Flushing a weekly question away
June 2, 2014 7:23 AM   Subscribe

How can I fix my toilet that is acting weird?

This morning when I went into the bathroom, the level of water in the toilet bowl was abnormally low. Flushing fills the bowl perilously close to overflowing, then the water level drops back to normal. But then immediately, the level of water in the bowl keeps dropping quickly, and within 30 seconds there's barely any left. It's as though there's a leak, but I don't see any water anywhere. The flush is also not very powerful. The tank looks like it's behaving normally.

This is a rental, so I could dump (heh heh) the problem on the landlord, but he's a clueless bumblefuck. We are on the fifth floor of a six-floor building, and the place is about five years old. Do you have any explanation or suggestion for how to fix it?

(Please tell me that things will magically fix themselves without my having to do anything....)
posted by Liesl to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Toilets do this when they're partially clogged. There's not enough fast flow to siphon the rest of the blockage down the drain. Get a plunger and try to work the clog free.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:28 AM on June 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Although my day job involves troubleshooting all manner of complex problems with computer applications, and I've been troubleshooting things for over 25 years, for some reason I've never been able to troubleshoot toilet problems other than clogs.

My solution is to go to Home Depot, buy the entire flusher contraption and a new flapper for about $20, and spend about 1/2 hour replacing it. Voila, your toilet is now fixed and you didn't have to think about it.

You need a screwdriver and maybe a big pair of pliers. Complications can involve rusty, hard-to-remove fasteners and perhaps older, non-standard toilets. Rusty fasteners can be removed with a bit of oil, elbow grease, or last resort a drill. Sometimes if it's in bad enough shape it's worth calling a plumber.

On preview: Yeah, sounds like it could be a clog. Plunger or auger. Again, if you don't own these things they're cheap and worth having around.
posted by bondcliff at 7:32 AM on June 2, 2014

This sounds to me like a problem with the float valve *and* a worn-out flapper. If it were just the flapper being loose and water leaking out of the tank without you lifting the flapper (by flushing), you would hear the toilet running, because the float valve would be dropping below where it's supposed to because of the leaky flapper. I do think that your flapper is too loose and is leaking water out of the tank, but since the toilet isn't running, I don't think the *only* problem is the flapper. I think that maybe your float valve isn't screwed on correctly or isn't tight enough or something else like that is wrong, because it shouldn't be waiting so long to stop the water that the tank is near overflowing nor should it not get the toilet running when the water is dipping really low in the tank.

Maybe try unclogging the toilet just in case, but if that doesn't work and/or you can't find a clog, get a toilet repair kit. They're at any hardware store, should cost between $10 and $20, and you can install the kit yourself. The kit will include both a new float valve and a new flapper, so no worries if you can't figure out exactly what's going wrong with the ones you have.
posted by rue72 at 8:01 AM on June 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I agree that it's a clog. Plunger time!
posted by feste at 8:27 AM on June 2, 2014

Yep, it is exactly a partial clog. Not a big deal; just plunge.
posted by TinWhistle at 8:36 AM on June 2, 2014

I'll N'th that it's a partial clog/slow drain. It's possible that just flushing will eventually clear it, but really you should just plunge it.
posted by nobeagle at 8:36 AM on June 2, 2014

A handy tip a plumber once gave me: a squirt of dishwashing detergent in the toilet prior to plunging makes the whole ordeal A LOT shorter.
posted by ezrainch at 8:45 AM on June 2, 2014

If plunging by itself isn't sufficient, fill a bucket or plastic garbage can with warm (not hot!) water, and pour it, relatively quickly, into the toilet bowl, right over the...the part where it goes down into the pipe. The force of the water can help loosen things up, especially when paired with the dishwashing detergent (or, frankly, hair conditioner) suggestion above.
posted by MeghanC at 9:10 AM on June 2, 2014

I know what this is!

The water souce feeder has come undone from your fill tube. There's a little metal clip that holds it on there and it can pop off.

Here's a You Tube, but you don't need to replace anything, just put the filler thing back in the tube.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:19 AM on June 2, 2014

Thanks to all those who diagnosed my problem! A vigorous plunge fixed it right up.

I never realized how valuable a well-behaved toilet is.
posted by Liesl at 2:29 PM on June 2, 2014

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