4 practical fixes for a running toilet

September 15, 2015

When your toilet starts to constantly run, you don't need to rush out to a plumber. Here are four practical fixes for a running toilet.

4 practical fixes for a running toilet

1. Check the fill tube

  • Remove the tank lid and find the fill tube.
  • The fill tube is a small flexible tube that runs from the fill valve to the overflow tube.
  • While the tank refills, this tube squirts enough water down the overflow tube to refill the bowl after the completed flush.
  • If this tube falls off or the water stream misses the overflow tube, the bowl won't fill and your next flush will be wimpy.
  • Reattach the fill tube and make sure it perches about 2.5 centimetres (1 inch) above the rim of the overflow tube.
  • Flush and watch the water stream to make sure it goes down the overflow tube.

2. Adjust the fill height

  • The water level in your toilet's tank is controlled by an adjustable float.
  • A float that's set too low produces a weak flush; if it's set too high, water spills into the overflow tube and the fill valve won't shut off.
  • Look for the fill level mark on the inside back of the tank and mark it on the overflow tube so you can see it more easily.
  • Or, measure down about 2.5 centimetres (1 inch) on the overflow tube and make a mark.
  • Then flush the toilet and see if the water reaches and stops at that mark.
  • If not, adjust the float up or down.
  • If you have an old toilet, you'll have to bend the brass rod that connects to the float ball to make adjustments.
  • With newer toilets you usually turn a screw or slide a clip along a rod.
  • Flush the toilet after each adjustment.
  • Also make sure that the water level is at least 2.5 centimetres (1 inch) below the C-L (critical level) marked on the fill valve.
  • You can adjust the height of many valves to raise or lower the C-L.
  • If the fill valve won't shut off, it's defective.
  • Turn the water supply off at the shutoff valve under your tank and buy a replacement.

3. Adjust the flush handle/flapper chain

  • A chain that's too short or tangled won't allow the flapper to close and water will continue to leak into the bowl.
  • This causes the fill valve to cycle on and off to refill the tank.
  • A chain that's too long, or a flush rod that hits the tank lid, won't open the flapper wide enough to stay open for the full flush.
  • To avoid these problems adjust the linkage in the chain to leave only a slight bit of slack when the flapper's closed.
  • Cut the chain at the rod to leave only about 2.5 centimetres (1 inch) extra to reduce the potential for tangles.
  • Then put the tank lid back on and make sure the flush rod doesn't strike the lid when you press the lever.
  • If it does, bend it down slightly and readjust the chain.

4. Replace the flapper

  • A fine black film often builds up on rubber surfaces
  • Though scrubbing this film off the flapper can help your toilet run more smoothly, it's hard to scrub off of your hands, so wear gloves.
  • If your toilet still runs after you've scrubbed off this film, chances are you have a worn-out flapper.
  • Turn off the water, remove the old flapper and find an exact replacement.
  • Some flapper packages include specific brand and model information — so be sure to note yours.
  • If you can't find an exact replacement, try the closest one and pick up a universal type as well.
  • Avoid the "adjustable" flappers unless you're replacing an adjustable one.
  • Install your new flapper and make sure it opens and closes freely.
  • If the water continues to run or runs intermittently, you're not getting a good seal, so try a different flapper.
  • If you can't find a flapper that seals, consider replacing the entire overflow tube/flapper.

Keep these four practical fixes in mind when you're toilet's running to make solving the problem easier.

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