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Toilet Troubleshooting: 6 Helpful Tips for Fixing a Toilet

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While there are some instances where it’s obvious you should call a plumber, there are other times when fixing a toilet is well within your abilities. Simple troubleshooting of a toilet can be done by most homeowners with a few DIY skills.

If you’re having issues with your toilet, follow these 6 tips for toilet troubleshooting.

1. Fixing a Clogged Toilet

One of the most common problems people run into is a clogged toilet. Whether the issue originates with water flow or with flushing too much material down it. Either way, there are a few options for clearing up a clog.

A plunger is a basic tool that everyone knows for unclogging a toilet. Having the right type of plunger for the job matters a lot because a flat plunger might not get the seal that you need. Your first push is just to get the air moving, so go slowly and avoid splashing dirty water on yourself.

If a few pumps of the plunger doesn’t do the trick, consider mixing baking soda and vinegar. This non-toxic solution is great for keeping drains running smoothly. Put a cup of baking soda down the toilet, wait a minute, then pour two cups of vinegar in to clear it up.

Your most extreme option is to buy a plumbing snake. Use a toilet snake to avoid scratching up or damaging your toilet. Place the head inside the bowl and slowly turn it until you feel resistance, wind it back, then try flushing.

2. Replacing a Ballcock

If your toilet is running, one of the reasons for it can be the ballcock, which is the hollow ball that floats at the top of the water in your tank. It operates the valve that keeps the water flowing and tells it when to stop.

The way this element function is that when the water is drained from the tank, the ball drops down. As the water fills the tank, the ball raises and the valve it’s connected to closes up. If the water continues to run, that means that the ballcock isn’t properly calibrated.

In some cases, the float arm can be pent to help shut off the tank. You can also fine-tune how much water you’re using in your tank if you change the calibration of the ballcock.

Replacing the ballcock with a modern float-cup valve is one of the best ways to avoid this issue.

3. Having Flush Valve Issues?

If you’re having trouble getting your flush valve to catch or it doesn’t seem to be working, you need to take a closer look. The flush valve is in the center of your tank and is a brass or plastic fitting attached to the opening. The flapper or float ball is responsible for emptying water and keeping it in the tank.

The overflow tube helps to prevent water from overflowing into the tank and keeps a small amount running into the toilet bowl as the tank refills. If either of these components isn’t secure, they could cause your water to run.

4. Toilet Won’t Stop Running

If your toilet runs constantly or you have to jiggle the handle, this is usually because the flapper isn’t sitting properly over the hold in the bottom of the tank. The opening of the flush valve needs to be completely sealed if you want to keep your tank from slowly running.

When the water in your tank runs too high, water will flow into the overflow tube and be sent back into the tank.

Refill valves can be adjusted to change the water level and if you need to replace your flapper valve, that’s a fairly easy fix as well. These components are inexpensive and sold at every hardware store.

5. Is the Flush Handle Loose?

If your flush handle becomes loose or disconnected from the tank, it requires you to fix it. Otherwise, you won’t be able to properly flush what’s in the toilet and you could keep your toilet running for hours.

Open up the tank and take a look at the lift wire or lift chain. Often this chain can get tangled, bent, or broken over time. If it’s broken, it can be temporarily fixed with a paper clip until you get to a hardware store.

If the handle mounting nut inside your tank is loose, that is an easy fix, just turn the nut and secure the handle to its location on the side of the tank. This fix can take seconds and solve a seriously irritating problem.

6. Is Your Toilet Base Leaking

While most of the problems you encounter happen at the tank, some issues happen outside of the bowl. Before you diagnose the problem, consider the season. Some tanks may seem leaky but it’s just the impact of condensation on humid days.

If you see a real puddle at the base of your toilet, be careful. It’s likely this water is dirty and contaminated, so avoid this toilet.

There’s typically a wax ring sealing the base of the toilet to the drain opening below. While you can temporarily add material to cover the area, it will inevitably become contaminated. You may have to remove the toilet to fix the problem, though it can be done without a plumber involved.

Is Toilet Troubleshooting Seeming Too Intense?

If you’re considering toilet troubleshooting but you can’t wrap your head around the problem, it might be time to call a plumber. There’s no price you can put for the piece of mind that your toilet troubles will be handled quickly and flawlessly by a professional.

To ensure you avoid future toilet issues, follow our guide for preventative maintenance.

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