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How to fix a running toilet


Is your toilet running all the time or at odd times? Here’s how to fix the problem.

Brian Bennett / CNET

Sometimes toilets work. A common problem that your trusty throne can develop is that it is always spinning. This steady stream of water is a noisy nuisance – and it’s also a money waster that you’ll have to pay for on your next utility bill.

Fortunately, it’s usually a fairly easy problem to fix. In this guide, I will outline the most likely causes for toilets to run continuously, and I will also explain the first steps you need to take to troubleshoot and fix the problem. Once you handle it successfully, you will not only save some money, but you will also have the skills to tackle running toilets wherever and whenever you come across them.

toilet water supply

Always turn off the tap before working on your toilet.

Brian Bennett / CNET

Step 1: Turn off the water

The first step is to shut off the water supply from your toilet. Usually it is a small button on the wall to the right of the toilet that sits close to the floor. Turn the knob all the way to the right (clockwise) to close the valve and cut off the water supply. Doing the opposite will turn the water back on.


Remove the lid from the water tank to see what’s going on inside.

Brian Bennett / CNET

Step 2: Remove the tank lid

Carefully remove the ceramic lid from the top of the water tank. It is fragile, so make sure to rest it gently in a safe place such as a bath towel. Now take a look around. In the tank you should see all the important parts responsible for the water management of your toilet. These are the flush valve, fill valve and fill tube.

toilet water control system

Here’s a look at a toilet’s water management system. On the left is the fill valve. On the right is the fill tube, flap and flush valve.

Brian Bennett / CNET

The filling tube is a hollow plastic cylinder mounted vertically on the bottom of the tank. One end of the tube is above the waterline of the tank. At the other end of the fill tube in the bottom of the tank is the flap, the rubber or silicone seal around the drain that goes up every time you flush.

The purpose of the fill tube is to draw water from the fill valve to refill the water tank after each toilet flush. It also serves as an overflow pipe to prevent water from flowing out of the tank.

As the water level in the tank drops, the float in the fill valve also drops. A lowered float opens the fill valve and allows water to refill the tank. When the float rises again, the water will stop flowing as soon as it reaches a preset level.

Step 3: Check the flap

Sometimes a constantly running toilet is caused by a faulty valve. If it doesn’t seal properly between uses, the water will gradually drain from the bottom of the tank and the toilet will run endlessly in a vain attempt to refill it.

To check if this is the case, press your finger along the edges of the flap. When the toilet stops working, your flap has a bad seal. Then document how the flap connects to the bottom of your toilet. Take pictures so you have a record to hand and note the make and model of your toilet as these details will help you find a suitable replacement part.


Remove the cap from the toilet fill valve.

Brian Bennett / CNET

Step 4: Examine the fill valve

Fill valves can also fail over time. Dirt, debris, or mineral lime deposits can cause the valve to open randomly, causing the toilet to operate intermittently. A quick solution to this problem is to bleed the valve. My toilet fill valve is a Fluidmaster cup model. To rinse it, first reach into the tank with your right hand.

Then lift the float and rest it on your hand. Now grasp the valve cap with your left hand and rest your thumb over the cap arm. The arm extends sideways from the valve cap. Press down on the cap while turning it an eighth turn counterclockwise. As you pull up, release the cap.


A quick method to fix your toilet is to flush the fill valve.

Brian Bennett / CNET

Place a cup upside down on the lid. Turn the water supply back to full power. Water will then flow through the valve and remove any debris. Do this for 10 to 15 seconds and then shut off the water. Reverse the previous steps to reattach the valve cap. This can solve your problem with the running toilet. In my case, yes.

Another problem with the fill valve is if the float is set too high. That means that the water level in the tank is above the filler neck. As a result, water is constantly running into the filling tube. It can also cause water to get on the bathroom floor toilet ever knocks

Adjust the water level by first removing the valve cap as before. Then remove the refill hose from the nipple on the valve shaft. Now turn the valve shaft clockwise to lower the water level. By turning the valve shaft counterclockwise, the water level rises.

Step 5: Replace a replacement fill valve if necessary

You may find that no amount of cleaning or fiddling will fix your toilet. For example, it is possible that your fill valve has completely failed. Your only recourse is to exchange it for a new unitIt is certainly a more involved process than the other steps above. That said, it will significantly extend the life of your toilet. And if your toilet is very old, it will likely make water usage a lot more efficient.

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