I have been struggling with a leaky faucet problem for maybe the last two or three months. This is an outdoor hose bib faucet, the kind with a long internal stem. These help prevent problems with freezing weather and broken pipes; as the stem closes off the water supply deep inside the house’s walls where it’s warmer, and the rest of the water drains out of the faucet when you shut it off.
The faucet was leaking where the arrow is pointing in the picture: right out of the tip of the stem, by the handle. This is a key piece of information, but I didn’t realize it at the time. I was annoyed with this whole situation, because the plumbing in this house is nearly brand new, only two years old! I didn’t expect to have plumbing repairs so soon!
I first tried tightening the two connections: the packing nut, and where the stem piece threads into the faucet unit. This didn’t help. Next, I went to the store looking for replacement packing for the packing nut. But, I didn’t realize how many different designs there were, so I ended up coming home with the wrong size. I took the nut back to the store, and got a different packing. When I tried that at home, I realized that the packing nut’s threads were stripped. Back to the store, but they didn’t have that sized packing nut!
So, I tried a different local hardware store. The “plumbing expert” there listened to my description of the problem, took a look at my stem, and at the packing nut, and concluded that my situation was hopeless. I bought a packing nut anyway, since they had one that fit. At home, I cleaned the threads out carefully, and got it to go back together nice and snug. But, the leak was still there.
Next I took it to Home Depot. I actually found a real expert there (this is rare for me), a by-trade plumber. I described my problem to him, too. He shook his head. He did mention a tidbit that would come in handy later, he said, “that there is an Arrowhead brand stem.” But, he also told me that they change the designs on these so frequently, that it’s usually impossible to get replacement parts. He asserted that I’d need to buy an entire new faucet assembly. And cautioned to replace it on a weekday, as people often break their copper pipe when trying to replace these, and then I’d want to call a plumber for backup.
Grumble. By this time, I had probably shut off the water to the house, and taken this thing apart, about a dozen times. I took it back home, put it together again, and sat there and watched the water drip… Then, I started to wonder: why is it coming out of the tip of the stem? And only when the water is turned on. How can that be? Though the stem is hollow (the handle screw threads into the hollow tip), it’s supposed to be sealed. The plug end of the stem is obviously working fine, because when the valve is shut off, no water is getting by.
I took it apart again. I’m visualizing pressurized water flowing all around this stem on the way out of the faucet. And sure enough, tipping it on one end made water drain out of the inside of the stem. And, then, I see it. A tiny flaw in the solder joint on the stem. Very tiny. But, enough for pressurized water to want to get in there and leak out the other end. It must have taken two years for the water to slowly erode that flaw big enough to create a leak. I tried to solder it closed, but I’m no good at soldering, and I think fixing a tiny hole like that can be difficult, as there is not enough surface for the flux to bind to. It didn’t work. But now at least I knew what the real problem was: something that all three hardware store plumbing experts missed, despite my clearly explaining to all of them that the water was coming out of the tip!
I almost believed the Home Depot guy’s advice that I wouldn’t be able to find a replacement stem. But, I decided to give the Web a chance. And lucky for me that Home Depot guy knew the brand name: thank you Home Depot guy! Lo and behold, McClendons Hardware had the fix, for $12: they carry a whole line of these Arrowhead stems! Wow! I was a little confused about the sizing, when I measured my stem, I concluded that it was a 6″ one. But, when the 6″ replacement arrived by mail, it was too long, so I had to return it. What I actually have, apparently, is a 4″ stem (I’m not sure how they measure these to get those numbers, but ok, whatever). So, last week, I finally got the right sized stem, and replaced it yesterday. And choirs of angels sang: no leak. Thank goodness!
15 thoughts on “Arrowhead Freeze-Free Faucet Frustration”
Just wanted to thank you for this post. It was very helpful to me. I’m trying to fix a similar problem.
Great to hear, glad my lessons were useful to somebody else too! 🙂
Hi, Sorry to hear that this was such a dilemma to fix. I work with Arrowhead Brass & Plumbing, and I just want to leave a note that if anyone ever reads this and needs assistance with a faucet that says “ABP” on the side, or USA on the other, they can contact us at email@example.com; or locate our contact information at our website (arrowheadbrass.com). I apologize for the inconvenience that the leak caused and I’d be happy to help you or anyone else out if they ever have a leak or issue. Thanks,
Arrowhead Brass Product & Customer Service Manager
BTW, The reason you had water coming out of the hole by the handle (it’s actually designed that way to drain backflowing water- i.e. anti-siphon), is because a small little o-ring on the check assembly- on the end of the stem (the cone shaped device). Replacing that or the full stem would be the solution. If it leaks quickly after installation/repair, the cause is most likely leaving the faucet ON/pressurized for over 12 hours at a time. The “Y” split in the picture is something I see a lot- people unknowingly leave the faucet open, but shut the Y on/off when needed. That basically wears out all the rubber/plastic components quickly- could wear out in 2 years, could wear out in 2 weeks… depends on a lot of things. Best solution is to not leave this faucet on/open (even if water isn’t passing through- it’s still “sealing” the o-ring and wearing it out) OR replace it with a non-anti-siphon frost free model and use a backflow device on the outlet side of the y adapter.
