Common Reasons For A Running Toilet

Common Reasons For A Running Toilet – Have you ever been laying in bed, mindlessly watching TV or something similar then realize you hear water running? You know the sound, wish I could spell it, LOL. You realize it’s the toilet, do the magic jiggle, and it stops – sometimes. We often ignore it, and just let the ‘magic jiggle’ suffice as our fix. But seriously, why does the toilet do that?

“Why does my toilet keep running?”

If you are asking yourself this question, it means that you have a problem that may be keeping you up at night both literally and figuratively. Not only is it annoying, but a running toilet wastes water and drives up your utility bills. This will cost you MONEY. Not only that, but the sound of constantly running water can be irritating as you go about your day and then try to go to sleep at night. This is a common problem that can usually be traced back to one of the following causes.

The Anatomy Of Your Toilet

Common Reasons For A Running Toilet

1. The Flapper Is Leaking

When you flush your toilet, the handle pulls on a lever that pulls up on the flapper, a device made of rubber or a rubber-like plastic that covers the drain hole on the toilet. When the flapper is open, all the water in the tank drains away. When it falls back into place, it closes and seals the hole so the tank can fill up again.

On a side note, ‘flapper’ IS indeed the technical term for this important piece in your toilet. I know it doesn’t sound very technical, but plumbing, in it’s essence, is a practical science. And the flapper. well flaps. So, it’s called a ‘flapper’.

A Few Different ‘Flappers’

When the toilet flapper gets old, it can become dry, stiff, and cracked. It may become encrusted with sediment from the tank, all of which can prevent it from sealing properly. If your toilet is running constantly, the first thing to try is replacing the flapper as this is one of the easiest toilet repairs. Toilet flappers only last about five years at most, so if you replace the flapper regularly, you may not have to deal with a running toilet at all, or at least you may be able to rule out the flapper as a possible cause.

While replacing a flapper is fairly easy, it can be tricky to get the chain precisely the right length. If the chain is too short, the flapper can’t reach the drain hole at all, but if it is too long, it may get trapped until the flapper and prevent it from forming a good seal.

Common Reasons For A Running Toilet

2. The Float Is Too High

When the toilet float reaches a certain level, the toilet is supposed to stop filling. If the float is adjusted too high, it allows the tank to fill up with too much water. This can then leak into the overflow tube and go back down into the bowl. Lowering the float may solve this problem.

Different Float Types

Most modern toilets have a column float that attaches to the fill valve. This is held in place with either a clip or a screw. Loosening this allows the float to be lowered to the desired level. Re-tightening the screw or clip will hold it in the desired position.

If you have an old-fashioned toilet with a float arm, this can be raised or lowered by tightening or loosening the screw. It can be hard to know when the float is too high or too low, so consult Tom & Robert at Budget Plumbing rather than trying to make the adjustment yourself.

3. The Refill Tube Is Too Long

If the refill tube is too long, or if it isn’t positioned properly in the overflow tube, it could create a suction effect that pulls water out of the fill valve and keeps pumping it back into the bowl. This issue can be fixed by pulling the tube out of the overflow, holding it just above the opening, trimming it, and clipping it back into place. However, this is a task you should leave to professionals as it would be easy to trim off too much of the tube, and then you have a whole different set of problems on your hands.

Call Budget Plumbing for Plumbing Services Today!

Budget Plumbing

Plumbing repairs may seem simple, but if you don’t know what you are doing, it is easy to mess them up. Get the repair done right the first time by hiring an experienced plumber from Budget Plumbing.

Common Reasons For A Running Toilet

Want To Fix It Yourself?

Now, while we don’t recommend you try to fix your toilet on your own, unless you have SOME experience, we’d like to share the steps, just in case you do. Learn the Budget Plumbing four-step strategy that may solve many of your toilet flush problems. Stop water from constantly running, give a wimpy flush a boost, and solve other common problems quickly and easily.

Now, if you’d like Pro’s to come by and fix it for you, give us a call at 864-250-0700. Budget Plumbing is here for you. As a quick disclaimer, we here at Budget Plumbing take NO RESPONSIBILITY if you follow these steps and break your toilet. Mm’kay?

Tools Required

  • Cutting pliers
  • Pliers
  • Rubber gloves

Materials Required

  • Replacement fill valve
  • Toilet flapper


The basics of how a toilet works hasn’t changed much in the last 80+ years. After a flush, water fills a tank, lifting a float that shuts off the water when it reaches a certain level. A lever still opens a flapper to cause the flush, falling back into place when the water level drops.

