A running toilet is annoying and wastes water, and the culprit is often a flapper that is damaged or doesn't work. The flapper is a rubber stopper that fits over the pipe that leads from the tank to the bowl. If it is working properly, it opens when you flush the toilet and falls back into the place when the tank empties. When it doesn't reseat, it's usually easy to diagnose the reason.
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Description and Operation
The flapper is so-named because it works by flapping up and down on the water outlet in the toilet tank. The rubber, bulb-shaped stopper fits snugly in the line, and when the tank is full, water pressure keeps it down and the tank sealed. When you pull the flush handle, it tightens a chain connected to the flapper, pulling it up and allowing water to drain. The rushing water keeps the flapper up, but when the tank is empty, it falls back into place. The tanks refills and water pressure once again pushes it down, forming a seal.
The flapper can't fall back into place if the chain is too short. It may simply be misadjusted, or it may be caught on the valve pipe or another part of the flushing mechanism. The latter condition is easy to spot and remedy -- simply reach into the tank and free the chain. If the chain is too short, you can usually lengthen it by unhooking it from the handle, giving it more slack, and hooking it back on. If the chain is already fully extended, you can easily find a replacement at any hardware store.
Blocked Siphon Hole
The siphon hole at the bottom of the tank can sometimes get clogged, especially if you have an old toilet or mineral-rich water. When this happens, the flow of water from the tank to the bowl slows down, and when it slows to the same rate as the water coming into the tank from the water valve, the tank never completely empties. The flowing water prevents the flapper from dropping down and making a seal. Correct this problem by cleaning out the siphon hole with a stick or a piece of wire.
Mineral deposits can collect on the bottom of the flapper, preventing it from closing completely. A flapper can also wear out, and when it does, it allows water to drain even when it is seated in the siphon hole. An effective method for diagnosing a worn out flapper is to put disinfectant dye in the tank. If you notice the water in the bowl changing colour after an hour or so, it's time to replace the flapper with a new one. You may not need dye if the flapper is severely worn, because you'll probably be able to see water streaming down the sides of the bowl.
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