There are all sorts of things that can go wrong downstream from your toilet, especially if you’ve been flushing things that belong in the wastebasket. But what about that jumble of parts hidden inside your toilet tank? There are plenty of things that can go wrong there as well, and some of them are simple enough for you to fix on your own.
We’re not talking about the famous dancing ladies of the Roaring 20s. In toilet terms, the flapper is a small rubber disc that covers a hole at the bottom of your toilet tank. It’s what’s holding back all the water in your tank from becoming the next flush.
Flappers are fairly long lasting but they can degrade over time. Since the job of the flapper is to create a watertight seal, even a small crack or chip could lead to a running toilet. It’s also possible for the flapper to become stuck open, misaligned or even tangled in the chain that attaches it to the flush arm.
If your toilet is running, the flapper should be one of the first things you check. And if you discover that it’s a little worse for wear, you should buy a replacement at your local hardware store. Swapping in a new flapper for the old one is a simple matter of snapping the rubber hinges onto the flush valve and reattaching the chain to the flush arm.
The Flush Chain
The chain itself can also be a problem. If it breaks, your toilet won’t flush. If it’s too long, your toilet might flush weakly or not at all. And if it’s too short, it could hold your flapper partially open and lead to a running toilet.
It’s easy to check for these problems with a visual inspection. These chains usually have removable links, so it’s simple to adjust the link or repair a chain with a single broken link.
The Flush Handle and Arm
The flush handle on the outside of your toilet attaches to an arm that extends into the middle of the tank. This is a very simple mechanism, but it’s one that can break, especially if any of the parts are made of plastic (which they often are). A broken flush handle and arm assembly must be replaced, but replacements are commonly available at hardware stores and often install with no tools at all.
The float is an air-filled ball attached to an arm. It sits just above water level, and when your tank is refilling after a flush, the float tells the fill valve when to stop. If the float becomes damaged or stuck, it may need repair or replacement.
A damaged float or float arm should be replaced altogether. If it’s merely sticky, try draining your toilet tank (shut off the toilet’s main valve and flush), drying the arm’s moving parts and spraying it with a little lubricant.
The Fill Valve
The real workhorse inside your toilet tank is the fill valve, which refills the tank with water after each flush. While normally reliable, these can eventually break for all sorts of reasons. And when that happens, the entire valve assembly must be replaced. You might want to call a plumber for this one if you’re not comfortable with DIY parts replacement, but it’s still not the most complicated job. New toilet tank fill valves typically ship with detailed installation instructions.
Replacing the fill valve requires you to shut off the toilet’s water supply and drain the tank so that you can remove the old valve. Depending on the valve’s design, you might be able to do this without tools by simply unscrewing a few retainer caps. Alternatively, you might need a screwdriver or small adjustable wrench.
Have other problems inside your toilet tank? Our licensed plumbers are ready to come to the rescue. Just reach out to your local Benjamin Franklin and request emergency assistance!