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Tub Drain Fix

Can I replace the mechanism that opens and closes the tub drain without replacing the tub?

Trip-lever tub drain (cross section)

The mechanism that opens and closes our tub drain is no longer connected to the lever. Is there a way to repair this without replacing the tub? Fortunately, I can get to the drain through an access door in the wall.

—Larry Casarow, Van Nuys, Calif.


Richard Trethewey replies: What you are describing is called a trip-lever tub drain, which allows you to open and close the drain with a lever. Moving the lever raises and lowers a stopper, which opens or blocks the drain passage.

It's definitely possible to get it working again, and that access door may come in handy. First, put a towel over the tub drain to capture any small parts you might drop, then remove the screws holding the overflow cover to the tub. Then see if you can pull the rod and stopper out through the overflow drain opening. If the two rods have come unhooked, you may have luck reaching in with a flexible pick-up tool and snagging the stopper with its spring-loaded claws.

If you can't retrieve the stopper through the overflow, open the access door and disconnect the drain tube by unscrewing the coupling nut and then carefully unscrewing the overflow tube from the overflow fitting. Clean any parts you can reuse and replace the rest with new parts. Put back the tube, slip the assembly back through the opening, making sure the rods aren't tangled, and reconnect the trip lever and cover to the tub wall.

To see if the stopper works, raise the lever and put some water in the tub. If the water drains out, pull out the linkage that connects the lever with the threaded rod and give the rod a few counterclockwise turns so the stopper will go deeper and fit snugly against its seat. When the stopper is adjusted properly-this may take a few tries-tighten the rod's locking nut and put everything back in place.


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