How to Stop a Running Toilet

Posted on November 8th, 2021 by carrolladmin

A toilet that is constantly running is a quick way to generate a scary water bill. Any water used – even just for a running toilet –  is included on your water bill. You are literally pouring money down the (toilet) drain!

The good news is that this plumbing problem, which can waste hundreds of gallons a day, is easy to fix. In this post, we will go through some common causes of a running toilet and give you some tips on how to stop a running toilet by yourself.

How a Toilet Works: The Basics

A toilet tank is designed to allow the flow of water in and out every time you flush. When you press the flush handle, the flapper valve lifts, releasing water into the bowl while the fill valve opens so the tank can refill. A float is in place to measure the water level inside the tank and shut off the fill valve once it reaches that level.

When it’s working, we give the mechanics of a basic toilet flush a single thought. But when there’s a problem? That’s a different story.

What Causes a Running Toilet?

A running toilet can be caused by problems inside the tank, including:

  • Chains  
  • Flapper valves
  • Floats
  • Lift arms
  • Fill valves

If any of these items malfunction, then the waterline will stay open and running to try and fill the tank. Let’s examine these issues a bit closer, providing some DIY tips and insight on when it’s time to call in the professionals at Carroll Plumbing & Heating.

Problems With the Chain

The chain is a common culprit of a running toilet. If the chain is too long, too short, or tangled, it will cause issues with the flapper. For example, there will not be enough slack for the flapper to close when the chain is too short. Likewise, if the chain is too long, it can prevent the flapper from forming a seal, enabling water to flow into the bowl. 

Suggested Fixes

First, check to see if the flapper is open. If it is open, try pushing down the flapper and see if that has stopped the water. If the water stops, then you may have a problem with the chain. On the other hand, if the water keeps running, then the problem may lie elsewhere.

Secondly, check the chain to see if it is the correct length and not damaged. If the chain is too long, then you’ll need to trim off some of the excess. If you notice the chain is rusty or damaged, you’ll need to purchase a new flapper chain.

Problems With the Flapper

The next thing to check is the flapper. If the flapper doesn’t stop the water even when it’s pushed down, this suggests that the flapper may be damaged. It is a very common problem and an easy fix. If there is no visible sign of damage, then wiping it down may solve the problem.

Suggested Fixes

If wiping the flapper doesn’t work, you’ll need to drain the toilet and replace it. First, turn off the water supply to the toilet and then flush. Undo the chain from the lever arm and the flapper. Pull the flapper out. Then attach a new flapper to the chain and attach the chain to the lever arm. 

Please note that there are many different styles of flappers on the market, so you might not be able to find an exact match. In this case, go for the nearest size or buy a universal flapper. 

Problems With the Water Level

The next thing to check is the water level in the tank. The tank has a float to ensure the tank fills to a certain level. If the float is too high, water will leak into the overflow tube and the bowl. This causes the fill valve to turn on and fill up the tank intermittently. If the float is too low, the flapper will stay open.

Suggested Fixes

You will need to adjust the height of the float by locating a small tab attached to a metallic rod connected to the float. Pinch together the small clip together to lower the float up and down as required. 

Problems With the Fill Valve

A broken or faulty fill valve can lead to constant or intermittent running water. If you notice the float valve is submerged, the problem lies with the fill valve, which will need to be replaced. 

Suggested Fixes

First, turn off the water supply and flush the toilet to empty the tank. Disconnect the supply hose and remove the old fill valve. There will be a locking nut at the bottom of the water supply shank. Unscrew this and remove the entire valve assembly from the tank. Install the new valve following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Problems With the Lift Arm

In ball-float style toilets, there are times when the lift arm can get bent, which forces the float ball lower than it should be positioned. 

Suggested Fixes

The fix for this can be as simple as bending the arm back into place. However, if the lift arm is damaged, you may need to replace it or consider installing a float cup.

How to Stop a Running Toilet: Call Us!

A running toilet can sometimes be taken care of using the tips above. However, if you are having regular problems with your toilet (or don’t have time to make the repairs), it makes sense to get an expert opinion. The experienced and fully licensed technicians at Carroll Plumbing & Heating can quickly diagnose and solve your plumbing issues. 

Got any other plumbing issues at home? Then check out the link below for some plumbing tips and tricks for homeowners.


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