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Geysers Toilet pans Toilet cisterns Tools Tips and tricks

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Bib taps, pillar taps, mixing taps, hose taps, stop cocks, all consist of three parts:
The handle, the head part  (consisting of the spindle, gland nut, gland, washer-plate, washer and washer nut) and the body.

Two types of head parts are available these days. The normal head part and a non-rising head part in deco taps.

Water dripping from the spout of the tap

Replace the washer:

Turn off the  water supply.

  1. Put the plug into the outlet of the bath, basin or sink to prevent small screws from falling down the drain.

  2. Remove the handle (except on brass taps or stopcocks). 
    Older taps with deco handles have a chrome edged insert screwed into the top of the handle. Remove this by unscrewing with waterpump pliers (protecting the chrome with a rag).

  3. Chrome cross handle taps have a grub screw on the side. Undo the screw and remove the handle.

  4. Unscrew the chrome shield with a wrench again protecting with a rag.

  5. Unscrew the brass head part.

  6. Undo the small nut at the bottom of the washer plate with a small spanner, holding the plate with a pair of pliers, and replace the washer. Make sure the washer is the same size as the washer plate. Do not over tighten the washer-plate nut.

  7. Fit a new fibre washer to the head part.

  8. Re-assemble the tap in reverse order making sure that the tap is fully open (turn the spindle anti-clockwise) when fitting the head part.

Non rising head parts

  1. Modern taps with deco handles have a small plastic insert in the top of the handle. Remove this with a small screwdriver and undo the screw in the top.

  2. Replace the tap washer as in 5 above.

  3. To replace the O-rings remove the circlip at the top of the spindle, withdraw the spindle, remove the old O-rings and refit new ones. It is a good idea to replace the O-rings every time you replace a washer.

Should the washer replacement not fix the leak it could be that the washer seat in the tap body is damaged. Inexpensive tap reseating tools can be bought from your local hardware store.  Some Eastern reseating tools are too short to reach South African ¾” tap seats. Be sure to buy one long enough to reach South African taps. Fit the correct size cutter to the reseater, remove the head part and push the cutter through the opening into the tap. Hold the cone part of the tool tight against the tap body and give a half turn right and a quarter turn back a few times to cut and polish the washer seat.

Water oozing from the top of the tap

Water supply does not have to be turned off.

Tighten gland nut or replace the gland.

Chrome taps

  1. Remove handle and shield.

  2. Temporarily refit handle.

  3. Gently tighten the gland nut while moving the tap handle to ensure you do not over tighten it

  4. If the nut has been turned fully home and water still oozes, replace the gland.

Brass taps

      Steps 3 and 4 of chrome taps.

Non-rising head parts

      Replace the O-rings.

Replacing the gland

Glands are made from carbonized paper and are very fragile. Do not squeeze them. They break easily!

Turn off the water supply.

Chrome taps

  1. Remove the handle, shield and head part and unscrew the gland nut from the head part.

  2. Unscrew the spindle from the head part.

  3. Carefully remove every particle of the old gland from the head part.

  4. Make sure that you have the correct size gland. Take the spindle along to your hardware store to ensure you buy the correct size.

  5. Replace the spindle and slide the new gland over the top.

  6. Replace the head part and gland nut.

  7. Turn on the water and gently tighten the gland nut while moving the spindle.

Brass taps

To remove the handle

  1. On some newer brass taps the handle is threaded onto the spindle and can simply be screwed off. These handles have a “square” appearance.

  2. Other brass handles are burred onto the spindle. File the burring at the top away until the handle can comfortably be extracted.

  3. Thereafter as for chrome taps.

  4. Re-burr the handle by gently tapping it with the round part of a ball-peen hammer.

Bath mixer taps with hand shower

As for chrome taps. Additionally the shower washer may have to be replaced.

Water supply does not have to be turned off.

Unscrew the shower diverter lever, extract the fitting and replace the O-ring and base washer (if fitted).

Sink mixer taps

As for chrome taps. Additionally there may be a drip from the swivel nozzle.

Water supply does not have to be turned off.

Unscrew the swivel at the base extract the nozzle and replace the two O-rings at the base.

Toilet cisterns
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Ball valves

Turn off the water supply.

Brass and some plastic ball valves

  1. Unscrew the cap at the front end of the valve.

  2. Remove the split pin holding the ball lever arm and push out the piston   with the arm or use a small screwdriver.

  3. Grip the washer end of the piston with a pair of pliers and insert a stout screwdriver in the slot to unscrew the two parts. On plastic ball valves the washer can simply be replaced by sliding it side ways out of the piston.

