Nothing is worse than having someone use the toilet and within minutes of them flushing it’s clear that annoying running sound isn’t going to stop. This is a constant source of frustration as it’s a sound that’s hard to ignore. That means someone has to get up and “jiggle the handle” to hopefully get the running to stop.
This common annoyance occurs because there is an internal water leak in the toilet. Although it doesn’t seem to be causing any harm, it is actually wasting hundreds of gallons of water which you have probably noticed on your water bill.
So why is your toilet running all the time and what can you do about it?
Step 1: Check the “toilet flapper”
The toilet flapper is a common culprit for running toilets. These flaps are a seal for your toilet’s water tank. As they age, they can decay and crack. When this happens, the toilet flapper that is supposed to raise the lift arm in the tank, by pulling on a chain attached to the toilet flapper, has a hard time raising so water can fill the toilet bowl. However, where the issue occurs is when the flapper fails to drop back into position to seal the tank.
The cracks or damage allow water to continue to leak into the toilet bowl, so you hear that constant running water. If you look at the toilet flapper and it is clearly a little worse for wear, you can try replacing it yourself. They are available at your local hardware store. You have to turn off the water supply on the valves beneath the toilet, flush and then remove leftover water in the bowl. You can then unhook the flapper and attach the new one.
Step 2: Check the chain
If the flapper seems fine, it could be the chain attached to the flapper causing the issue. In some cases, the chain length can make it hard for the flapper to connect fully to seal the tank. When it’s too long, it gets caught beneath the flapper, so you just have to unhook the chain and rehook it so it’s shorter. You’ll have to do a test flush to make sure you get it in the ideal spot because if you miss the mark, the seal won’t work at all if the chain is too short.
Step 3: Check the toilet tank float ball and arm
These parts are pretty obvious based on their name. When you lift the lid from the toilet tank the plastic ball is the first thing you’ll see. It is attached to an arm and together they rise and fall as water empties and refills in the tank. Their purpose is to help monitor water levels and when the ball reaches a certain level, the water stops running. To see if it’s working properly, you need to lift the float arm and see if that stops the running water.
If the ball isn’t high enough to stop the running water, it might be hitting the tank because the arm is off-kilter. You can bend it away from the tank wall and see if this helps. If it appears the ball and arm are aligned, then the ball might be cracked which will cause it to fill with water and sink to the bottom of the tank. When this happens, the water keeps running because the ball isn’t reaching its proper position to stop it. All that water feeds into an overflow tube and just keeps running. This is a simple fix as you can just replace the float ball.
Step 4: See if the running has stopped
If you’ve checked the toilet flapper and replaced it, and adjusted the float arm or replaced the float ball and you still have that annoying running water sound, things are a little worse. Your last hope is that the entire ballcock assembly has to be replaced. You can head to the hardware store to find a ballcock assembly kit, which usually provides instructions to help the DIYer do the installation themselves. However, this gets a little more complicated and might be best left to the professionals at Almighty Plumbing. Also, should you do all of these steps including a complete replacement of the ballcock assembly and the toilet still runs, you might need a new toilet.