Running Toilet

If you have a toilet that continues to run long after you’ve flushed it, then you know something isn’t right. The water running sound you hear is exactly that. Something inside the toilet tank is preventing the automatic shut-off of water to the toilet bowl. And since the bowl simply drains away excess water as it’s own level rises, you can literally go weeks, months or years without having to fix a running toilet! It goes without saying that in these cases, fresh water is getting wasted. Perhaps even 20 or more gallons per day! This can seriously add up over time. The sound of running water from the toilet when no one is using it can also be annoying or even disruptive if you sleep near the bathroom. In most cases, fixing a running toilet may only require a minor adjustment; however, depending on the age, you may have to replace a part or two to get things working correctly again. See below for the most common ways to repair a running toilet in your house.




Handle, Lift Chain or Wire causes a running toilet
Jiggle the handle on your toilet. Does the running water sound stop? If so, you need to adjust the lift wires or the handle itself. Here’s how:

  • Clean the mounting nut (reversed threads) on inside of the tank. It may be sticking and not letting the handle get back in the right place when it’s let go.
  • Check the lift-chain to make sure it doesn’t have too much slack. If this happens, it can get caught under the flapper, causing water to leak down into the toilet. Another chain problem that causes a running toilet is if the chain has broken. Often these get corroded or just weakened over time and break apart. This occurs either where it connects above at the handle lever or below at the flush valve. Replace this with a new one so it hangs straight with about a 1/2″ in slack. This simple fix can stop your toilet from running! If your toilet running problem is due to a bent lift-wire (no-chain models), then straighten out the wire until it operates smoothly.

Repair a leaky Tank Ball or Flapper to fix a running toilet
An initial check for this problem is to unscrew the float ball from its arm. Shake it near your ear. If you hear jostling water inside, replace it. Further checks are as follows:

  • Clean the valve seat (part where the tank ball or flapper rests after it empties the tank). Turn off the toilet’s water supply, then flush the toilet empty. Use emery paper to clean the inside surfaces of the valve seat and rim area.
  • Check the condition of the tank ball or flapper. If it is softening, corroded or cracked in any way, replace it. These guys are often responsible for running toilets.
  • Check the lift wire holding the tank ball or flapper. It should be straight and allow for a smooth up and down, opening and closing operation. If not, adjust it until things are working properly. Example, make sure the ball is not touching the side of the tank wall. Bend it’s arm to get it away from the wall if necessary.

Above are some easy, low-cost ways to repair your running toilet. Fortunately, these are the most common reasons your toilet would continue to run. If you’ve had a look and/or carried out these fixes and your toilet still runs constantly, here are a couple other possible solutions. These may be a little more complex however, requiring a bit of a project “head” or maybe even a plumber in some cases. Here they are in summary:

Replacing a Ballcock can stop a toilet from running
If water continues to run in your toilet, inspect the ballcock. This is nothing more than a toilet’s water supply valve. It is supposed to shut off the water supply once it raises up to a certain point. It may worn and need replacing. To do so, shut off the water, and flush the toilet to drain the tank. Soak up any water that’s left with a sponge or towel. Disconnect the coupling nut underneath the toilet tank. This allows you to pull the water valve assembly up and out. Insert a like replacement ballcock, ensuring you have at least an inch clearance from the tank lid. It’s best to follow the how-to instructions for the particular product you’re using. Remember, you can adjust the water level in the tank by adjusting the ballcock (about 1/2″ below the overflow pipe).

Replacing a Flush Valve to stop a running toilet
If adjusting the float ball and lift wires isn’t enough to stop a running toilet, and the water level isn’t so high that water flows into the overflow pipe, then try out this next possible fix. This one is a bit more involved since it requires you to shut off the water supply, drain the toilet tank and remove the tank from the base. You then need to turn the tank upside down. Remove the old flush valve simply by unscrewing the nut called a spud nut, with a spud wrench. You can also use a channel pliers. Insert the new flush valve per the instructions of the product you have, then put the tank back in place.

Trying all the above may actually feel like you’ve replaced and installed a entire new toilet. Hopefully the case is that one of these culprits was the basic cause and repair for your running toilet. If you can get it done, then you’ll have saved some water going forward, not to mention, your sanity as you won’t have to listen to a toilet running all the time anymore.

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