Save on Repairs by Getting to Know Your Toilet

In today's economy, learning how to do basic and common repairs to your home plumbing system can help you keep more of your hard earned money in your pocket. Most of the common problems that homeowners have with their toilets aren't complex enough to necessitate calling out an expensive plumber, especially if you take a few moments to learn how a toilet works. If you are like most folks, you probably only know that you pull the handle and the water flushes the toilet; beyond that logic, everything is mysterious. But toilets are not intricately designed machines; in fact, they are very simple to understand, and in most cases, to repair. Let's get to know your toilet.

A Well-Oiled Machine: Your Toilet
The toilet consists of a tank and bowl, handle, trip lever, stopper, float ball, ball cock and flush valve assembly. Together, these parts make up your toilet and they work in unison to make your toilet work like it is supposed to. When one of these parts fail, then the other parts cannot do the job they are supposed to do. This is usually when you run to the phone and call your local plumber. However, there could be a simple fix waiting just on the other side of the tank - and a little investigation could prove worthwhile and an expedient way to get your toilet running properly fast. Let's look at how these parts work together to perform their duties.

What's Going on inside Your Toilet When You Flush
The toilet handle that you've flushed so much - is the part of your toilet that gets things going. It is attached to a trip lever, and when you pull the handle down, the handle pulls on a chain or rod that is attached to a stopper at the bottom of your toilet's tank. This stopped covers the flush valve, but when you pull the handle, the chain or rod lifts the stopper, uncorking the flush valve and allowing the water from the toilet's tank to make its way into the toilet bowl. Gravity pulls the water out and empties the tank, and then the stopper drops back into its place, covering the flush valve. As the water is emptying during the flush, the float ball falls down to the bottom of the tank - and when the tank is empty, it triggers the ball-cock assembly to refill the tank with water for the next flush. A supply line in your home plumbing system (usually located below and to the side of the tank) pipes the water into the tank. The float ball rises as the water level in the tank rises; once the float ball has reached the maximum capacity for the tank, it will turn the flow of water off. It's that simple.

Common Toilet Problem: Running Toilet
One of the most common problems with toilets occurs when the water does not stop running even though the float ball has reached the tank's maximum capacity level. When this happens, you have a running toilet. This could be because the arm to the float ball assembly is not at the appropriate height which can easily be corrected by bending the arm downwards. If the arm of the float ball is not the cause of the problem, it could be your stopper. A stopper that does not sit properly against the flush valve could cause water to keep "running" into your toilet; this is usually because of corrosion or damage to the stopper. Replacing the stopper or repairing the flush valve can resolve the situation.

Common Toilet Problem: Stopped Up Toilet
All too often, a stopped up toilet will necessitate a call to the plumber. One of the handiest tools for a stopped up toilet is the plunger. To properly use the plunger for this purpose, put the rubber end of the plunger in the toilet's bowl's bottom, and press down to form a good seal. Push in and pull back out while letting the plunger remain sealed to the toilet's bottom. This is usually all that is needed to "plunge" the item that is causing the clog on out the drain. If this doesn't resolve the issue, you can make a "makeshift" plumber's snake with a metal coat rack that you disassemble and stretch out its full length. By snaking the piece of wire up the toilet's opening, you may be able to dislodge the blockage. You can also rent a toilet auger at many home improvement stores.

Common Toilet Problem: Toilet Fills Too Slowly
If your toilet is taking too long to fill, you most likely have a clogged fill valve tube on your hands. To repair this common problem, shut off the water supply valve (usually located on the wall). To gain access to the toilet fill valve, you will need to remove the hardware on the top of the tube. Use a bottle brush or stiff wire to clear the tube out. Next, hold a glass over the fill tube; close and open the valve four to five times. This should flush out the tube properly. Reinstall the hardware on the tube's top, and turn the water supply valve back on.

Common Toilet Problem: Toilet Does Not Flush Completely
Oftentimes, your toilet may appear to not flush completely. This is a common problem and is usually related to the entry holes underneath the toilet bowl's rim being clogged. The simple fix is to clean each entry hole and make certain that water flows steadily through each of the holes. The stopper in the bottom of the toilet may be another concern for a toilet that does not flush completely. It may be seated improperly or have a chain or lever that is too long, causing it to hand up and the toilet not to flush as it should. The chain should have a 1/2" slack to it and the flapper can be replaced if it is damaged or corroded.