Toilets get old - things start making noises, stop working, fall apart. When it finally comes time to fix one, getting the right repair parts should be fairly easy: find the model number (usually on the inner wall of the tank, and/or the underside of the tank lid), find a parts list, and voilà! It's a good system.
... What's that? You don't have any information in your tank? The "model number" you did find appears instead to be a postal code for an island in Singapore? Aimless and adrift in a sea of possibilities, what is there to grasp? Will you just have to replace the entire toilet? Don't worry just yet – we're here to help. When you're the unlucky owner of a mystery toilet, your life ring comes in the form of a tape measure: this humble tool can save you money and a good deal of frustration.
If you don't know what exactly it is that needs replacing, try using our troubleshooting guide to narrow it down. Once you have some idea (or even if you don't), the information below can help you obtain some important measurements and information before embarking on the hunt. Our customer service team certainly appreciates any and all information you can provide – and so will you, in the end!
The First Step...
Before you start investigating, you'll need to assemble your tools. We recommend the following to help you quickly and efficiently get the information you need:
- Tape measure
- Pen or pencil
- Digital camera or camera phone - so you can send us pictures
- Flashlight - for checking inside the tank to see any numbers, measurements, etc.
- Our handy printable checklist that you can send to us to help you find your parts!
Fill Valves & Flush Valves
When the fill or flush valve is the culprit, turn the water supply off and remove the valve from the tank to obtain proper measurements. It's highly unlikely, but give the valve a good looking-over to see if there happens to be a model number somewhere on it. Measure a fill valve's height as shown below, from where it mounts to the tank to its top. You'll also want to measure the depth of the tank itself, from the bottom interior. This will help determine the proper size for a universal fill valve, should the original no longer be available.
Then, look around the tank walls for a "fill line" - this is usually indicated in some way, and helps determine the height of the flush valve. If you don't see anything, look for the lowest spot where water could potentially come out of the tank: most of the time, this is where the trip lever goes in. Measure from the bottom of the tank to that point: this is the maximum water depth, which can be important when determining the height of a universal flush valve. Alternatively, you can just measure the height of your existing valve if you still have it. Do this the same way you would for the fill valve, starting from where the flush valve mounts in the tank to the very top of the overflow tube. Finally, measure the outside diameter of the valve, as shown below, or the hole into which the valve is placed in the tank.
Need to replace the trip lever (handle)? Start by facing the tank and noting whether the handle is on the left or right, front or side. After removing it from the tank, put the trip lever back together. What's the approximate angle of the arm that goes into the tank? To measure the length of the lever, go from the outside of the handle to the end of the arm. Even with highly angled arms, this measurement will be straight from end to end, as seen here. Additionally, be sure to note if the hole your trip lever goes through is oddly shaped.
Measuring a Trip Lever
It can be difficult to track down an original trip lever without any model information, but fortunately, there's a wide variety – in both style and dimensions - of universal levers to choose from.
Likewise, there are a number of universal flappers out there, one of which will likely work with your flush valve. You'll want to be sure you have the diameter of the flush valve outlet. Most toilets use a 2" flush valve, and so take a 2" flapper. Although many flappers look similar, there are enough unique designs that you may end up finding the right one by sight.
While rooting around the tank, be sure to note anything that's written in there. Sometimes, a date of manufacture is stamped, which is at times very helpful in selecting the right part. If this can't be found, any idea when the toilet was installed – even if it's only "I moved here in 1982 and it's never been replaced" - may aid the search. Some toilets have had their components changed while retaining the same model name/number, leaving two possible options for replacement parts – the only way to choose correctly is to know if your toilet was made before or after that point. Also take note of any unique or unusual features you see: some toilets have porcelain "walls" inside the tank separating components (sometimes called a "china shroud"), some have overflow holes built into the tank... crazy stuff like that.
At this point, you might be wondering why you can't just take a picture and show it around. Well, you can! But it's important to have measurements and other information, as well - a picture alone is hardly ever enough to identify the correct part. When you do take photos, get up close and personal, and include as much detail as possible. Try getting the tape measure involved, to show how and what you measured. Be sure there's adequate light (or flash, but try not to blow-out any important features), and that the important stuff is in nice, sharp focus.
Getting all of this together may sound like a chore, but it really is worth it when it comes to this most vital of fixtures. You'll probably end up saving money not having to buy/install a new toilet, and you'll certainly have a greater degree of confidence that the parts being used are the right ones. Sometimes, you even get lucky, and the information you provide helps us identify the exact make and model of the toilet. If nothing seems to match up with anything – or parts for your model have been discontinued – your measurements and information help pin down the most suitable "universal" replacement.
The Final Step...
When you have your notes all ready, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org - remember to include your checklist and any photos you took, along with your contact information in case we need more information or have questions. Our customer service team will do their best to help you find the parts you need so your toilet can be running like new again as soon as possible.