When the flapper or tank ball wears out it allows water to seep down into the bowl. As the water in the tank slowly lowers, the fill valve float drops, which activates the fill valve to turn on and fill the tank back up. This can result in a lot of frustration, wasted water and even a higher water bill. In this article we will explain how these parts in your toilet work, and how to fix them if they're not working properly.
How Flappers Work
Flappers usually mount on two posts near the base of the overflow tube. The flapper arms rotate on the posts and the flapper pivots upward when the tank lever attached to the flapper is pushed or "tripped" to release the water in the tank to flow into the bowl.
There are many different types of flappers, some are made of hard plastic with a rubber or silicone seal on the bottom.
"Will-fit" Kohler #K096
Other styles of flappers are made completely of rubber or silicone. When these are in new condition they are very flexible.
American Standard #47146-0070A
It is best to first determine which type of flapper you will need since most flappers are made for a specific toilet and are not interchangeable with other flappers. You should make sure to replace your flapper with one that looks exactly like your flapper. It does not necessarily need to be the same brand name. The Korky brand after-market flappers are made to the original manufacturers specifications and will usually work very well if your toilet model is listed on their package label.
Most flappers attach to small "L" shaped pegs or posts that are molded onto each side of the flush valve. Some attach by sliding down and around the flush valve overflow tube. The hard plastic type flappers also attach to small posts, but the posts molded on the flush valve may or may not be "L" shaped. These hard plastic type flappers normally snap straight onto the posts.
Replacing a toilet flapper is a very simple project that should only take a few minutes to complete.
How To Replace A Toilet Flapper
Items needed: rubber/latex gloves, bucket and small cup, a replacement flapper, pliers or scissors, and a towel, sponge or rag.
Step 1: Remove tank lid.
Take the tank lid off of the tank and put in a safe place to avoid accidentally breaking it.
Step 2: Turn off water supply.
The water supply valve is normally located on the wall, on the left side of the toilet as you are facing the toilet. Turn the handle clockwise to turn off the water. If the valve will not completely turn off, you can still proceed because it will not effect this simple replacement of the flapper.
Step 3: Remove the water in the toilet tank.
The water does not have to be completely removed, as long as it's just below the flapper. When you remove the flapper, any water left inside the tank will exit the tank anyway. If you would like to conserve the water in the tank, then use a small cup to scoop the water out and pour it into a larger container or bucket. This water can then be used to water your plants. Otherwise, flush the toilet to remove the water in the tank. Since you already turned the water supply valve off, no water will be filled back into the tank and you're ready to remove the flapper.
Step 4: Remove old flapper.
To remove "flexible" (completely rubber or silicone) flappers, remove the chain or strap of the flapper from the tank lever arm. Move one of the flapper arms out toward the post and then slide the hole at the end of the arm over the "L" portion of the post and then lift up and away from the post. Now do the same for the other side.
To remove the hard plastic type flappers, remove the chain of the flapper from the tank lever arm and follow the directions below based on which type of hard plastic flapper you have.
If the arms of the flappers have an open loop where it mounts to the posts then lift one of the arms up while gently holding the post down. Once it releases from the post, do the same for the other side.
If the arms of the flappers have a closed loop where it mounts to the posts, then move the arms all the way to one side. If the arms are moved to the left then gently pull the left arm away from the peg and lift gently away from the peg. If the arms are moved to the right then gently pull the right arm away from the peg and lift gently away from the peg. Now repeat this for the other side.
Step 5: Clean the seal area.
With a paper towel, clean cloth, or sponge, wipe any dirt or residue left from the old flapper off the lip of the flush valve where the flapper will drop and seal.
Step 6: Install new flapper.
To install a new "flexible" flapper, begin by sliding the hole at the end of the flapper arm down over and onto the "L" shaped post. Then, slide the arm toward the overflow tube. Now do the same for the other side.
For a new hard plastic type flapper with open loop arms, align the open loops with the posts and gently push down on the arms and snap the arms onto the posts.
To put on a new hard plastic type flapper with closed loop arms, slide one of the arms onto one of the pegs. Then slide the flapper to the opposite side and gently pull the other arm wide enough to align and push onto the peg.
Step 7: Attach the chain or strap to the lever arm.
Connect the flapper chain or rubber strap to the hole in the trip lever arm that is closest to the handle, with very little slack in the chain/strap itself.
Step 8: Turn the water supply back on.
Allow the tank to fill all the way up. Check to make sure the flapper seals properly and does not let water leak into the bowl. Adjustment of the chain or strap is very important. If the chain or strap is too tight, the flapper will not seal properly causing water to leak past the seal. If the chain or strap is too loose, it will cause the flapper to drop too soon, not allowing the bowl to be flushed properly. When this happens simply adjust the chain or strap. You may have to adjust it by "trial and error" a few times to get it right. Any left over chain or strap should be cut off and removed because any excess could catch on the flapper and not allow it to seal back down correctly.
Step 9: Replace your tank lid.
Once you are satisfied all is working correctly you can replace the tank lid. Pat your self on the back for a job well done!
