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Toilet Repairs Part 4: How To Fix A Running Toilet

In this installment in our series of relatively easy toilet repairs that you could do yourself, we will show you how to fix a running toilet. Our first entry in this series introduces you to all of the parts of the toilet and how it works. You can read part 1 here. The second installment will take you through 11 simple steps for fixing a leaking toilet tank. You can read part 2 here. Our third entry will show you that unclogging your toilet is something that you can do yourself. In this post, we will list 4 possible causes of a running toilet and how to remedy them: the flapper, the fill tube, the float, and the fill valve. If any of these repairs fail or you simply don't have the time or desire to attempt them, contact us at WaterSmart. One of our fully licensed master plumbers will be happy to do it for you.
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Cause #1 - The Flapper


The most common cause of a running toilet is a defective flapper.  When the toilet is flushed, the flapper is lifted up and this releases water into the bowl. Once all of the water is drained out of the tank, the flapper falls back into the drain to form a tight seal which allows the tank to fill up again. With time, the rubber flapper can start to deteriorate. When this happens, the seal around the drain of the tank is no longer tight and water can begin to seep out.


Check The Flapper


Push firmly down on the flapper. You can do this by reaching into your toilet and using your hand. Remember that the water in the tank is clean. If however, you don't want to use your hand, you can use a long object like a stick or ruler. If the water stops running then you know that the flapper is the problem. If you notice any dirt or buildup on the flapper, try cleaning it away to solve the problem. If the flapper is warped or deteriorated then you will need to replace it.


How To Replace The Flapper



According to the Family Handyman, replacing a flapper is a relatively simple fix, even for a beginner and it can be done in usually less than an hour.


1. Turn off the water supply to the tank. You can find the shutoff valve underneath the tank.

2. Flush the toilet. You want to drain all of the water from the tank.

3. Remove the flapper. Make sure you take note of how it attaches to the bottom of the tank.

4. Purchase an identical flapper. It is a good idea to take the old flapper with you to make sure you get the right type as there are several different kinds.

5. Follow the installation instructions that come with your new flapper.

6. Pay special attention to the length of the chain. You will need to add or remove links to get the right length. If it is too short then the flapper will not be lifted high enough when the toilet is flushed, causing a shorter, incomplete flush. If it is too long, then you will have to jiggle the handle each time you flush to get the flap to fall back into the correct position.  


Cause # 2 The Fill Tube


If you tested the flapper by pressing down on it and found that it wasn't the cause of your toilet running, it could perhaps be the fill tube. The fill tube is the small plastic tube connecting the fill valve (the main assembly in the tank) to the overflow pipe (the part that drains the extra water when it fills too high).


Check The Fill Tube


Take a look at the fill tube to see if it is underwater.  If it is, then simply cut it shorter so that the tube is above the water level.


Cause #3  The Float


The float affects the height of the water level in the tank. If it is set too high, then the water level will rise above the overflow pipe and your toilet will keep running. The water in the tank should sit between 1.5 and 2.5 cm below the top of the overflow pipe.


Check The Float


There are two basic types of floats. Here is how you can check and fix each type.


1. The Ball Float - This type of float is more common with older toilets. You can adjust the height that the float rises by simply bending the arm down slightly so that the water will fill up below the overflow pipe.


2. The Cup Float - Take a look to locate the way the cup float adjusts. This will usually be some sort of pinching mechanism. Slide the float down the central tube that it sits around until it is at the desired water level.


Cause #4 The Fill Valve


If neither the flapper, fill tube, or float are causing your toilet to run, then you may have to replace the fill valve.


How To Replace The Fill Valve


1. Turn off the water supply to the tank. You can find the shutoff valve underneath the tank.

2. Flush the toilet. You want to drain all of the water from the tank. Sponge out any remaining water.

3. Disconnect the water supply line outside the tank.

4. Unscrew the fill valve lock nut to free the valve.

5. Lift out the old fill valve.

6. Purchase a replacement valve. Be sure to take the old valve with you so that you can choose the correct one.

7. Follow the instructions on the new valve to install it. A good tip is to tighten the locknut a half turn past hand tight.

Watch the following video to see how to fix a toilet that keeps running.



Upcoming Installment


In the final part of this toilet repair series, we will show you how to replace a toilet.


WaterSmart - Your Plumbing Experts


WaterSmart has been proudly serving the Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Guelph, and surrounding area for more than 20 years. We are your plumbing and service experts.  No job is too big or too small for our licensed master plumbers. We will do anything from toilet repairs to complete plumbing home renovations. Contact us today for a free plumbing estimate.




How To Fix A Running Toilet

How To: Fix A Running Toilet

How To Fix A Running Toilet: Common Causes & DIY Fixes


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