Troubleshooting Toilet Problems
The first part of today’s lesson is to become familiar with the construction of a toilet. A toilet consists of a tank, a bowl (with some models these are one piece) and a ball-cock and flush valve assemblies which are, respectively, the fill and flush devices located within the toilet tank.
Most people believe that a gravity-flush toilet works on water pressure. Not so. In fact, there is no one factor that can take credit for a full flush. There are many components that work in harmony to perform this most amazing fete. Often, when only one of these components fails to do its job, the whole operation falls apart.
The flush-related component that most of us are familiar with is the lever or handle that triggers the flushing action. What happens beyond that is, for most, a mystery.
The handle is connected to a trip lever. When pressed, the handle raises the trip lever that, in turn raises a chain or vertical rod that attaches to a stopper located at the bottom of the tank. Depending upon the configuration, the stopper is often referred to as a “flapper.”
When the stopper is raised, water in the tank rushes through the large hole called a “flush valve” at the bottom of the tank. The water then travels into the bowl via the small flush ports located at the underside of the rim of the bowl.
This is where physics takes over. Gravity pulls, or siphons, the water in the bowl out through the trap and into the drainpipe. Once the tank has emptied, the stopper drops back into the flush valve seat and the float ball (now down) triggers the ball-cock assembly to refill the tank with new water.
Water enters the toilet through the supply line located below and to one side of the tank and then through the tank “fill tube. “As the water level rises, so too does the float ball. When the ball reaches a certain height, it shuts off the flow of water. If the water fails to stop running, the tank will not overflow because water will go into the overflow tube and then into the toilet bowl. This results into what is affectionately know as a “running toilet.” Few things are more irritating.
A running toilet can result for several reasons. One of the most common is a float arm that is not rising to the correct height. The simplest method to correct this is to slightly bend the float arm downward.
Another prevalent reason for a running toilet is a stopper that is not seating properly against the flush valve seat. Generally, this is due to a deteriorating stopper or a flush valve seat that is damaged or covered with scale. Stopper replacement or cleaning and repair or the flush valve seat will typically do the trick.
A cracked overflow tube or defective ball-cock valves are also often the culprits. While both of these can be repaired, often, your best bet is to replace them. Some of the older ball-cock devices do not contain an anti-siphon valve that prevents water in the tank from being siphon back into the fresh water system. All new fill valves contain the anti-siphon feature. In addition, the search for and replacement of parts can cost more and take significantly longer to replace then to replace the entire assembly.
If you suspect that your toilet is leaking, there is one sure way to find out – the food-coloring test. Simply place a few drops of food coloring into tank and allow the toilet to sit unused for at least one half-hour. If, upon your return, food coloring has shown up in the bowl, you have a leak. One of the aforementioned remedies should solve the problem.
An insufficient flush results for several reasons. Faulty linkage between the flush handle and the trip lever; the tank stopper closes before the tank is emptied; the flush passages or “siphon jets” are clogged with mineral buildup; or there exists a leak between the bowl and the tank.
The required repairs are not as challenging as one might think. Replacing one or both of these components can repair the faulty linkage between the flush handle and the trip lever. A tank stopper that closes prematurely can generally be corrected by correcting the length of the chain or adjusting the rod between the rod between the trip lever and the stopper. Occasionally, a defective stopper may be the culprit.
Mineral-clogged flush passages can be opened using a bent coat hanger. Insert the end of a coat hanger into each of the passages to dislodge the material. Another means of dispensing of scale requires a about a quart of vinegar and some duct tape.
First, turn off the water to the toilet and completely empty the tank. Next, use the duct tape to seal the flush passages under the rim of the toilet. Pour the vinegar into the flush valve and allow it to remain overnight. Remove the tape and use a stiff nylon brush to remove the residue that remains. Turn on the water and refill the tank.
A leaking tank is a sure sign of loose fittings or worn washers where the water supply attaches to the tank. A new washer or a modest turn of the wrist is all that is required here.
A sweating toilet is not an indication that it has been working to hard. Rather, it is a sure sign of condensation. This condition can be corrected by installing a tank liner. The tank liner will act as an insulation barrier between the water in the tank the temperature in the home.
For extremely cold climates, there are hot water mixing valves that introduce a small amount of hot water into the tank. Also, there are toilets with trap heaters to prevent water in the trap from freezing.
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