Thanks for listening. 🙂
Thanks Will, good to know. Indeed, this is a faucet where we frequently leave the faucet on, and shut off the water at the Y (or not- this feeds some float valves in livestock tanks that we leave on most of the year). The fixed one has lasted all this time, knock on wood! Now I know where to get a replacement if I need one!
IMHO Arrowhead outdoor freeze proof faucets. are a piece of crap. I’ve owned homes with freeze proof faucets for years with never a problem. In my new home I have to replace the o rings in every faucet EVERY spring. Last year the “kits” with two O rings and a plastic cap were less than $2. This year the new improved kit with 2 plastic parts, which you never need, two O rings and the cap are almost $10. The Home Depot guy, a retired plumber, said that his company refused to install them because of this design. Sooo, now I’m going to take samples of the O rings and buy just those parts for about 20 cents per faucet.
Then there is the ridiculous design of the outlet being too short to screw a hose on without scraping your knuckles on the handle, and the handles breaking regularly from being turned off too tightly. Interesting that this is the company that sells faucet, handles, repair kits etc. I think they design in the problems and make their money selling parts.
Neal, interesting, I wonder if your house had gotten a bad batch of parts and/or design that has a higher failure rate than normal? We haven’t had too much trouble with these since. OTOH, we have ones from The Depot in our barn, and they are super sensitive to freezing, and then just flat-out don’t work. We try to keep heat wraps on them, but sometimes forget, so we often replace those faucets!
I have searched high and low for these answers. Thank you so much!
Glad it helped Griffster27!
Michelle, thank you for this beautifully written, sanity-saving post. It hasn’t solved my rather different problem, however, and I need to get in touch with Will Schneider of Arrowhead, who posted intelligent and helpful comments in your thread. I have been speaking to lovely people working for him, but have a couple of questions I do not think they can answer. My faucet has failed after 30 years of excellent service: the problem is with finding the right spare part for a repair job. Nightmare would be an understatement. The local plumbing supply store says that Arrowhead has changed the design of my faucet 9 times since 1992.
nrwrd–ooof, good luck with your challenge! In our barn, we’ve had the frost-free faucets fail a lot, as it is not well insulated nor heated. In that case, we just replace the whole shebang with any random brand, and that works ok since the walls are open and easy to access from both inside and outside. Not so easy if the faucet is embedded in a wall where you can’t get at the inside, tho!
Will from Arrowhead Brass again. I’m not going to get in an argument with Neal here, but the truth is, all brands’ frost-free hydrants eventually fail. Any plumbing valve or pipe that you put in your house can and someday will fail, you can count on that. Unfortunately, frost-free hydrants fall into this category and get a lot of scrutiny because they can be a pain to replace. Repairing them can be a pain too, but only if you don’t know what your doing. I highly suggest to anyone looking to repair their ABP/Arrowhead hydrant that you contact our company BEFORE you go to a hardware store. We can point you in the right direction and tell you where to get it- which is NOT the home depot because they do not sell our repair kits.
Neal- feel free to call me anytime- I’ll send you a FREE repair kit for your troubles as long as you hear me out as to why you might have to replace the o-rings each year. If you
NRWRD- call me anytime- just ask for Will. 30 years is proof that we make quality products. There have been a few changes to our products (definitely not 9, maybe 3), and some old products can not be fixed, but we will try the best we can to get you something that works. You can email me too- firstname.lastname@example.org
Michelle, keep up the good work. Other brand frost-free faucets are usually not made with the same quality components and materials that we use. Oh- and- BTW- we now are making all of our products out of a LEAD FREE alloy that contains 93% copper- ours may cost a little more, but you wont have to worry about lead or other harmful chemicals that other brands use in their products- especially any that claim they are lead free, most manufacturers replace the lead with arsenic.
LOL, I had no idea this in-my-moment-of-exasperation post would attract eight years of visits and comments, but let ‘er roll, if it can be a conduit for information exchange! It may be a hint to your social media team, Will (you do have a social media team, don’t you?? Or are you on it?) that they need to up their game on web content creation, so that it pushes my blog post out of the running and replaces it with company-generated propaganda! 😀
So what model is superior 460 or 470? What is tha flow rate difference between a 466 and a 468 if any? Will im going to email you with this questions please reply
Just for the haters….Will Schneider is very responsive to questions and very helpful so kuddos to Will!!