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Mixed Metals Cause Faucet Failure

DN Staff

August 28, 2013

2 Min Read
Mixed Metals Cause Faucet Failure

One of my outdoor water faucets needed new washers, a simple job I had tackled several times in other homes. Our builder installed a Woodford Model 17 Freezeless Wall Faucet, which seemed simple enough to refurbish with a package of replacement parts made specifically for this model faucet, also called a hose bib.

I removed the screw that held the handle on a brass stem, but the handle wouldn't budge. Some oil and Liquid Wrench applied to the valve stem where it connected to the handle didn't work and neither did simply trying to pry the handle off. So, I removed the long stem assembly from the faucet with the handle and washer attached and put it on my workbench. If the handle wouldn't come off, I couldn't replace the old packing washer that let water leak out.

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Even after I applied heat and cold, the handle wouldn't budge. Forget the repair, it was now time for failure analysis. First, I used a band saw to cut off the top of the handle -- it was aluminum, not plastic! With the handle gone, I could split the aluminum piece still on the brass stem and pull off the two pieces. It still took a fair bit of force to separate the aluminum from the splined brass stem. You can see the corrosion on the brass stem and in the split handle piece in the photo.

I guess the designer forgot his or her high-school chemistry. You don't put two types of metal in contact with each other when they can get exposed to moisture. And what better place to find moisture than in a faucet? Most household water has dissolved minerals that act as electrolytes, so this faucet was set up for failure.

This entry was submitted by Jon Titus and edited by Rob Spiegel.

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