What Causes the Whine When Water Faucets Are Turned Off & On?

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Noises from the faucet (other than the sound of water running) are never a good sign. If your faucet or water pipes are making a whining noise, you can be thankful they aren't making thumping noises. But if you don't do something to fix it, the whining could turn into thumping quickly. High pressure in the pipes is one reason for the noise, and if it stays high, whining can be a precursor to water hammer.

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Thankfully, the cause of whining is usually more benign. It's often due to a worn rubber seal in the faucet, which is easy to replace. However, if you have older plumbing or an older faucet, it may be time to think about replacing them instead.

Why is My Faucet Whining?

Something has to vibrate for a faucet to make a whining sound, and the vibration may be caused by a loose or worn rubber part. It happens when you turn the faucet on and off because, at these transitional times, there isn't enough water flow to — excuse the pun — dampen the vibration. This can also happen because the faucet valve is almost blocked by scale buildup. The small aperture restricts flow and causes some loose part in the faucet to vibrate.

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High water pressure can also cause vibrations, but these usually come from the pipes, not the faucet. The most common reason is that the pipes aren't properly clamped to the wall studs and can vibrate just enough to create a whistling sound. If the clamps were looser, the pipes would probably be banging.

If your faucet makes noise when turned off, suspect high water pressure. The whistling sound is created as water flows through the pipes to another fixture in use. If your faucet makes noise when turned off or on, the problem is probably in the faucet itself.

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How to Repair a Noisy Faucet

Sometimes the cause of the whining is simply a loose nut, and sometimes it's an internal part. In either case, you can fix it by shutting off the water and disassembling the faucet. We recommend removing the handle and uncovering the retaining nut that holds the valve in place. If you notice that it's slightly loose, all you have to do is tighten it. If not, unscrew the nut and pull out the valve.

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All faucets have rubber parts, but their locations and functions vary according to the type of faucet. If your faucet has two handles, look for worn washer on the base of the valve stems. If it has one handle, replace all the O-rings and gaskets you see. Ball-valve faucets have spring-loaded gaskets in the inlet holes, and they should also be replaced when they eventually wear out.

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Old Pipes and High Pressure

When you disassemble your faucet, you may see that the holes in the valve are partially blocked with scale, and you can easily fix this by soaking the valve overnight in vinegar. Brown sediment in the valve is a sign of rust in the pipes, though, so if you have galvanized pipes, it's time to have them inspected and possibly replaced.

If the water pipes squeal when the water is turned off, check the water pressure by attaching a meter to one of the faucets. If it's much higher than 50 to 60 psi, you need to turn it down. If you have a regulator, turn the nut clockwise to partially close it. If you have a well, turn down the pressure on the jet pump.

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