Toilet Troubleshooting and Repair
Toilet replacement parts are readily available and usually not difficult to install, no matter how old the toilet is. If a toilet is cracked, it needs to be replaced. However, you may want to replace one if it's out of style.
To determine what's wrong with your toilet, start by looking under the tank lid. If flushes are incomplete, check that the water level reaches the proper level -- an inch or less from the top of the overflow tube. If the toilet constantly hisses or if water seeps into the bowl, the tank water level may be too high. The excess water is slowly overflowing into the overflow tube and into the bowl. Adjusting the water level is usually a simple matter. In some cases, however, the fill valve may need to be repaired or replaced.
If the toilet is clogged, use a plunger or an auger to clear the problem.
If water seeps out the bottom of the bowl when the toilet is flushed, the wax ring needs to be replaced.
Less than an hour for most repairs
Screwdriver, groove-joint pliers, adjustable wrench, toilet plunger, pressure plunger, toilet auger, locking pliers, small mirror, toothbrush, bottle brush, nonmetallic scrubbing pad
Making simple plumbing corrections
Place a drop cloth on the floor; set the tank lid aside
Repair parts, new float-cup assembly if needed
- Bowl overflows or will not flush freely: Clear a clog with a plunger, pressure plunger, or toilet auger.
- Toilet does not flush: Check that the handle is connected to the flapper via a chain or to the stopper via a lift rod. Check that water is turned on and running into the tank.
- Incomplete (short) flushes: Check the water level in the tank and adjust the float ball, chain, or lift rod. Flush the toilet and watch the flapper or the stopper; if it goes down too soon, replace it.
- Handle is loose: Tighten the nut holding the handle to the tank. Check the handle's connection to the wire or the lift rod.
- Water sprays out of the tank: Reattach the refill tube to the overflow tube.
- Run-on: Adjust the float ball, stopper, or cup. Replace a leaky float ball or stopper. If the water level still rises above the overflow tube, repair or replace the fill valve.
- Water continusosly seeps into the bowl, making it necessary to jiggle the handle (you hear occasional "phantom flushes"): Clean the flush valve seat and adjust the flapper or stopper. You may need to replace the flapper or stopper.
- Leak from the tank: Check and tighten water supply connection. Tighten tank bolts. Replace the tank if it is cracked.
- Leak from the base of the bowl: Remove the toilet, replace the wax ring, and reinstall the toilet. Replace the bowl if it is cracked.
A float-cup assembly and diaphragm valve have reliable plastic parts. A ballcock valve has brass and rubber parts. The brass parts last for decades and the rubber parts that be replaced when worn.
- Planning Your Plumbing Project: The Basics
- Blocked Pipes: Fixing Clogged Drain Pipes
- Faucets: How to Fix Leaky Faucets or Install a New Faucet
- Pipe: How to Repair Pipes, Thaw Frozen Water Pipes & More
- Working with Pipe: Copper, Plastic, CPVC, PEX, Steal, Cast Iron & More
- Plumbing System Repairs & Upgrades
- Bathtubs: How to Remove, Repair or Replace a Bathtub
- Installing a New Bathroom
- Kitchen Plumbing: How to Plan & Install Kitchen Plumbing & Appliances
- HVAC: How to Install or Repair Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning Systems
- Utility Rooms & Basements: How to Upgrade Your Utility Room or Basement
- Outdoor Plumbing Projects: Sprinklers & Irrigation, Hose Bibs, Ponds & Fountains, More