How to Fix a Running Toilet

The sound of a babbling brook is soothing and very pleasant. That same sound, from a running toilet, however, can drive you bonkers. The toilet that won’t shut of wastes a lot more water than a dripping faucet. Before we talk about solving the problem, it would be good for you to know how a toilet works.

1. Push the handle down.

2. That action raises the trip lever.

3. This pulls up the lift wires or chain.

4. Which in turn raises the tank ball, or flapper opening the drain hole in the bottom of the tank.

5. The water rushes into the bowl to flush.

running toilet How to Fix a Running Toilet

6. With the water in the tank gone, the float ball no longer floats and as it drops, it opens the water valve (its plumbing name, and we’re not making this up, is ballcock assembly), back over on the left side of the tank.

7. Fresh water refills the tank and buoys the float ball upward until it shuts the valve off at the proper level.

Just knowing how the thing works will make it easier to solve all toilet troubles. So let’s stop the constantly running toilet. Here’s how:

1. Remove the tank lid and carefully place it flat on the floor and out of the way.

2. If the water is going out the overflow tube, lift up on the float arm. If the running water stops, it means the water level is too high. This means the ball is positioned wrong.

3. Using both hands, gently bend down the float arm until the water level is shut off before it gets higher than the overflow tube.

If this cure doesn’t work, the problem could be in the water inlet valve. Not quite so easy, but not too bad. Probably in the Sophomore skill level. Here we go:

1. Turn off the water supply to the tank, using the shut off valve under the tank.

2. A typical metal water inlet valve. Remove the two thumbscrews.

3. This allows you to remove the flat rod going through the slot. Lift up on the slot that is at the top of the valve plunger unit. Check the washer and/or O-rings and replace any that are bad.

You can still have a running toilet if water is seeping out around the tank ball or flapper. Here are the reasons this can happen:

1. The tank ball, or flapper, which acts as a stopper to close the drain hole in the bottom of the tank, may not be dropping straight into the hole.

2. If you have a tank ball:
A. The lift wires travel through a guide. The guide could have moved out of alignment. Move the guide back into alignment.
B. A burr or mineral deposits could prevent the tank ball from dropping all the way down. Steel wool can remove a burr. Put the wires in hot vinegar to dissolve mineral deposits.

3. If you have a flapper:
A. The chain may not have enough slack to allow the flapper to drop all the way down. Adjust the chain to make it longer or move the chain
B. The flapper may need to be, realigned. Some are held in place by a ring around the overflow ‘tube and can be turned by hand.

4. With either type:
A. Old age may have set in and these stoppers are disintegrating. Replacement of either the flapper or the tank ball is easy and inexpensive.
B. The drain hole may have a build up of lime and scale, so the stopper is not to blame. To remove these deposits, turn off the water supply and use wet/dry sandpaper to smooth the lip of the opening. If you can’t get it smooth enough, buy a Flusher Fixer Kit which includes a metal ring that is glued in place over the drain hole with waterproof adhesive. A flapper is attached to the ring. This is an easy and inexpensive solution.

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