When a Leaky Toilet Keeps You Running

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ October 13, 2009

Whether it's a toilet that runs constantly or one that bursts into action after intervals of silence, it's enough to drive you crazy. It's bad enough that more than a third of your total water usage goes down the toilet. Raising the tank level with a brick or water-saving device can spare you gallons, but not if your toilet operates around the clock without flushing. If it's not the whoosh that's crazy-making, it's the hiss of water refilling the tank.

Simple maintenance or trouble-shooting can put your misery to rest, so why are you living with the noise? Most of the time, it's a misaligned ball or flapper, a sticky or leaky flush valve, or a bent lift arm that causes all your woes. First, diagnose the cause by eliminating the parts one-by-one, then perform some uncomplicated adjustments or replace the culprits. It's that simple.

Tracking the Root Causes of Toilet Noise The best place to begin is with the flapper (or flush valve) that seats on the bottom of the tank. Hold it down with a broom handle or ruler. If you still hear water leaking, then it's time to replace the flapper. Next, lift the float lift arm as your tank fills and if it continues to run after the level reaches the overflow pipe, you've found the cause. Bend the arm upwards and see if that handles it. No? Replace it.

toiletIf you have to replace the toilet flapper turn off the water supply via the metal handle behind the unit. The flapper is attached by a hook and chain to the lift arm. When you have the new flapper installed, be sure to take up the slack on the chain so the lift is taut.

While you're at it, check the valve seat beneath the flapper. Minerals from hard water can keep the toilet flapper from sealing. Use a sediment cleaner on a wire brush or scouring pad to remedy the problem. A telltale sign of excessive minerals can be a discolored flapper.

Last, if you hear intermittent hissing and refilling, you may have a leaking flush valve. Experts at Corner Hardware suggest that you add food coloring into your tank water. If the color ends up in your toilet bowl after 20 minutes, the seal to the flush valve may need repairs with a glue-on seat to help the flapper do its job.

Using the illustration: The flapper is the dark blue element that can also be called the flush valve. The float arm is at the top of the illustration, connecting the float ball to the inlet valve.

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