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Toilet Flapper - Why My Toilet Keeps Running?

Updated on August 2, 2017
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Andrew has been a creator on Hubpages for over 9 years. Greeting new users as a Hubpages Elite member and helping through the forums.

Toilet Flapper

This toilet flapper is hardened plastic with a bottom float.
This toilet flapper is hardened plastic with a bottom float. | Source

What is a Toilet Flapper

Wife: "Honey the toilet is running again!"
Husband: "Did you try jiggling the handle?"
Wife: "Yah..that doesn't do anything!"
Husband: "Let me take a look..."

Has this happened before? I know it has to me. One day like any other you flush your toilet and it keeps running, at a slow pace or at a quick pace. What is wrong with it? It is probably one of two parts of the toilet. Just like a car, a toilet over times needs new parts and maintenance. While newer toilets have different technology and old toilets use time tested technology at some point they will wear out and need to be replaced. We will talk about one of the main issues as this piece gets worn out the most...the toilet flapper. The toilet flapper is a device that does exactly what it is flaps in your toilet. The handle you push down runs down a long stick that has a chain attached to it, this chain is then attached to the flapper. The flapper itself is the only thing that holds water in the tank, it flaps over the whole leading to the bowl. After months and years of use this flapper gets worn out. This is the major thing to check.

How does the Toilet Flapper Work?

The toilet flapper works because of two things. These two things are gravity(weight) and suction(water and air properties). When someone puts pressure on the toilet handle the force is transferred down a shaft that has a chain attached to it, the chain then runs though the water to the end of the flapper thus lifting the flapper up. The flapper then stays open as the water runs out into the bowl. When the water is lower then the flapper the flapper pulls back down covering the hole so the tank can refill with water. Its really that simple. So you can see how important a toilet flapper can be. As these ware out the seal might not seal and water could slowly be going into the bowl. This consistent flow of water will cost you a lot of money on your water bill.

Toilet Flapper Warning

If you have a toilet flapper or tank ball that is leaking it could be costing you money! Just having a leaky tank ball cost me personally about $400 over a 6 month period. We didn't even know it was leaking but one day I turned the water supply off to the toilet and the whole 5 gallon tank was emptied into the bowl over a 2 hour period! That's about 2.5 gallons lost every single hour. I was paying for 60 gallons of water usage a day.

This also happened to one of my family members who has two houses. The less used house that really has nothing but electricity and water going to it (less then 2 hours there a day) ran up a bill of over $1,500 for ONE WATER BILL. This went on for about 4 bills and she assumed the new water meter they installed was the culprit. The real culprit was a slow running toilet often unused downstairs in the basement.

How do I know the Toilet Flapper is the Problem?

There is a really easy way to test this, remove the tank cover on the back of your toilet. You will see a rod with a large float on it. This is what refills your toilet and makes the noise of one running. Just lift that up until the toilet stops running. Watch and see if water is still running into the bowl. If it is then push down on the bottom of the toilet where the flapper is. If it then stops running you can clearly see the flapper is at fault.

What do I need to Fix the Problem?

You need a new toilet flapper. Normally you can find one that fits your toilet at any hardware store. Also, they can be found below. Now one thing that really messed me up personally twice is I have an old toilet. The flapper system is that..a system. A replacement flapper wont work for this kind of toilet. What this kind of toilet needs is a "TANK BALL". A little black ball that goes in the middle of the plastic. It is held together by 1 screw. This is for most Eljer flush toilets. Knowing if you need a flapper or tank ball is very important and might save you a ton of money hiring a plumber or replacing the old toilet!


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    • profile image

      mjkearn 5 years ago

      Hi Thranax, thoroughly enjoyed this hub. Yep I know, sad, perhaps but then all maintenance is my thing and I didn't know this type of flapper as most of our units are one piece.

      Dripping taps and toilets are a pet hate of mine but a couple of tricks to lengthen the life of these and stop the filling noise of the toilet.

      All the gaskets, nylon, rubber, cork etc as you have said wear out in time because they harden. If your do your own maintenance, when rebuilding these units smear all seals with grease. This will lengthen their life as well as giving very smooth operation.

      Noisy refilling toilets can be made quiet by adding many different types of homemade chutes to the inlet float valve. The simplest being a plastic bag. Anything that allows the water to run down it will generally work.

      Personally I prefer a tube with holes in it along its length. Same can be applied to water storage tanks.

      Great Hub, thanks for writing and sharing. Very well explained, voting up and the rest,


    • DeborahFantasia profile image

      Deborah 6 years ago from Italy

      Great article on the flappper ! It can be quite annoying, but is really easy (and cheap) to fix.

    • thranax profile image

      Andrew 6 years ago from Rep Boston MA

      Good Question Simone! It really depends on how new your toilet is. Some flappers can last more then 15 years while others fail within one or two. I do know that on my 50 year old Eljer I now have a spare tank ball for it. Tank balls ware out quicker then new age plastic flappers (because their rubber and the water will eat though them at some point).

      Hope that helps,


    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

      This is really good to know! Argh... I hate it when toilets give me trouble. Do you think it's a good idea to have replacement flappers on hand?