Toilet Hardware Replacement and Repair
Cracked porcelain is a hopeless cause. This is why you don't see too many people trying to repair a cracked toilet. However, this is the only functional problem that generally arises with the bowl or tank of a toilet. If something is going to fail, it is going to be the guts of the toilet, the innerworkings which reside in the tank. This is generally a problem that can be fixed with a kit from the local hardware store.
How the Flush System Works
The operation of the flushing mechanism begins when a person depresses the handle. This raises the flush lever which is connected to the flapper by a chain. When the flapper is raised, water in the tank rushes into the bowl raising the water level until a siphoning action clears the bowl of its contents. The water in the tank is regulated so that there is just enough let through by the flapper to begin to refill the bowl. When the water level drops, the flapper falls back into place sealing the opening between the tank and the bowl.
Meanwhile the float has dropped down. This pushes a lever which opens a valve which admits water into the tank from the fresh water supply. Most of the water is admitted into the tank, but some is sent through the refill tube into the overflow pipe, which by-passes the flapper and allows more water to wash into and fill the bowl to its optimum level. This continues until the float is raised by the water level in the tank and the lever connected to the ball now shuts off the valve. The toilet is now ready to be flushed again.
Knowing What to Replace
Most toilet guts operate on this basis, with variations in design. Sometimes the float is part of the ball cock assembly. The key is to know when you need to replace the guts. To know this requires a bit of fiddling with the mechanisms to make them do what you want. Adjustments can be made to the ball-lever with a screwdriver that will allow for a higher or lower tank level when the fresh water supply is turned on or shut off. Occasionally, the chain or wire leading to the flapper will come off, obviously preventing any flushing at all. Or the chain might be made too long and get caught under the flapper, allowing water to seep under the seal. In this case the toilet will continue to run. The solution is to shorten the chain by making an adjustment where it connects with the flush lever.
It is not an infrequent occurrence to have the refill tube come loose from the overflow pipe, which means not enough water will go into the bowl. If the toilet runs frequently for no reason, this may mean that the flapper is out of place or is getting old and cracked and needs to be replaced, or that there is a corrosive buildup between the flapper and the opening between the tank and the bowl. In this case, shut off the water, empty the tank and clean the appropriate parts. Use an emery cloth on the porcelain. Make sure the flapper seats properly, then turn the water back on. Normally, the rubber flapper will smear black marks all over your cleaning cloth or sponge, which will subsequently mark up half the bathroom if you do not take precautions.
Replacing the Ball CockIf the problem is the water supply, first turn on and off the water supply valve. There just may be a clog that is easily solved with this simple act. If the water continues to run even after the water level reaches the overflow, and adjusting the arm on the ball lever is not doing the trick, you may need to replace the ball cock. To do this, first shut off the water, flush the toilet, and sponge the tank until there is no standing water. Using an adjustable wrench unscrew the nut where the supply line enters the tank. Using channel-lock pliers, grip the nut at the base of the ball cock. Loosen the locknut under the ball cock with an adjustable wrench. Unscrew the nut, and lift the ball cock up from the tank. Pretty simple really. Before putting in the new ball-cock, clean the opening so that the new rubber gasket can seat properly. Arrange the new ball cock assembly in place and when screwing on the nut that holds it steady be sure not to over-tighten - to avoid cracking the tank. Connect the new refill tube into the overflow pipe, reconnect the supply line, and turn on the water. You may need to make a few adjustments to make sure that the tank fills to the proper level. As always, check for leaks and tighten nuts as necessary.
Toilet Hardware Replacement Kit
If the solution to your problem is not obvious, it is not too expensive to purchase a toilet hardware replacement kit. When purchasing a replacement system, be sure you find something that will fit your toilet's openings. Most of these are standard. However, high-end toilets often have upgraded flushing systems that require special attention - and may have to be purchased from a manufacturer. Standard toilet hardware repair kits normally come with thorough instructions. Even so, installing a replacement assembly is just a case of taking out the old parts and putting in new similar pieces. It will basically be a compilation of all the procedures listed above.
The Toilet SeatWe do not normally think of a toilet seat as hardware, but it is a functional part of the toilet and is the most likely part on the toilet to need replacement. To remove the old seat, pop up the screw covers with a flat-head screw driver. Remove the screws by turning in a counter-clockwise direction and simultaneously holding the nut under the lip of the bowl. (These nuts can often be held with bare fingers.) Remove the old seat. Arrange the new seat and simply put in the new screws.
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