DIY Toilet Repair: Fix That Running Toilet

Updated by Lynda Stevens

man talkingIf your toilet is running, it can waste a huge amount of water every day, pushing up your water bill to an unacceptably high level. Not only that, but the sound of constantly running water can drive you mad. The good news is that a running toilet is pretty simple to fix and will not only save you water and money but also a lot of stress. There are a handful of basic issues which could be causing your toilet to run, but you can easily fix them without having any specialist knowledge and without using any specialist tools. The key is to find the root of the problem and then you can move on to fixing it.

Possible Problem 1 – Flapper Problems

Fixing Toilet Flapper

 

The first possible issue that you may be experiencing is a problem with your toilet’s flapper.

  • Turn off your water supply and drain your toilet by flushing. Once you have done this you can inspect the toilet’s flapper. The flapper is a rubber round-shaped seal which prevents the water from draining out of the tank and down into the bowl. When the toilet is flushed, a chain pulls up the flapper allowing fresh water to fill the bowl.
  • Take the tank lid off your toilet. Hold it firmly as it will be made from heavy ceramic and could easily break if dropped or knocked over. Place it down on a towel on the floor and look inside the tank.
  • If the chain which pulls up the flapper is either too short or too long this could cause a problem. If it is excessively short, the valve will be pulled upwards causing the water to constantly drain. On the other hand if it is too long it is possible that it is getting trapped under the flapper preventing it from sealing. If the chain is too short, take off the hook that attaches the chain to the flush lever and move it up by 1 or 2 links to give it more slack then reattach it to the flush lever. However if the chain is too long, trim some of the links from the top of the chain using wire cutters, reattach the hook back to the top link and then reattach to the flush lever.
  • Take out the flapper and check for any warping, disintegration, mineral deposits or discoloration.
  • If the flapper is dirty it may not be able to seal properly and this will cause the toilet to run. Clean it by soaking it in vinegar for half an hour and then scrub to dislodge the buildup before putting it back into place.
  • If the flapper is worn, buy and fit a replacement.
  • Turn your water supply back on and see if the problem is resolved.

Possible Problem 2  – Water Level Problems

man fixing toilet flush

If the flapper has not caused your running toilet, the next thing to check is the toilet’s water level. If it is too high, water will constantly be draining into its overflow tube.

  • When the tank is full and the water is running, check your overflow tube and see if water is constantly draining into it. If it is, lower the float to adjust its water level.
  • Your float will either be a ball valve or a cup valve. You can adjust the height of a ball valve by using a screwdriver to turn the screw which attaches the fill valve to the float arm counterclockwise.
  • If you have a cup valve there will be a screw located at the top of the valve. Turn it counterclockwise to adjust the float’s height.
  • Flush your toilet, allowing the tank refill with water. It should come up to around an inch below the overflow tube.

Possible Problem 3 – Fill Valve Problems


If neither the flapper nor the water level are the problem, the third thing to try is the fill valve.

  • Turn off your water supply and flush the toilet. Absorb all of the water that remains in the tank with a sponge until it is completely empty.
  • Unscrew the nut which secures your water supply line in place using pliers.
  • Remove the nut which attaches the fill valve to your toilet and remove the valve,
  • Buy a replacement in the same style or replace a ball valve with a cup one.
  • Install your new fill valve, connect your water supply line and tighten up the nut by turning it clockwise using pliers.
  • Connect your fill tube to its water output nozzle which is on top of the fill valve. Position it so that it drains into its overflow tube.
  • Using your manufacturer’s instruction, adjust the float so that it is at the correct height. You can use a tape measure to check the distance from the bottom of the tank.
  • Turn your water supply on and allow your tank to refill with water. Check your water level, making sure that your fill tube is not in the water. Check if the water is still running. If it is, you can alter the height of the float until it stops. Flush the toilet and then allow it to refill before flushing it once more to test.
  • Once the toilet no longer runs, put the lid carefully back on the tank.

As you can see, these three common problems can easily be rectified by any homeowner, even if they have no previous plumbing experience. By simply following these step by step instructions you can save yourself the cost of calling out a plumber and cut your water bills in one fell swoop.

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