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Toilet Troubleshooting Guide

It is pretty easy to diagnose a toilet problem. The toilet operation is simple and although the same symptom can often result from multiple causes, it doesn't take much time to figure which is causing the toilet to malfunction. While toilets clogs are straightforward; noises, odors, improper flushing or filling require an extra step or two in order to make a diagnosis. In the table below, locate the symptom your toilet exhibits and then follow the instructions for the possible causes. We've ordered the list with the most likely causes and easiest to check items first.


Click on underlined items for further information

It periodically refills (or flushes) by itself

  • Read our article on leaks

  • Check the flapper valve for proper seating

  • Check the tank bolts for leaks

  • Check the water line connection for leaks

  • Check the tank gasket cracks

I hear water running

I have to jiggle the handle to make it stop

It won't stop filling (or flushing)

The toilet stops flushing before it should

  • The toilet flapper is closing too quickly

  • Shorten the linkage to the toilet flapper

  • Add a flapper float to the linkage chain to keep the flapper up during a flush. Once the water drains from the tank, the flapper will stay closed by suction from the drain until the next flush.

There is water on the floor, but it did not overflow

  • Read our article on refilling

  • Check the water valve & tank connection

  • Check the tank bolts

  • Replace the tank gasket

  • Replace the wax seal

The toilet bowl did not refill with enough water

The toilet bowl overflowed

The tank overflowed

Nothing happens when I push the handle

  • Check the lift chain

  • If there is no water in the tank, check
    the flapper valve

  • Tighten or replace the handle

  • Check that the water supply valve is on

The tank does not refill

The bowl is not completely flushed out

I smell an unpleasant odor

  • You may smell sewer gas. It can come from any drain in the bathroom. But if it is the toilet, then the wax ring is probably not properly sealed.

The toilet rocks back and forth

  • The flange bolts may be loose. Do not over tighten.

  • The pedestal may need to be shimmed or plumber's putty can be added under the perimeter of the pedestal.

  • The wax ring may not be sealed properly

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