How to Fix a Running Toilet Without Leaving Home

"Running" toilet inside a bathroom

Your toilet keeps running for one of two reasons: 

  1. Water is leaking from the tank into the bowl. 
  2. The fill tube is refilling too much water into the tank and causing the toilet overflow tube to activate. 

You should be able to stop either problem quickly by adjusting the flapper, float, or tubes.

Your running toilet may be easier to fix than you think. In fact, you may be able to stop your toilet from running right now, without leaving your home for supplies or getting your hands dirty. If your toilet is constantly running… and running, try making each of the following simple adjustments. You may just solve your problem.

Adjust the flapper

Your toilet’s flapper is the plastic cup at the bottom of the tank. When you flush your toilet, the flapper lifts and allows water from the tank to pour down into the bowl. If the flapper isn’t flush with the bottom of the tank to seal the opening, then water could slip past it into the bowl. If that happens, the tank will drain until the refill tube has to fill it again. Your toilet keeps refilling as long as the leak exists. 

Flapper problems are the most common cause of running toilets. To address your faulty toilet flapper, shut off the water supply to the toilet, remove the flapper, and wash it. Be sure to scrub its plastic cap and stopper thoroughly. Put the flapper back when you’re done and fit it over the hole as snugly as possible. If the flapper still leaks, you may have to replace it. You could fasten it down until you replace it–but remember to remove your fasteners before you flush!

Adjust the flapper chain

The flapper chain connects the flapper to the toilet’s handle. When you depress the handle, you raise the chain which lifts the flapper and allows water to flow into the bowl. If the chain is too long or too short, it could interfere with the way the flapper sits in the tank and create gaps, resulting in a toilet that runs occasionally. Luckily, adjusting the chain is easy.

First, remove your tank’s cover and flush the toilet. Observe how the chain behaves. If it barely raises the flapper, it’s too short. If it’s so long that it threatens to get under the flapper, it’s too long. In either case, the fix is relatively simple. If the chain is too short, move the hook attaching the chain to the handle up a few links. If the chain is too long, move the hook back a few links to shorten it and reattach.

Adjust the float

The toilet’s float is a buoy-like component that’s attached to the fill valve. After a flush, the fill valve adds water until the float literally floats to the top of the tank. When the float reaches a set level, it stops the fill valve from adding water. If the float is incorrectly positioned, however, the fill valve could add too much water. This forces the overflow tube to drain the excess water repeatedly, which, in turn, forces the toilet to run off and on.

There are two common types of float: ball floats and cup floats. Ball floats attach to the fill valve via the traditional arm. Cup floats wrap around the fill valve itself. In either case, you can manually adjust where the float is suspended within the tank by using the adjustment screw connected to the fill valve arm. Use a plier to turn the screw counterclockwise to lower the float and clockwise to raise it.

Check the fill tube

The fill tube is a small plastic tube that connects the main fill valve to the overflow pipe (which is what your flapper is connected to). It should look like a small, flexible, curving plastic tube. While the fill valve refills the tank of the toilet, the fill tube is in charge of the bowl. The fill tube should always be above the water line in the tank, even when the tank is full.

If your fill tube is under water when the tank is full, then it could be the reason your toilet is running intermittently. To solve this problem, either manually bend the tube up out of the water, or trim it to cut down the excess length. Don’t worry: as long as the tube can reach between the fill and refill valves and remain above water level, it will work correctly.

 Why Does My Toilet Keep Running?

Unfortunately, these simple adjustments will not solve all running toilet problems. If you’ve tweaked the overflow, set the float and adjusted or replaced the flapper and your toilet is still running, it may be time to call the pros at Mike Diamond.

Our experts can diagnose your problem and they know how to stop a toilet from running–whatever the reason–right then and there, every time. Don’t waste any more water… or time–give us a call now!

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