Adjusting a Tub Drain Rod

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Some tubs mysteriously hold water without a stopper in the drain.
Some tubs mysteriously hold water without a stopper in the drain. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

If your bathtub has a trip lever that controls the drain stopper, the two are connected by a system of two rods called a linkage. There are two modes of operation. In one, raising or lowering the handle moves a heavy plug in and out of the drain opening. If your tub has this system, you'll notice that no stopper is needed in the tub drain. In the other mode, the lever moves a spring-loaded rocker arm to raise and lower the plug. In both cases, the linkage is readily removable and simple to adjust.

Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver
  • 2 pairs of pliers

Unscrew the trip lever cover plate with a screwdriver. Pull the plate out about 2 inches and then lift it. It is connected to the linkage, which should come out of the hole as you lift. Pull the entire linkage out of the tub.

Unkink the linkage connection if the rods don't move relative to each other. When the connection is kinked, the linkage won't work; this may have been the problem that prompted the repair. Clean hair and debris off the weight on the end of the linkage. It may have been preventing the weight from seating in the drain.

Look for a threaded rod with an adjustment nut at the point where the lower rod connects to the upper one. You can adjust the length of the linkage by turning the nut clockwise -- to shorten it -- or counterclockwise with pliers. If the nut is stuck, hold the rod steady with a second pair of pliers while you turn it.

Lengthen the rod if your tub doesn't have a stopper and it isn't holding water. This will allow the weighted plug on the end of the linkage to seat inside the drain more completely. Shorten the rod if the tub isn't draining properly.

Make the opposite adjustments if the drain has a stopper. Lengthening the linkage allows the weight to exert more pressure on the rocker arm and open the drain wider so the tub will drain more quickly. Shortening it allows the rocker to be raised higher, which in turn seats the drain more completely.

Feed the linkage back into the tub opening, making sure that none of the connections kink as you do this, then screw the trip lever cover plate back onto the tub.

Tips & Warnings

  • If the linkage comes apart and you can't reach the weight, fish it out of the tub using a strong magnet.
  • If the tub has a pop-up stopper and you need to clean the drain, pull the rocker arm out of the drain and block the trip lever cover plate with tape to restrict air flow before you plunge.

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