How Do You Fix a Running Toilet?

Having a running toilet may seem like a trivial problem, but even that slight trickle of water will add up and can end up meaning a big increase in your water bill at the end of the month. It’s a pretty common problem and thankfully it is a fairly easy one to fix on your own. Of course, you can always call a trusted professional like the Plumbing Detectives (a Sydney plumber) but feel free to give it a shot yourself with some simple DIY techniques.

What’s the Problem?

First of all, what exactly is a “running toilet”? You need to understand the problem before you can figure out a fix.

When the bowl fills back up after flushing, there is a float inside the tank that moves upwards as the water level goes up. As the float moves, it shifts a lever that lowers a cap on the inflow pipe. So when the tank is full, the water stops coming in. Sometimes, things get out of alignment and the cap never quite closes the pipe. So water keeps coming in, and then just running back out through the overflow. This leaking can result in a loss of hundreds of gallons (possibly even thousands) every day.

Giving the handle a jiggle can sometimes fix the problem temporarily until the next flush but you’ll need to do something more permanent to really fix it.

How to Fix It?

Thankfully, the way a toilet is designed, this small “leak” doesn’t actually result in any spills or floods so this isn’t some fast emergency fix that you need to rush into. You can take your time to check out the problem and take the right steps. There are generally 2 scenarios that keep that cap from closing properly over the inflow pipe. One is that the lever isn’t aligned correctly and not moving enough to create the closure. The other issue is that the cap itself is worn or crusted with hard water minerals and not creating a proper seal.

If the cap (also called a flapper or a stopper) is looking bad, you can buy a replacement and that should help clear up the problem. If the issue is with the float and lever, you need to try something else.

The usual first approach is a little muscle, and give a gentle bend to the lever so that it forces the cap down when the float is in the high water position. It can be a little tricky but it’s really not that difficult. There may also be a chain between the lever and the stopper, which might need to be shortened or lengthened to adjust the position of the cap. If you can’t get it right, you can always just buy a new float and lever assembly and replace the faulty one in your toilet.

So next time you hear that frustrating little trickle noise coming from the toilet tanks, you should know what to do.


Sometimes the stopper and valve slips out of position just due to use and there is little you can do about it. Don’t be too forceful with the handle when you flush, and periodically check the state of the flapper inside the tank to catch any problems before the running starts.


Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at

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