So, your toilet’s been running for a few hours now. Now what? Here’s a guide detailing how to diagnose and fix your running toilet in no time!
If this is you right now, then you’ve probably been wondering two things:
- What causes a toilet to run nonstop?
- How do you fix a running toilet?
In your situation, homeowners normally panic, flush hundreds of times (sometimes leading to overflowing toilets!), or just call the closest plumber they can find. But not you! You’re here because you want to learn why your toilet is running, and how you can fix it on your own before calling a plumber. This guide will help you diagnose the possible reasons why your toilet won’t stop running, and then provide a few solutions you can try at home before you need to call a plumber for professional help.
Note: We don’t recommend performing any work on your own plumbing unless you really understand what it is you are doing. DIY plumbing can often lead to expensive repairs – so proceed with this guide with caution! Only perform the steps you are comfortable with. If you’re not comfortable performing a step, skip it and proceed to the next step towards diagnosing the problem. If you aren’t comfortable performing any of these steps, then give us a call at (626) 448-6455 so we can come to your residence immediately. If you would rather get help from professional toilet repair plumbers, then simply call us at (626) 448-6455.
6 Reasons your toilet keeps running:
There are several reasons why your toilet may be running, and none of them are pretty. Don’t worry, though! Some potential causes are quick fixes, and you should be able to stop your toilet from running in no time! Follow this short guide to diagnose the problem and fix it like a plumber.
6 Reasons why your toilet may be running:
- Your toilet handle may simply be stuck!
- Your home’s water pressure may be too high!
- Your toilet’s float is too high!
- Your flapper is getting old and needs to be replaced!
- The refill tube isn’t sized correctly for your toilet!
- A blockage somewhere is causing a constantly running toilet!
Materials needed to fix a running toilet:
- Fill valve replacement (you can buy one at your local home improvement store, or any plumbing supply store)
- Screwdriver with multiple bit attachments
- Pliers to cut the refill tube (if a long refill tube turns out to be the problem!)
- Rubber safety gloves
- Toilet auger or drain snake
Before we begin, though… make sure the toilet is actually running! Sometimes homeowners mistake a toilet that has been recently flushed for one that’s continuously filling up with water or even overflowing. If this sounds like what’s happening with your toilet, please just be patient and see if the problem persists after 10+ minutes. If the toilet does stop running after an extended period of time, then you may have a deeper-rooted problem. There are many things that could cause a slow-filling toilet, and none of them are good. We recommend contacting Western Rooter & Plumbing or any experienced plumber before continuing to use that particular toilet.
1. Your toilet handle may be stuck!
The first thing to check (and also the easiest to resolve, if it’s the cause of the runny toilet!) is the toilet handle itself.
If the toilet handle is jammed, then the toilet will constantly run. The water in the toilet tank needs to be high enough so that when you flush, it goes down and out through the toilet bowl.
If the toilet handle is jammed, then a few different things could happen:
- The toilet will keep filling up with water until it starts to overflow!
- The toilet may not flush at all!
- The toilet handle may be stuck in the flush position, causing water to go down but not come back up!
- If you’ve ruled out a blockage (see #6 below) and your toilet’s tank is filling up with water every few minutes or so, then this is probably what’s going on.
To fix a jammed toilet handle, you’ll need to find the toilet’s handle rod/lever, which is attached to the toilet tank. If you gently pull this lever up and down a few times, then it should unstick itself after enough fiddling with it.
If that doesn’t fix it, then you might need to replace the toilet handle itself.
Here’s how to replace your toilet handle:
- First, shut off the water supply valve located near your toilet (usually under or behind it). You’ll probably see a pipe coming out of one side of this valve with threads on either end; if so, then simply turn clockwise until you can’t turn anymore.
- Next, flush your toilet. This will remove any excess water that’s in the tank and also release pressure from the toilet handle rod/lever.
- Now comes the fun part! Using a screwdriver with multiple bit attachments (you can borrow one from an extra set of tools if you don’t have one yourself), unscrew whatever is holding the toilet handle onto the tank.
- Finally, replace whatever was holding your toilet handle together with a new one! Your local home improvement or plumbing parts store should have replacement toilet parts available to help you fix this issue in no time (and for cheap!).
If all else fails… well, then it’s probably time to contact Western Rooter & Plumbing.
