Leaking Towel Rail Or Radiator? Try This

Towel radiators have become increasingly common in modern bathrooms over the past couple of decades. While they’re wonderful when they work, if they suddenly stop, it can be a pain. Just like with every other type of home appliance, they will eventually need maintenance. If you’ve noticed a leaking towel rail or radiator, we’ve got a bit of advice on what to do next. And don’t worry quite yet – we may avoid calling a plumber.

The most common causes of a leaking towel radiator are the valve, spindle, top nut, and body of the radiator.

Let’s get right into fixing the problem, shall we?

Fixing a Leaking Towel Radiator

Okay, we’ve got four different likely culprits. Let’s start with the easier repairs and move into the more intensive (or bad) ones in time.

Valve Leaking

The most likely sources of your towel radiator leaking are the valves. These can fail due to a large number of reasons, including a poor connection or just plain failure due to old age. To fix a leaking valve, you have two options: replace the valve, or perform a temporary fix. While replacement is the obvious long-term fix, you can patch the leak rather easily by doing the following:

Fixing the Leak

  1. First things first – turn off your central heating and leave it for at least 30 minutes to an hour. This will allow the water to drain, and let the radiator cool off a bit.
  2. Grab a towel and bowl to catch any water that may spill, as it’s entirely possible that you’ll have some by the end of this.
  3. Turn off both valves (tightening, to the right).
  4. Undo the union nut. This is the nut that connects your pipe and towel rail.
  5. Open the bleed valve, usually located on the bottom right of the radiator.
    1. This is where the bowl and towels come into play, just like bleeding a radiator.
  6. Take some plumber’s tape (teflon PTFE) and wind it around the male end of the valve tip. (The end that goes in, rather than recieving.) Wind it 5-10 times.
  7. Tighten the connection of the valve, reattach the nut, and open the radiator valves.
  8. Turn on your central heating and fill the radiator with water. Once full, close the bleed valve.
  9. If the leak persists, you’ll need to either replace the valve or call a professional for help.

Replacing the valve is very similar to what you just did, with one exception – you’re removing the whole valve in question. Detach it from anything else it may be connected to, put in the new valve, and reattach everything in the same order as above.

Top Nut Leak

The bleed valve and blanking plug on a towel rail usually are at the top of the rail, sometimes on the side. At times, the nut that secures these can loosen, resulting in a leak. To fix this, the first step is to, well, tighten the nut. Grab a wrench and get it nice and snug. If the leak stops, great! If not, you’ll need to either a) temporarily patch the leak, or b) replace the bleed valve and blanking plug.

To patch a leaking top nut, do the following:

  1. Turn offf your rail valves (turning right, tightening them).
  2. Bleed air out of your radiator.
  3. Wind plumber’s tape around the seal of your nut and reattach the bleed valve and blanking plug.
  4. Turn the valves back on.
  5. See if the leak stops.

If not, you’ll need to replace the valve and plug as their O rings have likely failed. If this doesn’t solve the problem, it’s time for a professional.

Spindle Leak

This is the part that connects the radiator and pipework. Occasionally, the spindle can get damaged (from say, getting bumped) or just fail over time. This leads to a leak where the water comes into the radiator.

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to fix it. The main option is to tighten the gland nut after wrapping plumber’s tape around the spindle. This should make the connection more secure and seal it, but it’s not guaranteed. If this doesn’t solve the issue, call a professional.

Body Leak

If you notice a leak from the main body of the actual radiator, that’s a sign of a more serious issue. Most likely, it’s caused by corrosion or something internal that’s broken. Corrosion happens inside radiators from time to time when the water and metal react, breaking off and settling in the radiator. This leads to a gross sludge of metal bits and water that have rusted and settled inside the machine.

If left untreated, internal corrosion can cause leaks, holes, and other serious issues in your radiator. Really, once it’s happened, there’s not much you can do. The best thing to do is to purchase a new radiator and ensure it’s regularly treated with a chemical rust inhibitor.

If you want to perform a temporary patch, you can always purchase a leak sealant for the towel rail. Keep in mind though, that this is (once again) a temporary solution. It will buy you time to purchase a new radiator, not permanently solve the issue.

Final Thoughts

Depending on where the leak is, a leaking towel rail can be either easily solved or a death sentence. If it’s a leaking top nut, spindle, or valve, it’s entirely likely that you can patch and solve the problem. The part in question may need a replacement, but these are generally cheap and easy to do (relatively).

If, however, you have a leak in the body of the radiator, it’s likely the end of that particular towel rail’s lifespan. Whether it’s caused by corrosion or something internal that’s broken, it’s going to be expensive to fix. Expensive enough that it would be cheaper to just buy a new one. And if you ever find yourself questioning your work – call a professional. It’s their job to make your life easier, so let them do it!

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About the Author Harry Thompson

Involved in home renovations throughout his life, Harry is an expert in everything to do with home and garden DIY. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking and tending to his garden.