Fixing a running toilet is a lot easier than you might think. In this article, we'll show you how to identify and solve the problem. Don't be intimidated by the plumbing. The fixes are straightforward, even if you don't have any plumbing experience. So stop wasting water and fix the toilet!
You don’t have to live with a running toilet or pay an expensive repair bill. The Family Handyman editor, Travis Larson, shows you how to diagnose what is making your toilet run and how fix the problem using two tools, a screwdriver and pliers.
Push down on the flapper with a stick when you hear the water running and listen for it to stop. If it stops, you know the flapper isn’t sealing properly. Replace it. Check the fill tube length and cut it back so it's at least 1/2-in. above the water line.
Flush the toilet and look for a fill valve leak. Lift up on the float arm when the tank is filling to see if the water stops. Bend or adjust the float arm so the tank stops filling when the water level is 1/2- to 1-in. below the top of the overflow pipe. If the fill valve still leaks, replace it (Photo 3).
Turn off the water supply, flush the toilet, and sponge the remaining water from the tank. Disconnect the water supply line, unscrew the fill valve locknut and lift out the old fill valve.
Insert the new fill valve into the tank according to the instruction sheet and tighten the locknut a half turn past hand tight. If the fill valve is at its maximum height, but the overflow pipe is still higher than the critical level mark, shorten the overflow pipe with a hacksaw so it's 1 in. lower than the critical level mark on the fill valve.
Attach one end of the new fill tube to the fill valve nipple and the other to the enclosed angle adapter (shorten the tube to avoid kinks, if necessary). Clip the angle adapter onto the overflow pipe.
The mysteries of a running toilet can drive you nuts. Whether you hear water running constantly or cycling on and off, we’ll help you decipher the clues so you can stop most leaks. Hardware stores and home centers carry the parts for almost every repair. One cause of a running toilet is a flapper that doesn't seal. If water from the tank seeps around the flapper and into the bowl, the flapper is probably shot. Test for a leaky flapper as shown in Photo 1.
To replace the flapper, first shut off the water supply valve under the toilet (or the main supply if the valve leaks!). Flush the toilet to drain out most of the water, and unhook the old flapper. Buy a new flapper of the same type and install it according to the instructions on the package. Hook the flapper chain onto the flush lever arm so there’s a little slack when the flapper is closed.
If the flapper doesn’t leak and the water still runs, inspect the fill tube connected to the overflow pipe (Photo 1).The end should be above the water line. If the end is under water, cut it back. Next, inspect the fill valve for visible signs of wear and test the float (Photo 2). If the float is improperly adjusted, the tank water level can rise above the overflow pipe and drain into it. Replace the old fill valve if it doesn’t completely shut off or it hampers the float-arm operation (Photo 3).
Install a new “floatcup”-style fill valve as shown in Photos 4 and 5. Adjust the float according to the package instructions to establish the proper water level. Finish the installation by attaching the flapper chain to the flush lever as described above. Turn on the water and test flush the toilet.
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.