So, it should come as no surprise that we still have to deal with the same common flush problems from time to time. Sometimes the flush isn’t powerful enough, sometimes the toilet keeps running, and sometimes the bowl doesn’t refill.

The good news is that most of these problems are easy to fix, without having to replace a toilet. You can complete the first three steps in five minutes. That’ll solve most problems. The fourth step is usually easy too, but not always. More on this later. These steps work for most toilets but not for pressure-assist models. Here’s what to do if your toilet won’t stop running.

Common Reasons For A Running Toilet



Common Reasons For A Running Toilet

Project step-by-step (4)

Step 1

Check the Fill Tube

For a toilet overflow tube problem, remove the tank lid and find the fill tube. It’s a small flexible tube that runs from the fill valve to the toilet overflow tube. While the tank refills, this tube squirts enough water down the toilet overflow tube to refill the bowl after the completed flush. If this tube falls off or the water stream misses the overflow tube, the bowl won’t fill and your next flush will be wimpy (that is, won’t develop a strong siphon).

Reattach the fill tube and push it firmly onto the fill valve. Make sure it perches about 1 in. above the rim of the overflow tube and that the fill tube sends water into the toilet overflow tube. Flush the toilet and watch the water stream to make sure it goes down the toilet overflow tube.

Step 2

Adjust the Fill Height by Checking the Float

The water level in the tank is controlled by an adjustable float. A float that’s set too low produces a weak flush; if it’s set too high, water spills into the toilet overflow tube and the fill valve won’t shut off. The toilet keeps running. To learn how to fix a toilet that won’t flush, look for the fill level mark on the inside back of the tank and mark it on the toilet overflow tube so you can see it more easily. If you can’t find it, measure down about 1 in. on the overflow tube and make a mark.

Then flush the toilet and see if the water reaches and stops at that mark. If not and the toilet keeps running, adjust the toilet tank float up or down. If you have an old toilet, you’ll have to bend the brass rod that connects to the float ball to make adjustments. But with newer toilets, you usually turn a screw or slide a clip along a rod. Flush the toilet after each adjustment. Keep adjusting the float until the water shuts off at the proper level.

Also, make sure that the water level is at least an inch below the C-L (critical level) marked on the fill valve. You can adjust the height of many valves to raise or lower the C-L. Occasionally the fill valve simply won’t shut off, which means that it’s defective. If so, turn the water supply off at the shutoff under the tank. Buy a replacement valve. You don’t have to match the old one; many, like the one shown, fit most toilets. It’s a 15-minute change-out.

Step 3

Adjust the Flush Handle/Flapper Chain

A chain that’s too short or tangled won’t allow the flapper to close and water will continue to leak into the bowl. This causes the fill valve to cycle on and off to refill the tank. A chain that’s too long, or a flush rod that hits the tank lid, won’t open the flapper wide enough to stay open for the full flush. You’ll find yourself having to hold the lever to complete a good flush.

To avoid low water in the toilet bowl and other problems, adjust the linkage in the chain to leave only a slight bit of slack when the flapper is closed. Cut off the excess chain at the rod to leave only about an inch extra to reduce the potential for tangles. Then put the tank lid back on and make sure the flush rod doesn’t strike the lid when you press the lever. If it does, bend it down slightly and readjust the chain.

Step 4

Replace the Flapper

If you’ve completed the first three steps and your toilet keeps running, chances are you have a worn-out flapper. To learn how to stop a toilet from overflowing, turn off the water, remove the old flapper and take it to the store to find an exact replacement. (Hardware stores often carry a wide variety.) Most flappers snap over ears on the overflow tube. Others have a ring that slips over the tube.

Now here’s the catch. You may not find an exact match. The range of flapper styles has mushroomed over the last 15 years, and you may find 15 to 20 flapper options on the store shelf. Some packages include specific brand and model information (so note yours before you leave home). Others have a “universal flapper” label. If you can’t find an exact replacement, try the closest one and pick up a universal type as well. They’re cheap, and the extra one just might save you a second trip to the store! (Avoid the “adjustable” types unless you’re replacing an adjustable one.)

Install the new flapper and make sure it opens and closes freely. Then test it. If the toilet keeps running or runs intermittently, you’re not getting a good seal. Try a different flapper if the toilet won’t stop running.

If you just can’t find a flapper that seals, consider replacing the entire toilet overflow tube/flapper. On most toilets (two-piece), this means removing the tank. It’s not difficult and you don’t need special tools. It’ll take you about an hour or so.

But now, if you want it done right the first time, and done quick and professionally, then give Tom & Robert from Budget Plumbing a call at 864-250-0700


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