Riverside Plumbing

Plumbing Riverside Illinois

Fix Your Running Toilet

A very common, maddening problem is when the toilet flushes properly but continues to run for an extended period of time. This can lead to an irritating running noise as well as waste a good deal of water. However, the problem is usually simple enough, and you as a homeowner should be able to fix your running toilet.

Start by taking the lid off the tank and doing a test flush. When working properly, pushing the handle will pull an attached chain, which lifts the flapper at the bottom. This allows water from the tank flow down into the bowl. When the water level drops low enough, the flapper will drop as well, closing the opening into the bowl. Meanwhile, as the water drains down, a plastic float should be dropping with the water line. As it drops, the float opens a valve that lets water back into the tank. The valve shuts off once the float gets back up to its original level.  It’s an ingenious but simply system.

During your test flush, pay attention to each step. The usual cause for a running toilet is the flapper not closing, so examine it closely. Make sure that the chain is not caught on anything, that the flapper is not stuck on something, and that it is properly aligned with the opening. If the flapper still does not close fully, it may be worn-out and stiff and may simply need to be replaced.

If the flapper does close and water is running over the top of the overflow tube, the float and the valve to which it is connected may be out of alignment. Try pulling up on float manually. If that stops the flow, you’ll have to adjust the level of the float accordingly. If the float is around the valve post, you’ll have to pinch the metal clip, which should allow you to slide the float down the wire. Often, the float is a ball on an arm, in which case you should turn the screws on top of the valve or bend the arm by hand. Examine the ball to make certain it is not touching anything on the way up or down. If you suspect the ball may be leaking, unscrew it and give it a shake. If you hear water, replace the ball. Your hardware store will have all the parts you need.

Make sure that your adjustment results in the water level being about 1 inch from the top of the overflow tube. Too much water in the tank will put too much pressure on the flapper, resulting in leaking even with a brand new flapper.
If the tank is filling in stops and starts, this known as a slow leak. You can test this by dropping a dye tablet or some food coloring in the tank. Dye tablets are often available for free at hardware stores. If the dye is in the bowl after two hours of inactivity, your slow leak is confirmed.

Close the valve in the wall behind the toilet. Flushing the toilet then will drain the water out of the tank. Take the old flapper off its hinges if and disconnect it from the chain. Examine the flapper seat around the opening to the bowl. If there is any kind of mineral buildup, clean it off, preferably with a sponge and some bleach. Replace the flapper, turn the valve in the wall back on, and repeat the dye/food coloring process. If the slow leak persists, you have a leaky flapper that needs to be replaced. It is highly recommended that you bring the old flapper with you to the hardware store to make sure you get the right size replacement.

Once you have the replacement flapper, repeat the steps you took to remove the old flapper, making sure to close the valve in the wall. Attach the new flapper to its hinges and the chain. Open the valve in the wall behind the toilet, and try a few test flushes. You may need to make small adjustments to the length of the chain, depending on whether it opens and closes properly when you flush. Use the dye/food coloring process to make sure the slow leak is remedied.

In some cases, the running toilet is caused by either the tube that connects the valve to the overflow tube or the valve itself siphons water out. Try adjusting the tube height or the valve height and/or the water level down. In the end, the valve may need to be replaced. Some of the non-rubber parts in the valve can break. These should be replaced as soon as possible.
Perhaps this process all sounds daunting, but it’s not, just systematic.  If you toilet continues to run, then call your licensed professional plumber for help.