How Long Do Shower Faucet Cartridges Last? (Solved!)

A shower faucet cartridge that is of good quality coupled up with treated water can last beyond 20years. If not, debris and mineral build-up will result in blockage, which will require frequent repairs to fix leaks. 

The more repairs, the more the cartridge will need to be replaced. This article explains what a shower faucet cartridge is, its functions, and when it is time to replace it, among others. 

Here is How long a Shower Faucet Cartridges last

A good-quality shower faucet cartridge will last as long as 20 to 30 years. With regular maintenance, it can serve you for the foreseeable future.

There are plenty of signs of a cartridge needing to be serviced or replaced. Among them is when you have a drip or running water after turning off the handle.

What Is A Shower Faucet Cartridge? 

In the components of a shower, a complete shower faucet is made up of the showerhead and shower faucet.

Therefore, a shower faucet cartridge is embedded in the shower faucet behind the faucet handle and is used to control the pressure of water that comes out of the showerhead and control water temperature according to one’s needs.

Shower faucet cartridges are mostly made from metal, such as brass, but some are made from plastic.

The cartridge has three holes behind it. Two of which are inputs for cold and hot water, and the third is the output that brings and guides in water from the households water pipes.

When you flip down the faucet handle to release the water down the showerhead, the cartridge enables the two inputs to gush out hot and cold water, mixing before cascading down the showerhead.

When you twist the handle for hot water, the input for cold water closes while the input for hot water opens up farther and vice versa.

Is A Shower Cartridge The Same As A Shower Valve?

Shower valves are shower fittings designed to control water flow, pressure, direction and regulate water temperatures during a shower.

There are two types of shower valves;

  1. Thermostatic shower valve
  2. Digital shower valves

The water in the bathroom is connected to water coming out of other outlets in the house, such as the toilet or the kitchen. 

For this reason, when a tap is opened in the kitchen or the toilet is flushed when someone else is taking a shower the pressure and/or temperatures of water spewing from the shower are altered.

In such a case, thermostatic shower valves automatically re-adjust the pressure and temperatures of the water. In contrast, manual shower valves let you scald in the suddenly hot spewing water or freeze because of the sudden drop in the warmth of the water.

On the other hand, a shower cartridge is a type of shower control system that works similarly to the shower valve but is embedded in the shower faucet.

Unlike other faucets that do not have a cartridge, faucets with cartridges work better and are more efficient as you have better control of pressure and temperatures.

When the handle of the faucet or tap is twisted to open the water, openings on the cartridge are opened, and water flows. 

But to control the pressure of water, the handle of the faucet and the cartridge work simultaneously to control the size of the water holes on the cartridge are opened and how much water or what temperature the shower will be.

Shower valves with single handles do not have cartridges, but modern valves with two handles do.

How Do I Know If My Shower Cartridge Is Bad?

The shower faucet cartridge performs two primary duties. Anything concerning the flow and pressure of water or the temperatures has a lot to do with the functionality of the cartridge.

If you notice any of the following changes, then it means your cartridge is faulty;

  • The handle of the faucet becomes stiff or challenging to open.
  • If the water temperatures in the shower do not conform to what you want, e.g. too hot, just warm, water does not heat up, etc.
  • If there is none, stop dripping water from the showerhead or the spout even when the faucet is closed. 

The o ring is mostly to blame when the cartridge fails, meaning it has worn out and needs to be replaced. The O rings act as a barrier or seal against which water cannot seep through.

Several scenarios may be the reason behind it;

  1. Because most cartridges are made of metal, they could easily rust, leading to stiffness. When water, metal, and air meet, rust is formed, which leads to metal corrosion, especially if they are not lubricated to prevent rusting.  
  1. Water that is not treated through softening has a lot of mineral debris flowing with it. Over time, this mineral gets deposited on parts of the faucet, such as the cartridge edges. They harden and cause the handle to get stuck and hard to open and close.
  1. Behind the cartridge are three holes that are controlled through the lever. Sometimes, the pressure of water coming in is uncontrollable and ends up damaging the cartridge.

Some scenarios are preventable while others are not, but to control your shower faucet and its components better, it is best to soften up the water to control debris.

This will save you the task of having to open up the entire faucet once in a while to do some cleaning and protect the cartridge and its components from frequent damages leading up to replacements.

When Do I Need To Replace My Shower Cartridge?

A shower faucet as a whole needs to be maintained to enable its parts to function well and for longer.

This includes dismantling the whole system for cleaning because hard water has debris and minerals elements that build up and cause blockage.

It also involves the oiling of the outer and internal parts of the shower faucet to facilitate easy movement of these parts that would otherwise rust away and get stuck.

Unfortunately, the more times you dismantle the whole shower faucet system, the more likely it is that some parts such as screws and nuts will lose the tightness of their threads, and water may start leaking.

In the shower faucet, the cartridge is the one that faces failures that require either replacing or repairing.

Lucky enough, most parts of the shower faucet are replaceable because it would not make sense to replace the whole faucet when a tiny part of it is faulty.

After frequently fixing and replacing parts of the cartridge, the problem still does not seem to get fixed. It means that the problem is with the cartridge, and it probably does not close tight anymore, resulting in leaks.

The problem with leaks is that it damages the walls of the bathroom and cause wastage of water.

When repairs to fix leaks work for short periods and revert to more damage, it means the problem is bigger than anticipated, and resorting to buying a new cartridge and replacing the old will do justice for the whole bathroom and your pockets.

This is because leaks are irritating and frustrating. 

How Much Does It Cost To Replace The Shower Cartridge?

When a shower cartridge is beyond repair and the only option is the replacement, buying a new cartridge that is not only of good quality but is also compatible with your shower faucet will cost you between $60-$70 depending on the model and the manufacturer.

Replacing a shower cartridge is not rocket science, but it can be a complicated affair, especially if you get the parts wrong.

If you are a hands-on kind of person, then you would prefer to replace the cartridge yourself and get a kicker out of the experience on top of saving the money that would otherwise pay the plumber for their services.

Plumbing services are generally expensive, and that is why replacing a shower faucet cartridge could cost you up to $240 clean money for a moderate task that would probably not take more than an hour.

Can A Shower Cartridge Be Repaired?

When a shower faucet has a problem, the first instinct is to repair it, while the last resort is to replace it.

Part of the problem that a shower cartridge faces is leakage of water fixed by replacing the smaller parts of the cartridge, such as the O rings that are completely ruined or damaged and allow water to seep through the spacing.

This happens when the cleaning of the shower apparatus takes place to get rid of dirt and debris that has clogged the valves causing blockage or leaking of water.

Over time, these parts wear off and call for replacement.

Aside from the plastic O rings, the shower cartridge is a solid shower control apparatus that is almost impossible to repair and can only be replaced after it has outdone its life length.

There are no videos or literature available on the internet about the repairing of a shower cartridge.

That tells you that it’s an impossible task and something that can’t be simply done.

Hopefully, the shower cartridge in place will last as long as possible, even more than the recommended 20years lifespan, to cover up for the many plastics rings replacements and maintenance.

Final Thoughts 

A shower faucet cartridge is a section of the shower faucet that moves to open or close water outlets and inlets located behind the shower faucet cartridge.

For this reason, the cartridge should be lubricated occasionally to avoid rust and corrosion and also to enable the shower faucet to work seamlessly without accidents and incidents.

Cartridges are expendable, but with proper maintenance and softening of the household water, they will last beyond 20years.