How To Fix a Running Toilet

The toilet is one of the most essential parts of your house.  When a toilet is running -- either stopping and starting intermittently, or running continuously -- it's hard to ignore.  Yet many people ignore a running toilet, wasting water in the process, because they're intimidated by the idea of fixing a running toilet on their own.  You may be able to fix your running toilet on your own without having to call a plumber by following these steps below.

  1. Preparation. You'll need a screwdriver set and your own powers of observation to discern why your toilet is running. Take the toilet tank lid off and place the lid on the floor where it will be out of the way.
  2. Identify the source of the problem. Now it's time to take a look inside the toilet tank. Begin by checking your toilet’s ballcock. The ballcock is the apparatus on the left hand side of the tank that is responsible for filling the tank with water. There are different types of ballcocks around, but they are generally a valve attached to the float. When the ballcock is faulty, due to either degraded washers or O-rings, water will flow continuously. Next you'll want to check the seal of your toilet's flapper. The flapper is the rubber flap that covers the hole in the bottom of your toilet's tank. Press down on the edges of the flapper. If when you press down, you hear the water running into the bowl stop flowing, then the flap might be deformed or worn out. A flapper that leaks is the most frequent cause of a leaky toilet, and a relatively simple fix.
  3. Get to work. Now that you've discovered the problem, you know what needs to be replaced or fixed. Start by turning off the water to the toilet. There should be a valve at the bottom of the tank coming from the wall or the floor. Turn that valve clockwise to turn the water off. You can also flush the toilet so that you can drain the water. This should make your work easier.
  4. Cleaning the ball clock diaphragm. Start by snapping off the cover of the ballcock. Then, remove the four screws that are holding down the plate of the ball cock. You should find a diaphragm. Remove the diaphragm and note which side is up. Now, replace the diaphragm and flush the valve by turning the water on so that you can get a flow of water for just a couple of seconds. Give the O-rings and washers a visual
    check to see if any of them look faulty.  If so, those will need to be replaced. Then put the top plate back and secure it with the four screws. Sometimes the ballcock assembly is sealed, and in this case, you'll have to remove and replace the entire unit. 
  5. Replacing a tank flapper. It is important that you have the right part for this. You can remove the tank flapper and bring it to the hardware store just to be sure. There are a couple of different ways to remove a flapper, depending on the assembly, but the mechanism is straightforward and easy to discern if you simply look at how the flapper is attached.  It will be either a clamp-type assembly, which you can unclamp, or a hinge that you can pop off. Once you get the new flapper, install it in the reverse order of the method that you used to remove it. 
  6. Turn on water and test. Turn on the water supply by turning the tank valve counter-clockwise. Flush the toilet once and listen for any more continuous running or flushing. If everything sounds good, you can put the lid back on.

That wasn’t too hard was it? Now that you have fixed your first toilet, you can call yourself a true do-it-yourself repairman. Now if you can only get the TiVo to work, you're all set.


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