My Toilet Keeps Running, Now What?

Lucy Lazarony
November 3, 2020

What should you do when your toilet keeps running and running after you flush it?

Here are some tips. First, we will look at what is causing the toilet to run and run. And then offer some do-it-yourself tips for fixing it. But be sure to consult a plumbing professional for anything that seems too complicated or that you don’t understand. You want that toilet fixed, not water everywhere.

How a Toilet Works

Here is a simple description as to how a toilet works. A lever opens a flapper to cause the toilet to flush, falling back into place when the water level drops. After a toilet flushes, water fills the tank lifting a float that shuts off the water when it reaches a certain level.

Reasons a Toilet Keeps Running

Believe it or not, there are just five main reasons a toilet keeps running.

1) The float height needs to be adjusted. The toilet float is a device that allows water to fill the tank without overflowing. One of the most common causes for a running toilet is overflow water leaking down into the toilet bowl from the tank by way of the overflow tube. This will happen when there’s too much water in the tank. You can change your toilet’s water level by adjusting the height of your toilet’s float. To lower the water in a toilet with a float arm, loosen or tighten the screw until the float arm lowers.

2) The flapper is leaking. The toilet flapper provides the seal for the flush valve and controls the volume of water released to the toilet bowl. Perhaps the most common reason for a running toilet is the flapper is old and needs to be replaced. When flappers get old they don’t seal the way they should. This allows water to pass constantly from the toilet tank into the toilet bowl.

To replace an old, worn out, leaking flapper, simply remove the old one and replace it with a new one. Flappers are available at a variety of hardware stores.

Once you have a new flapper, remove the old flapper by detaching the chain and taking the flapper off the pins on the side of the overflow tank tube. To attach a new flapper, just connect the chain and attach the sides to the pins. Be sure to drain water from the toilet tank before you replace a flapper. Shut off the water to the toilet and then flush the toilet to drain the water. It will be much easier to work without all that water in the way.

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3) The refill tube needs to be shorter. Another cause of your toilet running could be the refill tube is always pumping water into the toilet bowl. This happens when the tube is too long and isn’t positioned properly in the overflow tube. The overflow tube keeps excess water from overflowing into the tank. To shorten a refill tube, pull the tube out of the overflow tube and hold it just above the opening of the overflow. Trim the tube off there and clip it to the side of the overflow tube to keep it in place.

4) Adjust the flush handle and flapper chain. If a flapper chain is too short or tangled, the flapper won’t be able to close and water will continue to leak into the toilet bowl. Adjust the linkage in the chain to leave only a slight bit of slack when the flapper is closed. This will help to stem leakage into the toilet bowl.

5) Repair any bent lift arm in a toilet. After many uses a ball float styled toilet can have a bent lift arm. This bent arm forces the ball to fall lower than the ideal height or partly sinking it. This causes water to keep flushing down the toilet.

Now if you feel like a DIY project, you can try to restore the rod to its original shape by bending it with your hands. But be ready to head to the hardware store if it doesn’t work out and buy a new rod and float.

If none of these fixes is able to stop your toilet from running continuously, you may have a bigger problem that could eventually flood your home. Do your best with conquering the running toilet. But don’t be ashamed to call in the professionals if you need help getting your toilet to stop running. Don’t put off the call for too long either. A running toilet will run up your water bill and could point to a bigger problem. So you want the situation solved promptly.

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