What to Do About a Running Toilet


Few sounds are more annoying than that of a running toilet.  Aside from the irritation, a continuously running toilet can waste as much as 200 gallons of water daily, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.   Even small leaks can cause significant water loss and higher utility bills.  Most running toilets are caused by the breakdown of a single part, and the fix is relatively simple.  The most important thing to do, is fix the toilet promptly.  What to do about a running toilet?  Read on for some toilet troubleshooting guidelines.

Toilet Basics

Most people are familiar with basic toilet principles.  They work using gravity.  When the lever is pushed down, it pulls a chain that lifts a rubber flapper up, which results in the release of water from the tank into the bowl.  As the water drains from the tank, an air-filled cup or ball, drops to the bottom of the tank.  The float, cup or ball, is attached to a fill valve which connects to the water supply at the bottom of the tank.  When the float is down, the fill valve lets water into the tank.  When the water level rises the float to a preset level, it turns the fill valve off, completing the cycle.

Water comes out of the fill valve to fill the refill tube and the overflow tube.  The refill tube is a small plastic tube, which directs water into the tank and also directs a small amount of water into the overflow tube. The overflow tube drains water directly into the toilet bowl and is responsible for refilling the water level in the bowl.

Troubleshooting Checklist

1. Chain

Chain problems are common reasons toilets continually run as they prevent the flapper from sealing properly.  Simply check the chain between the flush lever and the flapper to determine if the chain is tangled or caught.  Chain lengths may contribute to problems.  Shorter chains may remain too tight, even when the flush lever is idle.  Lengthy chains may obstruct the flapper.  The problem is easily resolved by resizing or replacing the chain.

2. Flapper

Dysfunctional flappers allow water to dribble through the seal, causing toilets to continually run.  Rubber flappers break, collect grunge, and lose flexibility when they age.  To check the veracity of the flapper, push it down and determine if that stops the water running.  Flappers are inexpensive to replace, and simply need to be attached to the chain.

3. Float Position

Floats should be examined for any cracks that allow water to get inside them.  The correct adjustment of a toilet float is crucial for proper toilet functioning.  Floats, signal the fill valve, when the tank is full.  Water level should be slightly below the top of the overflow tube.  If the float is set too high, the increased water level raises above the overflow pipe, causing the tank to continually drain.  Floats can be tested by pulling them up and checking to see if the toilet stops running.

4. Fill Valve

If there are no issues with the chain, flapper, or float, and water is still running, the fill valve may be the culprit.  Fill valves malfunction if there is dirt or debris present.  The water must first be shut off to examine the fill valve.  The fill valve can be removed to look for dirt, grime, or visible signs of wear that prevent the valve from sealing tightly.  If cleaning the fill valve doesn’t fix the problem, it will need to be replaced.

Not every running toilet fix is simple.  Still having problems?  It may be time to ask an expert. contact us today or call us at 905-619-9700