As many call it, a phantom flush is not a ghost flushing the toilet in the middle of the night. But it can be a sign of a bigger issue—a broken toilet. A continuously running toilet can waste upwards of 200 gallons of water a day, leading to an increase in your water bill, which nobody wants. If your toilet randomly runs on its own, there are a few reasons why, and we’ll go through some common fixes to remedy the issue.
A randomly running toilet is:
- An easy fix
Why Does My Toilet Randomly Run?
There are actually many reasons why your toilet may sound like it’s running at random points in the day. Most commonly, it’s because the flapper won’t seal properly, which affects how the tank fills back up after a flush. However, there are a few other toilet problems that can cause this too.
If your toilet is randomly running, it could be caused by:
- The flapper not sealing correctly either from a crack or sediment build-up. A toilet flapper has a funny name but a vital role. It’s a rubber seal that closes the flush valve to keep water in the tank but then lifts it to let water out. It’s essential to properly flush the toilet and is often the main culprit of a toilet that runs.
- Float valve issues and/or defective ballcock assembly. The fill valve/float valve/ballcock goes by many names but has one job—to refill the tank after it’s flushed.
- Too much or too little water in the tank. The water in your toilet tank should sit just below the top of the fill valve. If it’s any higher or lower, your toilet thinks it needs to be either filling or emptying, which can result in these phantom flushes. This could be a slow leak or other problem, but some slight adjustments to the fill valve, flapper, or ballcock assembly can likely remedy the issue.
- A faulty toilet handle. When you flush, the handle should return to its original place to allow the toilet bowl to empty and the tank to refill properly. However, if it stays up or is loose, it can affect the float arm by either letting too much water out or never letting it refill properly. If you’ve ever jiggled a toilet handle, this is probably because it kept running, and you tried getting it to stop. The handle can be tightened or replaced to fix this issue.
- The lift chain is too short. The flapper chain is attached to a metal arm that lifts the flapper up and down when you flush and releases water out of the tank. If this chain is too short, it never lets the flapper back down to seal. Adjusting its height can be a quick solution to the issue.
No matter the issue, some simple fixes can stop your toilet from running on its own. Luckily, you can pick up most of these parts (toilet flapper, float ball, toilet handle, flapper chain) at your local hardware store for just a couple of bucks apiece.
How to Fix Your Running Toilet
The toilet flapper is the most common reason why a toilet runs. It’s also one of the easiest solutions, so if yours isn’t sealing correctly, here’s how to fix it. If that’s not your issue, troubleshoot these other solutions and rid yourself of the phantom flushing.
Fixing a Faulty Toilet Flapper:
- First, shut off the toilet water supply valve behind the tank. Then flush your toilet and hold down on the handle until all of the water has drained out of it.
- Make sure the fill valve and float ball are working properly because if these are broken, it might not be 100% the fault of the flapper. However, if these are moving and working fine, move on to toilet flapper removal.
- The flapper should be connected to the bottom of the refill tube part of the ballcock assembly. It should release relatively easily, and you can remove it from the tank.
- Replace with a new toilet flapper and lift chain if necessary. New flappers might come with a plastic bit connecting the two arms, but this can be removed before installing.
- Turn the water supply back on and allow the toilet tank to refill. Check for leaks and test flush to ensure this fixed the issue.
Fixing a Bad Ball Float
The ball float in your toilet is attached to a float rod that helps determine when the tank is full enough. If this isn’t working, it can keep your toilet running because it’s trying to fill it up or release water because it thinks it’s too full. The solution to this is simple.
- First, adjust the height of the float rod to be higher if the tank isn’t filling up or lower if it’s filling too much. This alone could fix the issue without having to replace the entire float system.
- If that doesn’t fix it, it may be the ball float itself. Ball floats are often two half-spheres soldered together, and that seal can break and leak over time. If the float ball is leaking, it affects its buoyancy and needs to be replaced.
- To replace the float ball, simply detach it from the threaded rod and replace it with a new ball float purchased from the hardware store.
Replacing a Faulty Toilet Handle
- If you’ve jiggled the toilet handle and it still won’t stop running, there’s most likely something wrong with your toilet tank lever. Often this is caused by simple wear and tear or corrosion of its parts over time.
- First off, shut off the water supply to the toilet behind the tank (you already know how). Then, flush the toilet and hold down on the handle until all of the water has left.
- Unscrew your toilet tank lever from its base, removing it with wrenches or pliers if necessary. You can then take this to your local hardware store and pick up a new one that fits perfectly in its place for just a few bucks.
Adjusting the Lift Chain
The lift chain is often the culprit of a running toilet because its length can affect how much the flapper does or doesn’t lift, or it can fall off the lift rod so that it doesn’t lift the flapper at all.
- Open your toilet tank and check to see that the chain is attached. If it is, flush the toilet once to see how high the lever lifts it and how much it opens the flapper. If it is too loose, simply move the chain up a few links on the end of the rod.
- If the chain is broken, corroded, or doesn’t attach properly, you may want to fully replace it.
- A chain that is too short will also need to be replaced.
- Test flush once again with the lid open and make sure the chain opens and closes the flappers enough to empty the tank, then refill again.
In the end, a toilet running intermittently or overnight can be caused by many things, but it’s usually not too difficult to fix. The important thing is to be careful lifting the lid off to prevent cracking the ceramic and knowing how to shut off the water supply valve behind the toilet while you do any work inside the tank.
If you troubleshoot the issues and don’t find it’s a simple fix of the flapper or any of the other solutions we’ve listed, call the professional plumbers at AJ Alberts.
If you’re in need of professional plumbing service, contact us right away and we’ll come to repair your toilet, so you don’t have to worry about a thing. If you’re looking to replace your toilet or fixtures altogether, schedule an appointment to come to visit our showroom!