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Finding & Fixing Leaks
Water Meter FaceWater Meters and Leak Detection
Your water meter is the first place to check for leaks on your property. It keeps track of how much water passes through it, and the readings determine the amount that you are billed for water usage. Your water meter can also be a valuable tool in determining whether or not you have any leaks.

In Rio Rancho, most water meters are located in the front yard. In the older subdivisions, the meter is under a round, plastic or metal lid. In the newer subdivisions, the meter is under a rectangular, gray fiberglass lid and you might share this meter box with your neighbor. Be careful when opening the lid to the meter because 1) there may be wires attached to the antenna, and 2) spiders or snakes may be residing in the meter can. Rio Rancho meters read in gallons of water and they resemble a car odometer. There is a flow indicator, also called a leak indicator, on the meter’s face. On older models the low/leak indicator looks like a triangle. On newer models the leak indicator looks like an asterisk (*).

To use your water meter as a leak detector, just follow these easy steps:
  1. Turn off all water-using appliances, including your automatic ice maker and evaporative cooler.
  2. Look to see if the flow/leak indica­tor is turning. If it is spinning, you have a leak.
  3. If the flow indicator is not turning, record the reading on the water meter.
  4. Wait thirty (30) minutes.
  5. Record the new reading on your water meter. If the reading has changed, you have a leak.

NOTE: The water meter is the property of the City of Rio Rancho. If your water meter is leaking or if you suspect that the meter is not functioning properly, please call 891-5020

Locating and Fixing Toilet Leaks
Is your Toilet Leaking? Give it the Dye Test
Even the new high-efficiency toi­lets can be water wasters. A leaky flapper valve or an improperly set water level in the tank can cause significant water leakage. And not every “running” toilet makes noise. Even though you might think your toilet isn’t leaking, there is one sure fire way to find out. Lift the lid off the toilet tank and put 10-15 drops of dark-colored food dye into the tank. If you don’t have food dye, you can pick up toilet dye tablets at City Hall on the second floor. After 15 minutes, check the color in the toilet bowl. If there is any sign of the dye color, your toilet is leaking. If the water level looks fine but the dye test shows that the toilet leaks, the two most common culprits are the valve seat, which may need to be cleaned, and the flapper (or tank ball), which may need to be adjust­ed, cleaned or replaced.

Adjust the flapper (tank ball)
  • Check to see if the flapper is fitting property on the valve seat.
  • Turn off the water at the shutoff valve located just underneath the toilet tank (turn the valve clockwise until it stops). Then flush the toilet to drain the tank. See if the flapper/tank ball falls straight onto the flush valve opening.
  • Adjust the flapper by loosening the thumbscrew that fastens the guide arm to the overflow pipe.
  • Reposition the arm and the lift wire so that the tank ball is right above the flush valve (or adjust the flapper so that it will fall directly onto the valve seat).

Clean the flapper and valve seat
If the flapper (or tank ball) is sitting correctly in the valve seat but water is still leaking into the bowl, the problem may be a build-up of mineral deposits on the flapper and/or valve seat.
  • Turn off the water at the shutoff valve located just underneath the toilet tank (turn the valve clockwise until it stops). Then flush the toilet to drain the tank.
  • Clean the valve seat and the flapper with fine steel wool or a plastic cleansing pad to make sure they are both smooth and free of mineral deposits.
  • Turn on the water shutoff valve and conduct the dye test again to check for leaks.

Replace the flapper (tank ball)
If you’ve checked to make sure that flapper (tank ball) is correctly positioned in the valve seat and both parts are clean but you still have a leak, your flapper is probably worn out. A worn flapper won’t seal properly. To replace the flapper:
  • Turn off the water at the shutoff valve located just underneath the toilet tank (turn the valve clockwise until it stops). Then flush the toilet to drain the tank.
  • Remove your old flapper and take it with you to the hardware or plumbing store so you can by a replacement.
  • Before installing the new flapper, clean the valve seat with fine steel wool or a plastic cleansing pad to make sure it is smooth.
  • Install the new flapper. Then run the dye test again to make sure you have fixed the leak.

Note: Make sure your replacement flapper matches the model and water-use requirements of your existing flapper. Not all generic flappers work equally well. Some toilets rely on a specific flapper to create the low-flow flush.

If the toilet STILL leaks:

If none of the listed procedures has fixed the leak, or the toilet is making a high whine or whistle sound when the tank is filling up, consider replacing the ball cock, the mechanism that controls the flow of water into the toilet tank. Replacement ball cocks are sold at hardware, plumbing, and home improvement stores. See our next newsletter for instruction on replacing the ball cock.

toilet cut awayReplacing the Ball Cock
Although it is possible to replace an older ball cock with a new one, consider replacing it with a new float cup valve, which many plumbers prefer because it is less prone to leaking.
  • Turn off the water shutoff valve and flush the toilet to drain the tank.
  • Disconnect the water supply tube from the bottom of the tank.
  • Remove the float arm from the ball cock.
  • Remove the refill tube from the top of the ball cock.
  • Loosen the nut under the tank that holds the ball cock into place. If the ball cock turns when you try to loosen the nut, hold the ball cock with one hand while loosening the nut under the tank with your other hand. Once the nut is removed, lift the ball cock out of the tank.
  • Install a new float cup valve into the tank and tighten the nut on the underside of the tank.
  • Attach the refill tube to the float cup and to the overflow tube.
  • Reconnect the water supply tube and turn on the water supply.
  • Adjust the float cup until the water level is about 1/2 inch below the top of the overflow tube. To adjust the water level, simply pinch the spring clip on the side of the cup and move the cup higher (to raise the water level) or lower (to lower the water level.)

