How to Replace a Broken Toilet Handle - Step-by-step Instructions w/Pictures
If you're like us, you're unlucky with toilet handles (also called trip levers or tank levers). We've had our toilet for 2 years now (an American Standard Champion - we love it) but we've literally gone through 3 handles so far. The plastic eventually breaks, forcing us to fish out and yank the broken lever in the tank to make it flush until we head down to the hardware store for a replacement.
Fortunately, replacing it and getting back into the flush of things is not really that difficult; you can do it in less than 5 minutes following the directions below.
What you'll need
- a new trip lever (you can buy them at your local hardware store, or online)
- a wrench
Yes, that's really all you need! (OK - maybe a towel, too, to dry your hands off with after you're done)
1. Lift up the tank cover and set it aside.
2. Loosen the nut on the broken tank lever on the inside of the tank. You will probably have to use a wrench to do this. Hold the handle on the outside while you twist off the nut on the inside.
3. Completely twist off the nut and remove it from the remains of the handle arm.
4. Pull out the old handle arm from the front. If it sticks, it might be somewhat stuck in the tank hole; just wiggle it a little bit. You can also push in from the inside-the-tank side.
5. Take the nut off the new handle, and put it in through the tank hole just like you pulled the old one out in step #4. Make sure it's nestled in snug into the tank.
6. Put the nut on the inside-the-tank side, and tighten (but don't overtighten) with your wrench. Make sure the handle is parallel to the floor on the outside.
7. Unhook the chain that leads to the flapper/flush valve from the broken arm. Sometimes there is a pin that attaches it, so remove that carefully and keep the pin.
8. Attach the chain and pin assembly to the new arm. Usually there is one or two holes in the arm that you can push the pin through. Try pushing the pin through both of them and see which creates a better flushing experience. I've found choosing the hole that's closest to the handle without pulling too hard of the flapper is what's worked the best.
9. Give it a test flush and make sure it refills OK without continually running (loosen the chain or move the pin to a hole further out in that case). You're good!
- Try to get a replacement handle/trip lever that's made specifically for your toilet. Generic, one-size-fits-all ones generally do OK in most cases, but those made for your specific toilet model are guaranteed to fit in your tank without any modification.
- When you attach the chain to the lever arm, make the chain as taut as possible in the neutral position (usually choosing the hole closest to the handle does this). This will make sure that flushing requires the shortest movement, minimizing the possibility that the lever will break.
- When you do flush, you can reduce wear on the handle by pushing down gently at first until the water/air seal at the flapper has broken, and then pushing down completely. Breaking the initial suction by forcing the handle down hard can put a lot more strain on the handle, which is almost always made of breakable plastic.