The toilet is quite possibly the most under-appreciated pieces of domestic hardware in the world. People often forget the luxury of indoor plumbing until it suddenly vanishes. Remember, it was not long ago that out-houses were more common than indoor bathrooms. The toilet in your house is truly a miracle of modern technology, but like all technology it does not last forever and carries a risk of failure. When your toilet starts malfunctioning, you'll save yourself a lot of headaches if you follow these 5 tips for diagnosing problems.
Start from the Beginning
If your toilet is acting up, the first place to start looking for problems is, naturally, at the water source. Take a look and feel around the supply line that runs from your bathroom wall or ceiling to the toilet. Moisture on or around the supply line could mean a problem with an aging valve or corroded connector. Confirming or eliminating the possibility of a problem in this area early on can help greatly in repairs.
Check Your Tank
If your toilet's leak is not coming from the supply line, it most likely has something to do with the tank. The tank and supply line are the two most common culprits in toilet leaks because they have lots of valves and connecting pipes--more opportunities for a plumbing failure. If you notice water pooling around the base of the tank, or moisture coming from the bottom, check this area thoroughly. Something as simple as a loose bolt is often the singular cause of an annoying and wasteful toilet leak.
Use Your Ears
A properly functioning toilet is completely silent when not in use, so listen to yours for any unusual sounds. After the toilet is flushed, you should hear water running: this is the tank refilling. The sound of running water should stop after a few seconds when the tank is completely filled. When the sound of running water does not stop, this most often signifies a problem inside the tank, as a toilet's inner machinery is supposed to stop the tank from filling continuously.
Take a Look Under the Hood
Lift up the top of your toilet's tank and take a look at the guts. If you want to fix a leaky toilet on your own, you'll first need to familiarize yourself with the mechanical aspects of the plumbing. The modern upflush toilet is becoming more popular in recent times, but unless you've had a system like this installed, you're most likely dealing with an older standard mechanism. Ball float mechanisms seem to be the most popular, but other variations are common as well.
Adjust the Float
Many toilets are regulated by a ball float mechanism that controls the opening and closing of a valve that allows water to flow into the tank. The ball is attached to a lever which closes the valve when it reaches a certain height. A malfunctioning floater can cause toilets to leak by allowing water to run endlessly into the tank. You may be able to fix this yourself by adjusting the ball float mechanism, so try this before calling in a professional plumber.