by Paul Sanders
Over time, running toilets can use a lot of water. If the toilets in one or more of your bathrooms run constantly, or start and stop intermittently, you can fix them in just a few minutes. Toilets use simple mechanisms, so there are only a few things that can go wrong. You don't need any special plumbing knowledge to correct problems. Here are a couple of steps you can follow to fix running toilets and save water.
Watch the flushing mechanism in action. If you flush toilets with the cover off, you'll quickly understand how toilet plumbing works. Most toilets are the same, with very little variation. The flushing mechanism is simply a flapper, which covers the drain hole at the bottom of the tank. The flapper is attached to the toilet lever by a chain. The floater and valve mechanism controls the water flow into the tank. Watch how the mechanism works and you may spot the problem right away.
Check the flapper. The flapper may not be sealing properly, allowing water to leak out of the tank and causing the tank to constantly refill itself. Mineral deposits on the flapper seat may prevent a proper seal, or the rubber may be deteriorating. Also, the flapper chain can get caught under the flapper if it's too long. Adjust the chain if necessary and try cleaning the flapper or replacing it altogether.
Check the floater and valve. The floater shuts off the water valve when the water rises to a certain height in the tank. Toilets also have an overflow tube which prevents the water from getting too high. If the floater is set too high, the water level will reach the toilet's overflow level before the valve shuts off.
Some toilets use ball floats set on an arm that you can bend down, adjusting the maximum shutoff level.
Some toilets use floats on sliding wires, which you can pinch and adjust downward as well.
Test the toilet. Do a test flush, making sure the flapper closes properly and that the floater and valve shut off the water properly.
When replacing toilet parts, shut off the water, using the valve behind the toilet.