What can be more aggravating than a toilet that runs all the time? Not only must you deal with the constant noise, but you may pay a higher utility bill due to the wasted water. Do you now how to fix a running toilet? Before calling a plumber and spending out more money, consider doing the job yourself.

Learning how to fix a running toilet is not difficult when you understand its mechanics. If you do a little troubleshooting and discover the leak, you might realize that it’s just about an easy fix. Here are five pointers to keep in mind:

1. Locate Your Leak

In this case, “leak” does not mean that water is leaking from a water pipe onto the floor. It is when the toilet’s re-fill mechanism is not functioning correctly. As a result, excess water continually leaks from the holding tank into the bowl.

The usual culprits are broken fill valves, mineral deposits, malfunctioning flappers, water level problems or a water-filled float. Troubleshooting these parts may reveal how to fix a running toilet.

2. Broken Fill Valve

The water that flows to your toilet tank is controlled by a fill valve. If this valve breaks, water will continue to flow. As a result, the refill cycle will be ceaseless. A tell-tale sign of a broken fill valve is when you notice that it is submerged in the tank. Try this solution:

  • Shut off the toilet’s water supply hose and remove the lid from the tank. Put a small bucket below the water supply hose to catch any water and flush the toilet to empty the tank.
  • At the bottom of the tank, you will find a lock nut that goes to the water supply shank. Unscrew it and take out the whole valve assembly. Any water drainage will go into the empty bucket.
  • Install the new valve the height it should be in the tank. This is usually about an inch below the top edge. The threaded end of the valve goes into the hole in the tank base. You will have to tighten the lock nut by hand. Turn it gently with a pair of pliers to seal it tight. Do not over tighten it as the fixture can crack.

3. Malfunctioning Flapper

illustration of a toilet cistern

The water is held in the tank by a rubber cap called a flapper. Think of it as a stopper for a drain. These flappers can get cracks in them from old age, and they will no longer form a tight seal. One way to tell if your flapper is shot is if your tank never refills properly or never retains enough water. To find out how to fix a running toilet, you may need to replace the flapper. Follow these steps to get the job done by yourself:

  • Flush the toilet and see how the flapper is working. Examine it for stiffness and cracks. See if it makes an adequate seal or not.
  • The flapper is connected to the flush handle with a chain. Sometimes, the chain gets tangled and catches on other mechanisms. If this is the case, you can replace the chain or use a piece of string with the same length.
  • There is a hinge where the flapper connects to the bottom of your toilet’s holding tank. Occasionally, an edge of the flapper will get caught in the hinge. Move the flapper up and down to see if anything sticks.
  • If your flapper sits on the tank drain crookedly, it will not seal correctly. Adjust the flapper so it sits right over the drain hole.

4. Improper Water Levels

When you are troubleshooting to find how to fix a running toilet, always check the water level in your holding tank. It is regulated by an ingenious mechanism that depends on buoyancy. After a flush when the tank refills with water, a hollow rubber bulb floats with the rising water. When the tank is at the proper level, the float automatically turns off the water intake. For your problem, you may need to adjust the float:

  • Be sure that your water level is about an inch below the toilet’s overflow tube. If you have an older model toilet with the rubber ball, loosen the screw at the end of the float arm and adjust the float where it should be.
  • Newer toilets have floater cups instead of a rubber ball. Adjust the height by the screws toward the top of the fill valve.
  • The lower you adjust your float, the lower the water level will be in your tank, and the less water you will have per flush. The low flush toilets can save you money, but this can be a problem with other models.
  • Check your float to make sure it is not filled with water. This condition could cause it to sink lower and keep your water valve from closing properly. Unscrew the float and shake it to see if you hear water. If the float is water-logged, then you must replace it.

5. Mineral Deposits

close up on a drop of water from a faucet

Most water sources for homes have naturally-occurring minerals, such as lime and calcium. Homeowners who have excessive amounts of minerals (hard water) often use a water softener to reduce them. Over time, hard water can create mineral deposits on your toilet’s mechanisms. The result is faulty seals and possible jams. If you suspect mineral deposits, try this:

  • Take the cover off the holding tank and look for any crusty mineral buildup inside the tank or on the mechanisms.
  • If this is a problem, the whole flushing unit may need cleaned—which is a difficult job. In this case, it is best to contact a plumber.

In Conclusion

When you follow the troubleshooting tips on how to fix a running toilet, you may identify an easy solution. If you have tried everything and still encounter a problem, then you should call a professional. Ignoring the situation may not only mean higher water bills, but may cause more damage and expenses. When in doubt, the plumber is the one to call.

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