If you own a home, at some point you will need to deal with a leaking toilet, running toilet, or a toilet that doesn’t flush properly. And If you’re unfamiliar with the parts of a toilet or don’t have a good toilet tank diagram, you might not know exactly where to start.
Maybe your toilet has been running for days, weeks, or even months, or with guests arriving soon, it’s just time to get it fixed! When toilet problems like this happened at our home, we would call the plumber and pay a hefty bill to have these simple repairs done for us.
However, once I learned how easy toilet repair is, I’m now able to buy the toilet part(s) and quickly take care of the repair myself.
There may be some problems that require a professional, but with a good diagram of toilet parts – the majority of toilet repairs are easily fixed by the homeowner. For these repairs, you’ll need a few basic hand tools, but you won’t need any power tools.
See exactly how a toilet functions, check out this quick video:
Before you go about repairing your toilet, however, our updated user guide for 2020 will help you identify what each part looks like and what it does:
Toilet Tank Parts
Most parts of toilet assemblies are located in the Toilet Tank. Some refer to these as the “toilet insides” because they are inside the tank. Here, you’ll find two different valve mechanisms, known as the flush valve and the fill valve. If you need some help identifying them, refer to the toilet parts diagram below for a complete look at all Toilet Parts. Incidentally, unless you need to completely replace your Fill Valve, the repairs below do not require tools.
1) Flush Valve
The first step in making repairs to the parts of a toilet tank is to determine which toilet tank part is the problem. The fast way to do this is to look for the vertical white plastic tube standing up inside the tank. This is known as the Flush Valve and acts as a protection mechanism to keep the tank from overfilling. If the water is flowing into the Flush Valve, then the problem is with your Fill Valve (see detail below).
However, If you find that the water hasn’t reached the top of the Flush Valve and is instead running out into your toilet bowl below, you have a problem with your Toilet Flapper (see details below) With that in mind, let’s look at each toilet part specifically:
The #1 main component that often wears out in a toilet’s flush valve is a piece known as a Flapper. The flapper is the rubber part connected to your flush valve that creates a seal between your toilet’s tank and bowl, allowing it to retain water until it is flushed. If your toilet is running continuously and the culprit isn’t your fill valve, the flapper is more likely than not the source of your problem.
The easiest way to tell whether or not your flapper has gone bad is to press it down from inside the tank with your hand. If additional pressure closes off the tank and stops the toilet from running, the flapper probably needs to be replaced. Like any other moving part, flappers wear out over a while, eventually preventing them from sealing properly.
To replace the flapper, start by turning off the water to your toilet and draining the tank. After this, you should be able to reach inside, grab the flapper and remove it by pulling it off the tabs that secure it on either side. Next, detach the flapper from the chain that connects to the toilet handle. If there is any lime or other buildups where your old flapper was sitting, you can use a scouring pad to remove it and make sure that the new flapper forms the best possible seal. To complete the installation, attach the new flapper and reattach the chain from the handle. Before finishing up, you should turn the water back on and test the new flapper.
Although flush valve problems are usually the result of a worn flapper, other issues can come up. If the chain that runs between the flapper and the handle arm is too loose or too tight, it can prevent the toilet from flushing correctly. If the chain appears unusually loose or so tight that it is preventing the flapper from sealing after a flush, you can try adjusting the chain itself.
Note: Although flush valve problems are usually the result of a worn flapper, other issues can come up. If the chain that runs between the flapper and the handle arm is too loose or too tight, it can prevent the toilet from flushing correctly. If the chain appears unusually loose or so tight that it is preventing the flapper from sealing after a flush, you can try adjusting the chain itself.
3) Fill Valve
Assuming the Fill Valve is the problem, the first thing you should check is whether your Float is adjusted correctly. To do this, adjust the float (this will either be the float ball connected to a lever/rod or a newer “float ” design – see both diagrams below) simply lift the float gently to its highest position and listen to see if the water stops running.
If the water stops after temporarily lifting the float, then the water level isn’t raising the float properly as it fills your tank. Many toilets will have a simple screw at the top of the valve assembly that can be used to adjust the float cup. If your toilet doesn’t have this feature, slightly bend the float arm itself or unscrew the float ball gradually. This will adjust the position of the float ball in the tank and cause the water to shut off at the fill valve.
If the float isn’t the problem, inspect the fill valve assembly itself to see if it has become jammed with lime deposits from your water. If the fill valve is just stuck, remove and clean, or likely replace it, and it should fix the problem.
4) Fill Valve Seal (Washer)
Often times the small Washer inside the FIll Valve simply wears out. This is a very inexpensive part and easily replaced. Simply remove the top cap of the Fill Valve and inspect the rubber washer on top. If the fill valve washer appears to be cracked, not pliable, or worn out – replace it with an identical washer available at any hardware store. This could be a very simple and cheap fix to stop your fill valve from running continually.
Note: If all remedies fail to fix the fill valve, you can remove the entire fill valve assembly, by removing the bottom nut holding it to the tank, and replace it with a new one. This solution is a bit more labor-intensive than the others, but it will fix any issues you have relating to a fill valve. If you aren’t sure what kind of replacement valve you need, be sure to bring the old valve assembly with you to the hardware store so that you can ask a plumbing representative to help you find an adequate replacement.
