Identifying A Running Toilet

running toiletWhen you get your water bill and it is more than it was in the past, and you have not changed any of your normal water usage, the first fixture to investigate should be the toilet. A leak from the tank into the bowl is frustrating to find and costly at the same time. Even though every once and awhile a jiggling the handle may lessen the problem temporarily, it is best to actually identify the malfunction and permanently repair it. If not fixed immediately you are not only wasting water but paying more out of pocket for your water bill and luckily fixing a leaking or running toilet is a task that almost anyone can do.

Normal Function

Located within the tank is the arm handle which is connected with a chain to the flapper or ball valve. When the toilet is flushed, the arm handle lifts the flapper from the drain in the bottom of the tank, releasing the water into the bowl which in turns flushes the waste. Once this function is complete, the flapper or ball valve will return to the cover of the drain, allowing for the tank and bowl to refill with water.


There are several reasons why the ball valve can fail, resulting in the constant running of the toilet. The most common issue can be found with the chain that is connected from the inner handle to the valve. If the chain is tangled or broken, the valve is unable to shut completely which causes the continuous running of water, filling the tank and running into the bowl as well. Another culprit could be the handle itself which can become loose and disconnects from the valve. This too will result in the toilet constantly running. One way to detect if the toilet is leaking is to use a few drops of blue or green food coloring in the tank and allow it to sit unused for one hour. If the valve is not tight, the water from the tank will flow into the bowl and a bluish or green tint will be visible.


A running or leaking toilet will use 40 percent of your household water supply or as much as 4,000 gallons per day if it is allowed to run with no interruptions. Many times the leak goes undetected until the water bill shows up and the amount is significantly higher than previous months.


A running toilet is one of the easiest problems to resolve as it requires no special tools and can usually be fixed within a short period of time by anyone with little to no experience. Before you begin, make sure the water is turned off to the toilet. The shut off valve is located below or behind the toilet. After the water is shut off, flush the toilet to drain all the water out.

If you find that the problem is the chain that connects the handle to the valve is either broken or worn, you can buy a replacement kit for around $5 at your local hardware store and this is easily installed.

If the problem is caused by a loose flush handle, this repair is just as easy to fix. Check the bolt holding the handle to see if it is too loose or too tight. Either way, it can be loosened or tightened with a standard wrench. However, if the bolt is not the issue, checking the float valve inside the tank is your next step. If the water level in the tank is past the float and the water is still running, you can fix this issue by adjusting the float valve by lowering it so that it the water will shut off once the float reaches the desired level.

Things to take into consideration

Before heading out to purchase replacement parts for your model, it is best to do some research. Typically the majority of replacement parts are universal and most flaps, balls and chains will fit a variety of toilets. Your toilet may be a specific model that will need a certain part that is better suited for it. It is best in most cases to take the malfunctioning part with you so that an employee at the hardware store has a better idea of what you need.

Fixing a running toilet is an easy task when armed with the knowledge of what is causing it to run and knowing what parts you will need to replace or adjust in order to rectify the malfunction. Have the old parts with you when you head to the hardware store allows for an associate to better serve you and save you time and money.

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