How to Repair a Toilet Water Valve That Is Open Every Few Minutes


A running toilet is not just a nuisance, it can be an expensive waste of water. According to the East Bay Municipal Utility District, a constantly running toilet wastes two gallons per minute. Even a silently running toilet could cost you as much as 7,000 gallons per month. Apart from the environmental impact of wasting water, an improperly functioning toilet hits you in the wallet when the utility bill arrives. Most toilets are easy to fix: you can quiet the hissing and save water without a lot of plumbing knowledge.

Things You'll Need

  • Food coloring
  • 600-grit wet/dry sandpaper
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Screwdriver, slot head
  • Screwdriver, Phillips head
  • Flapper replacement kit
  • Fluid Master seat kit (optional)
  • Remove the top of the holding tank and set aside. Add food coloring to the holding tank after a flush is complete and the tank has filled. Wait 10 minutes. If color appears in the bowl, water is getting past the flush valve or flapper--the flat, rubber stop that lifts to drain and slams closed to fill the tank.

  • Check the chain that runs from the lever attached to the flush handle down to the flush valve. Sometimes the links in this chain bind up and leave it too short to allow the flapper to seal properly.

  • Turn off the water supply to the toilet. There should be an easy-to-reach valve just behind and below the tank.

  • Empty the tank by holding the flush handle down until all the water flows through the bowl. Feel the underside of the flapper for any rough spots or tears that could prevent it from sealing against the seat. Inspect the seat for such defects as well. If you notice minor imperfections, use a 600-grit wet/dry sandpaper to smooth each surface. Apply a brush-on product like the Fluidmaster toilet repair kit to rebuild a worn surface.

  • Replace the flapper if other fixes do not solve the problem. Buy a kit that has everything you need, including hardware and sealant. Depending upon your toilet model, an adjustable wrench or screwdriver is about as advanced as your toolkit needs to be.

  • Disconnect the chain. The flapper is usually attached to the overflow tube with a rubber mounting ring. The overflow tube is mounted to the base of the tank, and it extends upward to the surface of the water when the tank is full. Slide the mounting ring up the tube to remove the flapper. Some newer flapper valves attach to the tube with pins. If so, pull each side of the flapper mount until the pins clear the edge of the mounting bracket on the tube and remove the flapper.

  • Bring the old flush valve with you to the hardware store when replacing it. If your toilet is older, a new flapper may look slightly different, but has the same seat surface, so it’s best to be able to compare the two before you buy.

  • Slide the new flapper down over the overflow tube with the attached mounting ring. If you have the pinch-type flapper with the pins, reinsert the pins to the mount at the bottom of the tube.

  • Reattach the old chain, or if your kit came with a new one, attach the new chain. Cut it to the length of the old chain to ensure proper sealing of the flapper, or, with the flapper pressed firmly into the seat, cut the chain to fit where there is just a little play when it is attached to the flush handle. Too much play will cause the flapper to open incompletely, and the chain could get tangled.

  • Check to see that your new valve is sealed by performing the food coloring test again.

Tips & Warnings

  • In very rare cases, there could be a crack in the porcelain that is causing the leak. If your food coloring doesn't end up in the bowl, you may need to unbolt the toilet from the floor to check for water leakage.

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