  4. Remove the washer from the washer cap and replace.

  5. Screw the two parts together and remove any burrs caused by the pliers or screwdriver with fine waterpaper or steel wool.

  6. Briefly turn on the water to flush any dirt.

  7. Insert the piston, washer end first, and reassemble.

  8. Should the cistern overfill bend the arm down slightly to lower the water level.

Plastic ball valves with diaphragm (Kleenflo valves)

  1. Withdraw the split pin and remove the ball lever arm.

  2. Unscrew the large plastic nut.

  3. Remove the inner collar containing the filter by sliding it out.

  4. Remove the old diaphragm and replace it with a new one. (The hollow side goes towards the ball float pin). Clean the filter.

  5. Replace the inner collar making sure that the filter’s point faces the washer. The inner collar can only fit one way. Replace the rubber washer and screw together.

Beta valves (the valve opening the cistern)

Turn off the water supply or place a short piece of wood across the top of the cistern and tie the ball valve arm to this to stop water entering the cistern.


  1. Remove the bent wire from the top of the dropper pin from the handle arm.

  2. Remove the split pin from the secondary float arm.

  3. Slightly tilting the dropper pin, lift it out of the valve body.

  4. Undo the bottom washer plate with a small spanner. Try not to disturb the top washer plate as this determines the depth to which the pin will fall and is probably set at optimal depth.

  5. Remove all vestiges of the old washer.

  6. Fit the new washer thick side up.

  7. Check the domed rubber on the secondary arm. If worn the valve will not stay open when flushed or will not close properly.

  8. Reassemble.


 Some plastic valves work the same as brass valves. If not

  1. Remove the valve stem from the handle arm.

  2. The dome of “Supa Flush” valves is removed with a slight anti-clockwise twist and lift action. Pull the old washer from the spindle and replace.
Toilet pans back to top

Leaks between the cistern and the toilet pan

High level, low level and semi-close coupled systems

Water supply does not have to be turned off.

Leak at bottom of the cistern

  1. Undo the nut holding the pipe at the bottom of the cistern.

  2. Replace large O-ring. If this is of the flat variety the thin end goes towards the cistern.

Leak at inlet of the pan.

  1. Loosen the nut holding the pipe at the cistern.

  2. Extract the pipe from the pan inlet.

  3. Remove the old plastic cone and replace. Warm the new cone in hot water to make it easier to fit. Slide the narrow end of the cone over the pipe and turn back the wider end of the cone. Push the pipe back into the hole and slip the wide end over the pan inlet. No other sealants are required as these cones are an extremely tight fit.

Close coupled systems

Turn off the water supply.

  1. Undo the flexible or copper connector from the ball valve.

  2. Undo the nuts at the bottom of the pan under the cistern. A 10 mm pipe or tube spanner is ideal.

  3. Loosen the cistern from the wall and lift away.

  4. Clean away the old rubber washer from the pan and cistern.

  5. Replace with a new washer. A plumb wax ring can also be modified to fit.

  6. Replace everything in reverse order making sure the washer or wax ring stay in place.

Leaks from the outlet of the pan.

Water supply does not have to be turned off.

  1. Remove the old rubber ring with a sharp knife.

  2. Cut a plumb wax ring in half and insert the one half into the bottom of the gap between the pan outlet and outlet pipe.

  3. Insert the other half into the top part of the gap.

  4. Make sure that the joints in the wax ring are at the sides of the pipe.

Leaks from a copper or flexible connector.

Turn off the water supply.

Replace the connector.

  1. Undo nuts at both sides of the connector.

  2. If you are replacing a copper connector with a flexible connector file the top of the nipple on the supply pipe flat before fitting the connector. Nipples often have very sharp edges which could damage the washer in the flexible connector.

  3. When fitting a new copper connector which needs bending, insert a pipe bending spring of the correct diameter to prevent the connector from pinching.
Pipes back to top

Galvanized pipe

Turn off the main water supply.

These sometimes start leaking at the joints. The ideal would be to replace the pipe but this will mean stripping the whole system from the last outlet or from any place a union was used. This is normally beyond the scope of the average DIY’er and a plumber will have to be called in.

You can, however repair the section of the leaking pipe in a rather inelegant and fairly expensive manner by cutting the pipe in two places a fair distance (not less than 50 cm) on each side of the leak and fitting a Johnstone coupling and a piece of pipe about 2 cm shorter than the length of the pipe removed. Johnstone couplings are fitted to pipes without threads. A coupling is pushed over the old pipe until the old pipe protrudes a few millimeters. The new pipe is then inserted in the gap and the coupling is moved over the new pipe till it is equally spaced over the old and new pipe. Tighten the nuts at both ends of the coupling.

