the desired position. When rod-type diverter valves fail, it's often because the rubber gasket has dried out and cracked or crumbled.
Common Shower Diverter Valve Problems
Three common shower problems can be traced back to a faulty liftgate diverter. First, if the valve is engaged but water continues to come out of the tub spout only, the gate is severely damaged or has fallen out completely.
Second, if the valve is engaged but the showerhead experiences low water pressure and water continues to drip from the spout, the gasket has failed or is starting to fail.
Finally, if water is dripping out of the showerhead even when the diverter valve is not engaged, the gate could have slipped out of position and be partially blocking the water pipe.
Replacing a Rod-Type Diverter Valve
For best results, look for a diverter replacement kit from the same brand that manufactured your tub spout. You'll receive a new plastic liftgate, gasket and rod. The gasket fits inside or around a "cup" on one side of the plastic gate, and the rod clips into a bracket on the other side. Not all plastic gates have the same shape, which is why it's important to find one that matches your particular tub spout.
Another way to fix problems with these diverters is to purchase a new rubber gasket only since the rod and plastic gate are likely still intact. Take the old one, if possible, to a local hardware store to ensure you get the correct size and shape to fit the plastic liftgate.
To remove the old gate and rod, place a flat screwdriver inside the end of the tub spout and on top of the plastic clip holding the gate to the rod. Push down on this clip. It can help to have an assistant simultaneously pull up on the rod until the two pieces come apart. The tub spout can also be removed to make it easier to see what you're doing.
Replacing Other Shower Diverter Types
Some brands, like Delta, make push-button diverters. These simply thread into place inside a pipe, but you'll typically need to take off the faucet handle and escutcheon plate before you can remove the diverter. Be sure to turn the water supply off before removing this type of diverter.
Finally, some diverters are integrated into the shower cartridge, so the same handle that controls the hot and cold water intake also controls whether the water comes out of the tub spout or the showerhead. Or a third handle exists solely to divert the water. Replace the entire cartridge inside the faucet to restore your shower diverter.