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Toilet Troubleshooting

Clearing a toilet clog can be as simple as using a closet auger to hook and drag back, or push the object(s) into the main sewer line.

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Toilet design has undergone a lot of changes since the introduction of the low flow toilet in 1994. We have gone from using 3.5 gallon per flush in the 1980’s to 1.28 gallons per flush by 2014. Most of the first generation of 1.6 GPF toilets did not perform well. Improvements have been made with better testing, internal jet technology, and in some toilets they have a larger trap way allowing more water to pass through the bowl in less time saving water.

Otherwise, they still function the same: the fill valve mechanism, supply tubing, and emergency shutoff valve, connects the toilet to a water source. All of these parts have a life expectancy. Older toilets use far more water than the newer high efficiency (HE) toilets on the market today.

You can usually determine how old your toilet is by removing the lid and placing it in a safe place to avoid breaking it. There is usually a date stamped on the inside of the tank,or inside the tank lid. It can be hard to read, but in most cases can be made out.

A good plumber can tell a toilet’s manufacture date to within 5-10 years of its manufacture date. An unattended toilet malfunction, and older toilets will waste a lot of water and money. The argument that an older water hog has a better flush, is untrue as of recent. Caroma and Toto are 2 reputable brands that have utilized mandatory water consumption restrictions, and have made great performing toilets to match any of the older water hogs. A running toilet often goes undetected and can put a dent in your wallet, if not resolved.

Your Toilet Is Clogged


Another scenario that happens on occasion: a running toilet goes unnoticed, or is pushed off for another date to fix. The running toilet has had little effect on the homeowner and they have not gotten the bill yet. The sewer main clogs – and all the while – the toilet does not stop running and the lowest fixture on the system begins to overflow onto the floor.

Even if you know where the main water valve is, there will likely be some damage to the floor by the time the water shutdown happens. In other instances, the damage is much worse because the homeowner may not be present for the impending flood. The main valve can be frozen, or the homeowner does not know where the main valve is. If your toilet is clogged, refer to: Toilet Blockage or Main Sewer Line Blockage.

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If a standard Tank and Bowl Toilet is running, it is the result of a bad flapper, or the fill-valve is defective. An easy way to identify a bad flapper is to:

  1. Take the lid off and place it in a safe place.
  2. Then take a close look at the flapper, and make sure it is not hung up.
  3. If so, make the necessary adjustments to the chain and test it several times to ensure the flapper is sitting correctly.
  4. If the water is at the correct level, but you hear the fill valve going on and off on its own without someone using it, then replace the flapper.
A good way to test a toilet for slow water seepage from the tank into the bowl, is to add food coloring in the tank water after the fill-valve has shut off. If the food coloring shows up in the bowl, you have a defective flapper. If the fill-valve will not go off, and the water is going over the overflow tube, then the fill-valve is defective.

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  • A one-piece has slightly different manufacturing tweaks that can vary from one manufacturer to the other.
  • If the usual tank and bowl trouble shooting does not work, refer to the manufacturers troubleshooting guide for your specific model to get a better idea of what is going on.
  • The toilet model number can be found on the inside of the tank, or the lid.

If you own a Pressure Assist Toilet:

  • Refer to the manufacturer’s trouble shooting guide for the specific manufacturer.

Refer to the manufacturer’s trouble shooting guide for the specific manufacturer.

  1. Turn off the water at the angle-stop with a flat head screw driver, to stop the water.
  2. Turning the water back on can remedy the problem.

Toilets Get Clogged


Toilets get clogged by putting foreign objects into them, or overloading them with too much waste:

  1. Turn the water off, remove the diaphragm and clean it.
  2. Re-install the diaphragm and turn the water back on.
  3. Occasionally you will have a broken diaphragm that needs to be replaced.

Note: You should check your water pressure if you are unsure what it is. Water Pressure Problems in your domestic water system will cause parts to prematurely fail, resulting in higher maintenance costs and flooding.

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Toilets get clogged by putting foreign objects into them, or overloading them with waste,such as:
  • Nose tissues
  • Paper towels
  • Dental floss
  • Cotton ear cleaning tips
  • And a variety of other known foreign objects will clog the toilet
Clearing a toilet clog can be as simple as using a closet auger to hook and drag back, or push the object(s) into the main sewer line. In other instances, it can be a bigger problem requiring the toilet to be removed so the item can be removed from the water trap within the toilet casting. There are times when a blockage can be past the toilet trap somewhere between the closet-flange and the main house sewer line requiring a main line sewer cable/sewer camera to identify and pinpoint the exact location of the obstruction for removal.

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If the toilet is on the ground floor, and there is not a shower or bathtub in the same bathroom, it is possible you have a Main Sewer Line Blockage and the toilet holding water is the symptom.

The best way to verify this is to:

  1. Run water from another location to see if the water level in the toilet bowl rises.
  2. If there is a tub or shower on the same floor and there is water backing up from one of these drains, than the problem is a main line blockage.
  3. If you do not have a main line clog, use the toilet auger to clear the toilet. (When buying a toilet auger make sure to buy one that extends an extra 3′ beyond the toilet trap.)
  4. After clearing the toilet, do a load test with toilet paper and water. If the toilet clogs again when you put solids in, and it can be cleared again with the auger, then there is something stuck in the outlet.
  5. In this case, the toilet will need to be pulled to remove the obstruction. If auguring the toilet does not work, you may try to plunge the toilet. If neither plunging nor auguring works, then refer to Main Sewer Line Blockage.
Anytime there is a toilet clog that has been cleared, the toilet should be flushed several times with a load test, to verify it is working and the wax seal has not gone out.