2. The water pressure in your home could be too high!
If you have an older home, then you might have a toilet with a fill valve that gets stuck open or doesn’t close all the way. As a result, your toilet tank will fill up rapidly because of high water pressure from your local city’s running water supply.
If this is what’s causing your runny toilet problem, then you’ll need to either lower the water pressure in your home by calling your city or by installing a toilet pressure-reducing valve.
A toilet pressure-reducing valve will help your toilet flush more smoothly, thus reducing the amount of water that’s used per toilet flush. Not only should this help with your running toilet, but it could also lower your water bill as well!
(Tip: If you don’t want to install a new toilet pressure-reducing valve yourself, then you can always try asking us how much it would cost to do this for you!)
3. Your toilet’s float might be too high!
Most of the time when we receive calls about runny toilets, the float is the problem. So make sure to check it yourself before you contact a plumber! You could save hundreds of dollars in labor and parts just by replacing one tiny piece yourself.
A toilet float is a device that lets the toilet know how full it is. The toilet will run if the float is too high. Here’s what a toilet float looks like:
Open up your toilet tank and look for the float. You’ll be able to tell if it is too high if the toilet is running and you see the float ball either all the way up or just barely above water level.
If this is your problem, then simply adjust it down a bit! There might be an adjustment screw that allows for height adjustments; if so, then simply turn this to move the toilet’s float lower into the tank.
Now, flush the toilet and see if it’s still running continuously after a flush. If it is, re-adjust the float and repeat this process until it’s no longer running.
If after adjusting the float to several different positions, your toilet is still running, then you can move on to the next step towards diagnosing your problem…
4. You may have an old flapper that needs replacing!
A toilet flapper is a component that controls the flow of water in and out of the toilet’s tank. When you flush the toilet, the toilet flapper closes and prevents water from coming back up through the toilet’s drain and toilet bowl.
Photo courtesy of The Spruce.
The toilet flapper may need replacing when it no longer closes all the way as a result of age. Since flappers are typically made of plastic or rubber, which can deteriorate over time through friction, it’s common for them to need replacing after 5-8 years of use.
To check whether your flapper is too old/worn and needs to be replaced, simply remove it from the toilet’s tank and look for a rubber or plastic piece that is worn out. If you notice any holes, stretches, or tears in this part, then replacing your toilet flapper will be an easy fix to solve your running toilet problem!
Head over to your local home improvement store and grab yourself a new flapper. Take your old one and show an employee so you can get pointed in the right direction. If you have a plumbing supply store near you, then that’s an even better option. They’re going to have flappers in a variety of shapes and sizes.
5. The toilet’s refill tube might need to be resized!
A toilet’s refill tube tells the toilet how many times to flush after materials are flushed. If it’s too short or too long, this may result in a toilet that continuously runs.
Sometimes when a toilet is installed by a DIY’er or any unlicensed plumber or handyman, an incorrectly sized refill tube may be used.
Replacing the refill tube can help you reduce or stop your toilet from running constantly.
In order to see if your toilet’s refill tube is the correct size, you can calculate the height of the toilet tank and measure the refill tube height with a ruler.
To do this, you’ll need to measure from top to top of the toilet tank. You should then measure the toilet refilling tube height from the end of the toilet tank where it meets the toilet bowl up to the same height as the toilet bowl.
If they’re not equal, then it’s time to replace that refill tube!
To replace the refill tube, you can simply unscrew the toilet tank lid to gain access. Then, just remove or replace your refill tube with a new one that’s sized properly!
If your tube is too long, you can simply cut it down to the correct size and then re-install it yourself. If you’re not comfortable with this, call Western Rooter & Plumbing or any licensed plumber you’ve worked with in the past and get professional help!
6. There could be a blockage causing the toilet to run nonstop!
A toilet’s flushing mechanism relies on gravity to get rid of toilet contents. If the toilet is blocked, then water and the blockage may have nowhere to go, so the toilet continues to discharge water in an attempt to clear the blockage. This results in a toilet constantly running… which is bad news for your water bill!
If you suspect that the toilet is blocked, then try snaking it with a toilet auger. If you don’t have an auger with you, then you can try plunging it. If this doesn’t work and your toilet continues to run, we recommend calling Western Rooter & Plumbing or any reputable plumbing company for help.
If you’ve gotten this far and nothing has helped, then your problem may be deeper than anticipated. We highly recommend calling Western Rooter & Plumbing to come to your residence, professionally diagnose the problem so we can explain why your toilet keeps running, and then fix the problem.