How to Fix Common Toilet Problems
A broken toilet can cause you a great deal of inconvenience as well as extra expense when it comes to your water bill. However, the cost of calling out a plumber might be more than many can afford, even before considering the money involved in fixing the actual problem. While serious problems with your toilet system should only be dealt with by a professional, there are several smaller issues you may be able to address yourself.
The parts of your toilet are quite simple to understand, and simply opening the tank lid and watching the pieces work can be enough to show you what might be going wrong. There are also easy tests you can perform to check what might be affecting the water flow, draining or flushing. Some issues can be fixed within minutes. Other problems might need you to replace a worn-out or broken part, but even these tasks can be simple and quick.
Worn or Broken Flapper
A flapper is the plastic or rubber flap attached to the chain inside the tank. When you flush the toilet, the handle lifts the chain, which opens the flapper. The flapper opening lets water flow into the tank. In most cases, replacing a flapper is an easy DIY home repair.
A broken or incorrectly placed flapper can cause several issues. For example, the toilet might flush too quickly, cutting off the flow of water before the flush has been completed. This could mean the flapper is dropping back into place too soon. Open the lid of the tank and observe the flapper during a flush. If it drops before the flush has been completed, you may need to replace it.
If the flapper is not sealed correctly, water continues to drip or flow through after it has closed. In some cases, the problem is obvious, as you can hear the water running. If the dripping is quiet and you need to check whether it is flowing from the tank into the bowl, try adding a few drops of food coloring to the tank water. If the dye appears in the bowl, there is a leak.
The flapper might not cause the leak, but this is a good place to start your investigation. Check to see if the flapper is aligned correctly with the drain or if the hinges have become jammed in some way. If it cannot be adjusted or if it simply too old to work effectively anymore, you need to replace it.
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Replacing a flapper is a simple task to perform yourself. Follow these steps:
- Turn the water supply off to your toilet and flush to empty the tank.
- Unclip or slide the flapper from its setting and disconnect it from the toilet chain.
- Take note of how the flapper is attached to its setting, as well as the chain, so you can reattach the new one easily.
- Take the old flapper with you when purchasing a new one to ensure you find the correct size and type.
- Slide or clip the new flapper into place and attach the chain.
- Turn the water back on and test the flush.
Incorrect Chain Length
A problem chain may cause a running toilet. The chain in the toilet connects directly to the flapper on the flush lever. If it is too short, it can hold the flap open slightly causing water to run out. If the chain is too long, it can become tangled in the toilet mechanism and stop the flapper from shutting. The chain length can be easily adjusted, either by shortening your chain or purchasing a longer one if required.
Incorrect chain length could be responsible for a weak flush. A long chain forces you to hold down the handle to keep the flapper open for a full flush. Removing the chain from the handle lever and reattaching it with less slack can easily fix this.
Blocked Tank Drain
If you have just bought your first home, then you may not be familiar with how much pressure your new toilet should flush with. If your toilet is flushing too weakly, check the holes through which the water drains from the tank to the bowl. This can be done using a small mirror.
Obstructed holes can be cleared using an acid-based cleaning solution. Use a funnel to pour the solution into the holes. Follow all instructions carefully when using the solution, making sure to cover yourself and ventilate the bathroom properly.
Water Level in Tank
The water level in your toilet tank is a crucial part of its function, as the tank continues to fill until the correct water level has been reached. If the water level is too high, the water might drain into the overflow tube and leak out. If you have noticed a leak and determined the flapper is not at fault, the water level could be the reason.
The water level also affects the efficiency of the flush, with too little water resulting in a weak flush. The water level should generally be between one inch to half an inch below the level of the overflow tube. Some tanks, such as those in low-flow toilets, might have markings on the inside of the tank to indicate the desired water level.
If the level of water in your tank is too low or too high, you need to check what type of water level sensor your tank uses:
- A float ball set too high means you are wasting water. Try turning the adjustment screw attaching the arm of the ball cock to the fill valve. If the arm is made of metal, you could also bend it slightly to meet the desired water level.
- A float cup or cylinder can be adjusted by a clip located on its side. Pinch the clip and slide it up and down until you reach the correct level.
- A floatless sensor can be adjusted by turning the adjustment screw on top of the ball cock.
- A cracked float ball lets in water. This prevents it from rising with the water level, and the tank continues to fill without stopping. You need to shut off the water to the tank, remove the ball and replace it with a new one. The new ball screws back into place with the assistance of some petroleum jelly.
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