Jiggle the handle
(How to stop a toilet
from occasionally running constantly
If you've ever had a toilet that occasionally just decides to just keep running and running, you may have discovered that jiggling the handle up and down might temporarily solve the problem. Note: This advice only applies to problems where jiggling the handle seems to solve it.
If you're willing to get your hands wet, there's a good chance that you (Yes, YOU!) can fix it. Most toilet repair is not that hard!
- Wait until the next time it acts up before attempting to fix. This will help you to see the problem. If you're in a big hurry (and we know you're not, since you've been willing to jiggle the handle for months now...) then you can flush it over and over until it happens.
- Without jiggling the handle, remove the top of the toilet tank. Set it aside where it's not likely to get broken.
- In the center of the tank, you'll see a flapper valve. This is usually black or red rubber with a bulbous shape with a chain attached from one end to the flush lever. This valve sits atop the tank drain which the water exits to flush your bowl.
If your toilet is running, you'll see that the flapper is either stuck in the up position, or it might not be seated all the way down straight. Usually if the toilet is running full-bore, and not just a bit, then you're going to see the flapper stuck in the up position.
- Sometimes the chain has so much slack that it actually can fall under the lip of the flapper valve, causing it to get hung up on the way down after a flush. This explains why jiggling the handle jolts the chain loose, causes the flapper valve to drop, and stops the toilet from running, once the tank fills up. If this is the case with your throne, then read the section below about "Shortening the Chain".
- If the chain is not interfering with the downwards motion of the flapper, your problem may be that the valve arm sticks to the overflow tube. The valve arm, which pivots on little bars that extend from each side of the overflow tube might be pulled up too high and tight next to the tube. If this is the case, you should be able to prove it by manually forcing the arm to stick in the up position. Read the section below about "Keeping the arm from sticking".
Shortening the Chain
If the chain has excessive slack, it may get caught on the workings and interfere with the valve shutting properly. You want to try and give the chain as little slack as possible.
On the inside of the front of the tank is the flush lever. Usually it has a metal arm about 8 - 10 inches long with several mounting holes on the chain end. Hanging from the hole is usually a flimsy S-hook which is connected to the chain. If possible, move the S-hook so that it is in the hole closest to the flush handle. This will keep the slack slightly off-center and away from the valve itself.
This may be enough to solve the problem, but likely you'll have to shorten the chain too.
To shorten the chain, just remove it from the S-hook and attach it back to the S-hook further down the chain. This may take some trial-and-error, since getting it too tight will also cause the valve not to seat properly, thus letting your toilet continue to run. If the newly-freed end of the chain hangs down too much, it may also interfere, so you may want to wrap it around the S-hook or cut it off with your wire cutters when you're sure you've got it working.
Keeping the arm from sticking
Midway down the arm, between the fulcrum and the rubber part, snugly wrap a plastic wire tie around the middle. Careful not to torque it down too tight - you'll have to experiment with the placement, and you don't want to break it. Just place it such that it interferes with the arm's travel in the uppermost positions. Cut off any excess wire tie with the wire cutters.
Notes: This applies to standard modern US toilets. It may also hold true for Canadian and British toilets, but I won't make any promises.