A very temporary repair can be done by wrapping duct tape (sold in smaller quantities by hardware stores as Handy Repair Tape) around the leak. When using this tape make sure that the pipe is completely dry before applying the tape. As there is normally not enough space to pass the whole roll of tape around the pipe, unroll a small quantity of duct tape onto a pencil or around itself, sticky side out.  Now roll the bit you have cut off around the pipe whilst to stretching the tape as much as possible.

Plastic pipe

Turn off the main water supply.

A temporary repair can be done with duct tape (sold in smaller quantities by hardware stores as Handy Repair Tape). When using tape make sure that the pipe is completely dry.  For a permanent repair the leak must be cut out of the pipe. In the case of three bar pipe, nylon insert couplers with clamps should be used. Six bar pipe is joined with Plassim couplers. If the pipe is underground, dig it open for at least a metre on each side of the leak as these pipes have the tendency to “retract”. For comfortable working cut at least 50 cm on each side of the leak and replace with a piece of pipe 1 – 2 cm shorter than the original piece.
For plastic pipes up to  25 mm diameter it is a good idea to use Full Flow fittings to join the pipe.

Geysers back to top

Geysers are fitted with supply and pressure relieve valves. Some are fitted with 100 Kpa Latco valves, some with Feenix valves of varying pressures and some are supplied by Masterflo valves.  Should the relieve valve at the top of the geyser leak it does not necessarily mean that the relieve valve has stopped working. It is more likely that the supply valve has stopped operating properly. In either event both supply and relieve valves have to be replaced at the same time with the exact same type. Feenix valves are colour coded. To show pressure ratings. Make sure you get the same colour you had and that both supply and relieve valves have the same colour. Plastic geyser valves can NOT be serviced.

Turn off the water supply.

Drain the geyser by fitting a piece of 15 mm garden hose to the drain outlet and open the outlet with a small spanner. Take care not to unscrew the drain plug completely.

Latco valves

The black portion of the “Flying Saucer” shaped Latco valve goes towards the geyser. you will need plumber’s tape to seal the joints.

Feenix valves

 It is not always necessary to remove the valve completely from the supply pipes if the original plastic nuts are not damaged or cracked. Simply undo the plastic nuts and fit the new valve.

Masterflo valves

These are fitted in the main water supply pipe to the building to keep the whole building's water pressure constant.

 Turn off the water supply.

Undo the cartridge at the side of the valve. A leak may sometimes be caused by dirt in the sieve around the cartridge. Do not attempt to take the cartridge apart but try rinsing it in clean water (if you do not have clean  water handy you will have to put back the dirty cartridge, turn on the water supply and get yourself a bucket of water then start again at the beginning). If, after cleaning the sieve, the valve still leaks the cartridge has to be replaced, Do NOT attempt to adjust the tension settings of the spring or force foreign objects, such as coins, into the valve, This can have the disastrous result of a burst geyser,

Should the valve still leak the diaphragm will need replacing. At the top of the valve is a nut about 6cm in diameter. Undo this nut, remove the old diaphragm, make sure there is no dirt in the seating, and replace with a new diaphragm.

Tools mentioned on this page
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  1. Gas or waterpump pliers
  2. Small (3 mm) screwdriver
  3. Combination pliers
  4. Pipe wrench
  5. Adjustable wrench
  6. Tap reseating tool
  7. Bending spring
  8. 10 mm Pipe or tube spanner
. (See Plumbers tools)

Tips and tricks back to top

Roll plumber’s tape on the threaded pipe clockwise as you face the opening of the pipe. Pretend that the tape has a “sticky” side and that this sticky side is at the top of the tape thus unrolling the tape anti-clockwise.

If a tap or gate-valve is out of reach, behind bushes or deep into the ground, weld a piece of 6 mm round bar on each side of a 30 mm flat bar to protrude about 2 cm beyond the end of the flat bar. The two prongs can now be inserted into the holes of the gate-valve wheel or on each side of the tap handle and the bar can be turned with an adjustable spanner or you could weld another piece of metal across the top to act as a handle. Alternatively weld the two pieces of round bar diagonally opposite each other onto 22 mm galvanized water pipe (See: How to weld). A galvanized Tee screwed to the other end will give a hole to insert a stout piece of round bar to act as a handle.

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