It’s become commonplace in many homes. You flush your toilet and rather than that modest few seconds of water returning to the bowl after the oddly comforting swoosh-and-gulp noise, the water continues to run…and run….and run. “Jiggle the handle!” some loved one or funny friend will call out and, more times than not, that will be all that is needed to untangle the chain that controls the lever and flap that allow the tank to refill. No plunger needed; crisis averted.
Then there are the other times. The times when even an all-out assault with plungers, brushes, drain-o and, yes, enough handle-jiggling to make your bicep ache, just will not do the trick. I know what it’s like: hopelessness sets in, major philosophical conundrums come into the forefront, and life itself takes on a sour taste. But fear not, for nearly all impairments that cause a toilet to run can be fixed pretty easily with minimal amount of replacement gear, pliers, bolts and gaskets.
So, after checking that the chain isn’t twisted and the guide rod (connected to the chain) isn’t bent, the first thing to do is check the flapper, which is the (usually rubber) plug that allows the tank to fill up, controlled by the rod and chain; it literally flaps open and close. The rim of the flapper can often get a build-up of bacteria or get corroded over time, causing the flap not to create a full, tight seal. Lift the flapper up and clean it as best you can; a scouring pad or hard-bristled scrubber work best. If the damage is too great, bring it to a local plumbing supply store and purchase a replacement.
The second part of the mechanism to check is the Float, or the Float Ball. This should be easy to spot: a big rubber ball, usually black. If you lift the ball and the water suddenly stops running, you will have to adjust the ball, via the arm it’s attached to, to retain the right buoyancy for the tank. In some cases, however, you may notice that there is some water in the ball. This means that it must be replaced and, in this case, it’s best to unscrew it and bring it with you to ensure you get the exact right replacement for your tank.
If the ball, the chain, the rod and flapper are not the trouble spots, the final think to check is the flushing valve. Keep in mind that this is a much more complicated procedure and could very well require professional help. You will have to remove the tank from the bowl and remove the large plastic nut at the center of the tank. This will allow you to remove the entire flush valve, so you can bring it with you to the local plumbing supplies store. Installation instructions will usually come with the new valve or you can ask someone at the supply store for help and any suggestions.
In some cases, the entire assembly and shaft may have to be replaced; this is usually due to a crack in the shaft. Still, this is a rare occurrence and most times your toilet runs it is merely a matter of untangling, tightening or scrubbing a piece of the mechanism. Indeed, most of the time all you really need to do is jiggle the handle.