Heading Out on Your Own: Day 19 Fix a Running Toilet
by Brett & Kate McKay
Art of Manliness
Have you heard
that before? Yep, that wonderful sound of a rogue toilet. You lift
the lid, poke things a little, and hope the pot fixes itself.
My late father
had many fine qualities, but aside from knowing which end of the
hammer was for hitting, he was not a handyman. If something broke,
he would rig it as best he could, but since this was before duct
tape, his solutions were sometimes more creative than effective.
Replacing toilet guts might as well have been brain surgery.
Even if youíre
not ďhandy,Ē you can do this rather easily, and many other things
as well. The key is the right tools, the right parts, the ability
to read, the discipline to not take short cuts, and patience.
The truth is
that a toilet is a simple thing. There are two moving parts: the
float and valve assembly, and the stopper that controls the release
of water. When you release 1.6 gallons of water, it splits between
the top of the bowl and the bottom, creating a Venturi effect that
sucks down (hopefully) the waste.
parts wear out, bend, come loose, or just give up the ghost. If
your toilet is running or not working, take the following steps.
Check the connection between the handle and the stopper valve.
A chain of some sort will connect the handle with the stopper, and
pushing the handle opens the stopper valve. Thatís why jiggling
the handle will sometimes help the stopper close properly, but itís
not a permanent fix. If the chain is disconnected entirely, the
toilet will obviously not flush.
Check the stopper valve. It should easily flop into its
ďseatĒ and seal the tank. If the stopper valve is not seating properly,
then the toilet runs and wastes a lot of water. Sometimes you can
tweak the hinge on the valve to get it to seat properly. If not,
itíll need replacing.
Check the float. The traditional float is a big ball at
the end of a rod that controls the valve that fills the tank after
a flush. More common these days is a donut-shaped float that slides
up and down on the overflow tube, or an internal float that shuts
the water valve when it hits a certain level. Either way, if the
tank isnít filling up as much as needed to flush properly, make
sure the float isnít leaking. If it is, itíll need replacing.
Letís say all
your poking and prodding isnít doing the trick. Lucky you! You get
to replace the toilet guts. So go buy the toilet guts. You can get
them almost anywhere. No need to be a plumber, just go to the local
hardware store and ask for toilet guts (or something like that).
They are almost always sold as one unit, and theyíre inexpensive
enough that you can replace the whole thing easier than replacing
specific parts. You may also decide to replace the supply hose,
since youíre already messing around there.
You can spend
a lot or a little. The expensive ones are quieter, but other than
that, it doesnít matter. Fifteen bucks will do the job. Itís
Old Toilet Guts
Pee. The sound of all that water flowing will no doubt
cause an increase in urgency.
Disconnect the flushing handle from the stopper on the inside.
It should be a simple chain or other mechanism you can do by hand.
Note the crusties
around the top of the drain tube. Just some calcium, not part of
the pipe. It’ll break right off. If you’re highly anal
you can nuke the whole tank with vinegar. That said…it’s
Shut off the water. The valve below the toilet gets very
little use. Sometimes itís a little corroded or encrusted with hard
water minerals, since the last time it was used was when the toilet
was installed or the mechanism replaced. A little vinegar and a
soft wire brush can clean it up a little. Close it tightly. Place
an old towel or two under the faucet to catch water when you unhook
the supply hose.
Drain the tank. Easy to do–flush the toilet by reaching
in and pulling the stopper up. The tank will not refill because
you shut the water off. To keep things a little neater, you could
sponge out the remaining water and wring it into the bowl. It makes
for less dripping later.
notice I use braided steel-covered supply lines. They’re probably
overkill, but it’s cheap insurance. Your mileage may vary.
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© 2012 The Art of Manliness