Plumbing Tips: Toilet Repairs
How to Make Toilet Repairs
Most toilet problems occur inside the tank where the moving parts are located. Some repairs are simple enough to be done by you. Others, such as those involving plumbing lines, are best left to qualified plumbers. Diagnose the problem & what's causing it - then evaluate your own skill level before you start the repair.
NOTE: Major plumbing problems are best left to professionals like us at Joe Mumford Plumbing & Heating Co.
How the Toilet Operates - Toilet Tank
In order to pinpoint problems that may occur in the toilet tank, it's helpful to understand the flushing cycle.
1. Moving the handle makes the trip lever rise. This lifts the flapper. Water flows through the opening in the flapper seat from the tank to the bowl.
2. The flapper drops back into place, covering the flapper seat.
3. Water flowing out of the tank causes the flapper to drop w/ the water level. This causes the intake valve to open. Fresh water flows into the tank from the intake valve & through the filler tube.
4. Water entering the tank pushes the flapper down until it closes off the intake valve.
Tools you will need include: adjustable wrench, screwdriver, pliers & replacement parts.
Materials you may need include: handle, trip lever, bowl refill tube, connecting or lift wire, tank float or float ball, float arm, lift rod, guide arm for tank ball, tank ball or flapper, ball seat, overflow pipe, tank refill tube, intake or inlet valve, flush valve or ballcock & supply pipe.
Repairs of 6 Common Toilet Tank Problems
Before starting any repair, turn off the water supply valve located under the toilet tank. If there is no shutoff valve under the fixture, turn off the water at the main shutoff valve. For simple repairs you may not need to flush the water out of the tank.
1. Tank Fills, Water Still Runs
Remove the tank cover & check the float arm. The float arm & ball may be connected by an L-shaped collar which lets you raise or lower the float ball more easily.
Only about half the float ball should be below water. When there's water in the float ball it won't rise high enough to close the valve. Unscrew the float ball & replace w/ a new one.
If lifting up on the float arm doesn't stop the water, the washers on the intake valve may be worn.
Before you attempt to remove the intake valve, turn off the water supply & flush the tank.
To open the valve, remove the two thumbscrews or pivot screws & slide the float ball, arm & float arm linkage out of the valve. Remove the cap if there is one covering the valve. Pull the plunger upward from the valve, or slide a screwdriver blade through the slot at the top of the plunger & lift out. Replace the seat washer at the base of the plunger, as well as the split washer that fits into a groove in the valve. If the intake valve is a diaphragm-type (washerless) assembly, you will need to obtain a replacement kit from a plumbing supply store & follow installation instructions.
Newer intake valve assemblies made of plastic operate w/out a float ball & arm & simplify the flushing action. On one type, sliding a float cup up or down on a rod allows you to adjust the tank water level.
Installing a replacement valve assembly requires unscrewing the slip nut on the underside of the tank to remove the old assembly. It you plan to do this yourself, first make certain that the water supply is turned off & then flush the tank. Sponge out any remaining water from the tank or it will leak onto the floor when you remove the valve assembly. Be careful not to crack the flush tank w/ tools as you work.
The intake valve & connecting supply pipe are called the ballcock assembly & sold as one unit. Follow the manufacturer's directions to install the new assembly & tighten the slip nut carefully, so as not to crack the tank.
2. Tank Doesn't Fill, Water Still Runs
A running toilet may be caused by a defect in the lift wire, the flapper or the flush valve.
Sometimes the lift wire & lift rod that raise & lower the flush ball become corroded or bent. Smooth the rough or corroded wire & rod w/ steel wool or replace w/ new parts.
If the guide arm for the lift rod is not correctly aligned, it will keep the flush ball from seating directly over the ball seat. Loosen the setscrew in the guide arm & move the guide back & forth until the ball drops directly over the ball seat. Tighten the setscrew.
If the lift wire, rod & guide are operating properly, a worn flush ball may be the problem. If the rubber flush ball has hardened or is out of shape, purchase a replacement ball & screw it onto the end of the lift rod. You may wish to purchase a flapper-type replacement for the tank ball. The flapper unit has a long life-span & quieter flush than the conventional flush ball. Follow manufacturer's installation instructions.
Often the ball seat becomes rough & uneven from corrosion. This prevents the flush ball from completely sealing the opening. After draining the tank, smooth the ball seat opening w/ steel wool.
3. Toilet Won't Flush Properly
If the toilet handle must be held down to complete the flushing action, first check the trip lever. The lever is set at a slight angle inside the tank so that it can operate w/out scraping the tank side, the overflow tube or the intake valve. If the trip lever isn't moving freely when you flip the handle, slightly bend it toward the center of the tank. As you bend it, use one hand to hold-the lever in place where it joins the handle.
A second place to check is the lift wire. It may not be raising the flush ball high enough & the outrushing water may be pulling it back down too quickly. Simply bend the lift wire enough to shorten it. The shorter lift wire will hold the flush ball out of the way of the rushing water.
An inadequate flush can also be caused if the float ball is adjusted too low to allow a full tank of water. Bend the float arm upward to correct this. The water level in most tanks should be 1/2 to 3/4 inch below the top of the overflow pipe.
Occasionally, clogged outlet ports around the underside of the bowl rim may cause an inadequate flush. Scrub the ports w/ a wire brush to free them of sediment or mineral buildup.
4. Tank Fills Slowly or Noisily
First, check the water supply valve under the tank. It may be open only part way. Open the valve completely to let a full stream of water flow into the tank.
A tank refill tube that is too short may be causing the toilet noises. One simple solution is to use a piece of rubber or plastic tubing slightly larger in diameter than the refill tube & about 6 to 8 inches in length. Slide the tubing about two inches over the end of the refill tube. The free end of the hose that you've added will deposit water silently on the bottom of the tank.
5. Condensation on Toilet Tank
Condensation usually occurs on the tank surface as a result of cold tank water & warmer room air. A simple solution is to add a tank cover to the outside of the tank.
Another method is to install an insulating liner inside the tank. Kits are available from the plumbing supply stores. Follow manufacturer's installation instructions.
Another way of stopping condensation is to install a mixing valve which adds a little warm water to the cold water entering the tank. This raises the temperature of the tank water. This device may be purchased from a plumbing supply store & installed following the manufacturer's instructions.
6. Leaks Under the Toilet Tank
A leak at the outlet or where the outlet pipe joins the bowl may require removing the tank. This is not a job for the inexperienced home repair person. Call us for this job.
CAUTION: Before starting any repair, turn off the water supply valve under the toilet tank. If there is no shutoff valve under the fixture, turn off the water at the main shutoff valve.