If none of the above procedures works, call a professional plumber!

Faucets
A leaky faucet is a common household water waster.  A steady drip at the rate of one drop per second wastes 192 gallons of water in a month!

The first step in fixing a leaky faucet is to identify the faucet type.  Faucets are divided into two basic types: compression faucets and washerless faucets.

Compression faucets, sometimes called stem faucets, always have two handles, one for hot water and one for cold water.  When the handle is turned on, the stem rotates.  The threads cause the stem to rise, moving a rubber washer away from the faucet seat and allowing water to flow.  Then turning the faucet off, you can sometimes feel the rubber washer being squeezed against the faucet seat to stop the flow of water.

Washerless faucets typically have just one handle that controls both the hot and the cold water.  They are known for providing years of trouble-free service because their design minimizes friction and wear.  There are three main types of washerless faucets:
  • A ball faucet has a single handle over a dome-shaped cap.
  • A cartridge faucet has a narrow plastic or metal cartridge inside the faucet body.  Most cartridge faucets are single-handle model, but some two-handled faucets use cartridge designs.
  • A disk faucet has a single handle and a wide cylinder inside the faucet body.

Helpful Tips
  • Turn off the water before you start any faucet repair.  The shutoff valves for indoor faucets are underneath the sink.  Turn the left knob clockwise to shut off the hot water; turn the right knob clockwise to shut off the cold water.
  • Before disassembling a faucet, cover the sink with a towel to protect it from dropped tools and to prevent small parts from going down the drain.
  • When dismantling parts, line them up in the order and orientation in which they were removed to make it easier to properly reassemble the pieces.
  • When using metal tools on a polished surface, protect the polished surface with a rag or several layers of masking tape.
  • Take the old parts with you when you go to a plumbing or hardware store to buy replacement parts.  This will help ensure that you get the right parts for the job.
  • Most faucet repair kits come with good instructions.  Follow them!

Fixing a Compression Faucet
To fix a leaking compression faucet, first determine whether it is a hot water leak or a cold water leak.  If you cannot tell from the temperature of the dripping water, turn off the hot water supply valve under the sink.  If the drip stops, it is the hot water stem that is leaking.  If the drip continues, the culprit is the cold water faucet.
  • Remove the handle screw.  (It may be hidden under a decorative cap or behind the handle.)  Remove the handle.
  • Unscrew the retaining (packing) nut.
  • Remove the stem by either jiggling it from the valve seat of unscrewing it counterclockwise with a wrench.
  • To replace the washer on a standard stem, remove the seat screw at the bottom of the stem and pry out the old washer with a screwdriver.  Install a new washer.
  • For some compression faucets, you will also need to replace the packing washer or packing string, which prevents water from leaking at the faucet handle.
  • Check the valve seat (the metal that the washer seals on) for damage by running your finger along the rim of the sear.  If is it pitted and not completely smooth, remove the valve seat using a seat wrench and install a new valve sear.
  • Reassemble the parts.

Fixing a Ball Faucet
  • With an Allen wrench, loosen the setscrew at the base of the handle. Remove the handle.
  • Underneath the handle you’ll find a protective cap with an adjusting ring. Sometimes a dripping ball faucet can be fixed by tightening this ring. Turn it clockwise gently.
  • If tightening the ring doesn’t stop the leak, close both shutoff valves beneath the sink.
  • Unscrew and lift off the cap, plastic cam, cam gasket, and rotating ball.
  • Rubber faucet seats are held against the bottom of the ball by small springs. Using the point of the screwdriver or a pair of needle-nose pliers, gently remove the two seats and springs. Remove any loose debris.
  • Install new seats and springs from a repair kit. (Follow the instructions provided in the repair kit.) Also, lift the spout and replace the two O-rings. (Apply a light coating of petroleum jelly or valve grease to the new O-rings before installing them.)
  • Reassemble the faucet and tighten the adjusting ring enough to prevent leaks without making the handle difficult to operate.

Fixing a Cartridge Faucet
  • Shut off both water supply valves underneath the sink.
  • Remove the decorative cap (if any) and remove the handle screw. Remove the handle.
  • Unscrew the retainer nut.
  • Some models have a U-shaped clip that holds in the cartridge. Use needle-nose pliers or the tip of a screwdriver to remove the clip.
  • The cartridge fits tightly in the faucet body. Remove the cartridge by pulling up on it firmly with a pair of pliers.
  • Replaced damaged O-rings and lubricate the new ones with petroleum jelly or valve grease. If the cartridge is worn or damaged, replace it with an identical part. (Cartridge repair kits typically contain a new cartridge, new O-rings and grease.)
  • Install the new cartridge, making sure that the notch in the stem faces the sink.
  • Reattach the U-clip, retainer nut, handle, and handle screw and decorative cap.

Fixing a disk Faucet
  • Shut off both water supply valves underneath the sink.
  • Remove the setscrew from the handle. Lift off the handle and remove the body cover (escutcheon cap).
  • Remove the disk assembly as a unit by unscrewing the mounting screws. Pull the disk out.
  • Turn the disk over and remove any dirt lodged between the ceramic disks.
  • Remove the rubber seals from the cylinder openings. Clean the cylinder openings and flush out an.
  • Remove the disk assembly as a unit by unscrewing the mounting screws. Pull the disk out.
  • Turn the disk over and remove any dirt lodged between the ceramic disks.
  • Remove the rubber seals from the cylinder openings. Clean the cylinder openings and flush out any debris.
  • Install new rubber seals and reassemble the faucet.
  • If the faucet still leaks, replace the entire disk assembly with a new one.