Note: If you want to go the safe route and replace all of the most common toilet parts at one time, use the list below to pick up all the new toilet tank parts you’ll need:
- Fill Valve Assembly ( Make sure to replace with the model that fits your toilet)
- Flush Valve assembly
- Flapper (if not included with flush valve assembly)
- Toilet Handle, chain, and retaining nut
For a complete breakdown of all Toilet Tank Parts, we’ve included a Toilet Parts Diagram below – which illustrates a Fill Valve with the Newer “Float Cup” design (invented in the 1950s). This is the modern design you will find when purchasing most toilet replacement parts:
The Toilet Tank illustration Below shows an “older” Ballcock fill valve design – with a “Float Ball”:
Toilet Bowl Parts
Once you get past the Toilet Tank, the parts of a toilet bowl become more straightforward.
The “Toilet Bowl” Parts include:
- Porcelain Toilet bowl
- Wax Ring (Seal) with Floor Bolts included
- Toilet Floor Flange
The entire principal of toilet operation is quite simple. From the Toilet bowl, water is flushed down a bent flow in the toilet bowl casting. The Toilet tank refills and is ready to complete the process again.
The Toilet Bowl itself seals with a Wax Ring, that sits on top of the PVC Floor Flange, with the main waste line located beneath it. Make sure you position the Floor Bolts shown below, at the same time as the new wax ring, ahead of setting the toilet back in place.
The Wax Ring
Typical Wax Ring is shown above – (It’s mounted to the Toilet floor flange)
Toilet Floor Flange
(below) is connected to your Toilet by way of the Wax Ring (shown above)
Typical Floor Flange
Together, these parts create a complete seal between the toilet commode itself and the pipe that carries water and waste away, preventing it from leaking out on the floor.
If water is seeping out of your toilet and pooling around the bottom, the problem is an almost certain failure of the wax ring. Purchase a “Universal Toilet Bowl Wax Ring” which works on 99% of the modern toilets manufactured.
10 Quick Steps to Change A Toilet Bowl Wax Ring:
1) Turn off the water supply to the toilet.
2) Disconnect the water supply line near the rear base of the toilet.
3) Remove the floor anchor Nuts that connect to the bolts at the base of the toilet
4) Empty the water from the toilet bowl – as much as possible.
5) Pull up and Remove the toilet – set it aside.
6) Remove the old wax ring. Thoroughly scrape and remove any residue. If you see any damage to the PVC flange (mounted to the floor), remove and replace the floor flange to match the size of your drain pipe (this damage is very uncommon).
7) Gently position the New wax ring (flat side down) and center it on top of the PVC flange (on the floor).
8) Position toilet bowl bolts in place, and carefully set the toilet on top of the new wax ring. (Be careful not to manipulate the wax ring too much while setting it on top of the flange, as bending it may prevent it from forming a complete and tight seal).
9) Use a hacksaw to cut toilet anchor bolts for length (some are snap-away bolts – if so, use pliers)
10) Reconnect the water supply and check for any leaks.
Alternate Wax Ring Install Method- For “New” Toilet Installation:
The above instructions assume you’re attempting to replace your leaky – old wax ring with a new one, which is an “under $5.00 repair”. If you fall into this category, you won’t need to empty all the water out of the toilet tank, only the toilet bowl.
However, if you’re installing a new toilet, the preferred method for installing a wax ring will be to mount it to the underside of the toilet itself, Prior to seating the entire toilet bowl to the PVC toilet flange on the floor. This method is illustrated below:
Tools Do You Need to Fix a Toilet
In addition to studying the diagram and learning about all of the toilet parts, it is essential that you have the right tools to execute the repairs. Fortunately, toilets are relatively simple and won’t require anything that can’t be found in a standard home tool kit. These tools include:
- Adjustable wrench
- 4- In -1 Screwdriver
- Vice Grips
- Hacksaw (if your new flange bolts don’t have snap off marks)
While the specific tools will vary, most repairs can be done using an adjustable wrench and a screwdriver. However, if your toilet is older and has rusted bolts on it, you may also need a pair of vice grips to help you break them loose before you can remove them with your wrench.
Here’s another great DIY article we wrote – How to Wire a 3-way Light Switch
Bonus: “How to Replace a Toilet” – Toilet 101
If you’ve decided you simply need to replace your entire toilet and not just a few toilet parts, don’t worry – it’s not as difficult as you might think.
Check out this video from This Old House on “How to Change a Toilet”
Now that you understand how the basic components of a toilet work, you will be able to quickly determine the parts of a toilet that have gone bad than repair or replace them, and in case your toilet overflows grab a wet/dry shop vacuum to be ready for a quick clean up.
If you want to save money and time by waiting for (and paying for) a plumber, consider making an easy DIY project out of your toilet repair the next time it starts running continuously or leaking. With a little know-how and some basic tools, you can have your toilet back in working order quickly.
Have some additional tips on repairing toilets? Leave us a quick comment below – we would love to hear from you.
Thanks again for visiting BestHomeGear.Com and good luck with your DIY toilet repairs!
Additional Reading & Resources:
- How to Remove Hard Water Stains From of Your Toilet
- How To Remove a Dishwasher (Before New One Arrives!) – BestHomeGear.com
- How To Replace a Lavatory Faucet
- How do you clean and change your Lawn Mower spark plug? – BestHomeGear.com
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