Diagnose toilet problems



If there is one fitting in a bathroom that gives more than a few problems, it is the toilet. Leaks can occur at several points and too much or too little water pressure can keep you awake at night with an orchestra of noise. In this article we take a look at some of the common problems associated with a toilet, and easy DIY fixes.


- Leaks around toilet base

If there is water pooling around the toilet base, or you notice that stains are appearing, this is in an indication that the pan seal has failed.

The pan seal is located at the back of the toilet where the toilet pan connects to the waste pipe. The pan seal itself is a rubber gasket that effectively seals the join between toilet pan and waste pipe. Over time this seal will perish and need to be replaced. But since you cannot remove the toilet to replace the seal you need to block the gap with a wax pan seal.


You can buy a wax pan seal at your local hardware store and costs around R20. To replace a pan seal you need nothing more than a pair of disposable or rubber gloves.

1. Cut the seal while still in the pack, so that you will be able to gently open it and fit it around the toilet pan outlet pipe. Once in place, use your fingers to press the seal into the opening around the waste pipe, making sure that there are no gaps.

2. If you still notice water is leaking there is probably a small gap remaining, and you can work the wax seal around to fill the gap.

- Water dripping into toilet bowl

If you consider how a residential toilet works, the cistern contains water that is flushed into the toilet bowl to wash away waste. If a component or washer / seal / gasket in the cistern fails, water continues to flow interrupted into the toilet.

There are a few components that could be suspect, but let's remove the top of the tank and work our way down.


1. Check that the flush handle is securely fitted and has not come loose and tighten if necessary. 


2. Make a visual inspection to see if you can determine where any water continues to run after the cistern has filled to capacity. The most common problem is one where the ballcock does not lift up enough to close off the water inlet valve, or where the water inlet valve itself has failed. This can be identified by water continuing to fill up the toilet and entering the overflow pipe. This results in a constant trickle of water in the toilet bowl. If this is the case, you will need to purchase a replacement ballcock or water inlet valve assembly at your local hardware store.


3. If you cannot visually notice any water leaving the cistern but the toilet continues to fill up, the next area to look at is the flapper valve. This is a seal that closes off the bottom of the cistern tank and is usually located at the base of the overflow pipe and, as with most seals, it can eventually wear and fail. Should this be the case you will need to replace the entire flapper valve assembly.

When doing any part replacements in the cistern turn off the water at the stopcock. This is a small tap/valve located close to the toilet, or turn off the main water supply to your house. You should be able to purchase individual components for a toilet cistern at your local hardware or plumbing supply store.


If you have not previously done any repairs of this nature, don't stress. The parts are normally screwed in place and can easily be removed with a pair of pliers or a monkey wrench/shifting spanner. Pay attention to how to parts are removed so that you know how everything fits back together.


- Toilet makes loud musical noises

When a toilet stars up an orchestra of noise after flushing, the first thing to check is the stopcock located close to the toilet that controls the flow of water into the cistern. Too little or too much water pressure can be responsible for a wide range of noises after flushing the toilet. 


Turn the tap clockwise just a little to increase the flow of water into the cistern. If this does not solve the problem, try opening a bit more. Simply by adjusting the amount of water pressure can rid your home of noises in the pipes.


NOTE: While not every toilet is the same, it operates on the principle of a water inlet valve, float or ballcock and flapper valve. Take a closer look at the components in your cistern and you should be able to identify the problem.


Janice Anderssen

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