How Tank Balls Work
Tank balls also control the water moving from the tank to the bowl, but they are not flappers. Tank balls were used on older toilets before the newer flapper technology was introduced to the plumbing industry. Tank balls seal the lip of the flush valve and are attached to the trip lever by thin brass rods, one of which threads into the tank ball.
Tank Ball #425-BP
Triple Seal #B251
Tite Seal #B254
Seal Master #B255
A guide is needed to keep the rods and the tank ball on track to settle back onto the lip of the flush valve. The thin brass rods are also known as lift wires. Some toilet models will use an upper lift wire and a lower lift wire while other models use only a lower lift wire, depending on the style of flush valve or brand of toilet.
When a toilet is flushed the trip lever is "tripped" pulling the upper lift wire upward which, in turn, lifts the lower lift rod attached to the tank ball. Gravity takes over and water rushes out and down through the flush valve at the bottom of the tank and into the waterways of the bowl. Most of the water is forced into the rim of the bowl which causes the inside of the bowl to be rinsed while this added water forces any waste in the bowl to be pushed out though the trap and into the drain line. Some bowls are designed so some of the water in the tank is diverted into the bowl through a tunnel type passage which when added to the rim rinse, helps to push waste out of the trap more effectively.
Air in the tank ball pocket helps keep the tank ball buoyant and allows it to float as water exits the tank through the flush valve. As the tank is emptied of water the tank ball is unable to float any longer and seals back down onto the rim of the flush valve.
Some tank balls, over time may harden and lose their original shape causing them not to seat properly onto the rim of the flush valve. This condition can normally be caused by chlorine in the water source, but can also be caused by tank cleaners.
Some tank balls may look good from the top, but the underneath part may be deteriorated causing air in the tank ball pocket to escape prematurely.
If the tank ball air pocket is compromised, it can cause the tank ball to close too quickly, causing the bowl to only partially flush.
How to Replace a Toilet Tank Ball
Items needed: rubber/latex gloves, bucket and small cup, replacement tank ball and a towel, sponge or rag.
Step 1: Remove the tank lid.
Before you begin you will want to remove the tank lid and put it in a safe place to keep it from being broken. Be careful when handling a tank lid as they can be heavy, slippery and very fragile.
Step 2: Turn off your water.
The water supply valve is normally located behind the toilet on the left side of the toilet as you are facing it. Turn the handle clockwise. It is always a great idea to turn the water off to your toilet whenever you will be working on the inside parts of your toilet tank.
Since the water in the tank will need to be removed to replace the tank ball, having the water turned off will prevent the fill valve from trying to do its job and unnecessarily fill the tank back up before you are ready for it.
Step 3: Remove the water in the tank.
Before you begin you may want to put on some latex gloves. If you are water conscious, or are concerned about wasted water, then you will want to remove the water from your toilet tank with a small cup and a bucket before attempting to remove the tank ball. You could then use this water on a thirsty plant or tree.
Once you lift the tank ball, the water will escape down through the flush valve and into the tank (unless you removed the water prior).
Step 4: Slide the tank ball up.
Depending on how long the tank ball has been in the tank you may need to use some pliers to hold the lift wire while you unscrew the tank ball from the brass lift wire. As you are looking down at the tank ball with the lift wire on top, you will need to unscrew the tank ball in a clockwise rotation.
Note: Depending on the condition of your water and how long the lift wire has been in the tank, there is a chance that it might be corroded. It may be corroded to a point where it may not thread out of the tank ball, or it might just break off in your hand. If this happens, then you will need to purchase a new lift wire.
Step 5: Discard the old tank ball.
Some have found unique ways to dispose of their old tank balls, although most tend to just throw them away.
Step 6: Install new tank ball.
Put your new tank ball onto the lift wire by rotating the tank ball in a counter-clockwise motion. Now lower the ball down onto the lip of the flush valve.
Step 7: Check lift wires.
Make sure the lift wires are straight and slide freely up and down. Operate a "dry run" and push down on your trip lever to make sure everything is working correctly.
Step 8: Turn water supply on.
Allow the tank to fill all the way up. Check to make sure the tank ball seals properly and does not let water leak into the bowl.
Step 9: Replace tank lid.
Put your tank lid back onto the tank and congratulate your self for successfully installing your new tank ball!
How Mansfield Flush Valve Seals Work
Mansfield flush valves are very unique and use a float cylinder that closes against a seal that is not attached to the float cylinder. The seal is mounted around the bottom of the flush valve.
The float cylinder is lifted off of the seal when the tank lever is tripped, and because air is trapped in the cylinder it stays afloat while water empties over the seal and through the center of the flush valve. As the water level lowers the float drops onto the seal.
The Mansfield Flush Valves #210 and #211 are physically similar looking, and operate the same way, except the #210 is designed to be used with older toilets that need 3-1/2 gallons of water to flush them. The #211 is designed for use with toilets that flush with 1.6 gallons of water.
How To Replace A Mansfield Flush Valve Seal
M001 flush valve seal
Items needed: Bucket and small cup. Replacement Mansfield seal. Towel or rag.
Step 1: Remove the tank lid.
Before you begin you will want to remove the tank lid and put it in a safe place to keep it from being broken. Be careful handling your tank lid because they can be heavy, and slippery, and very fragile. They can sometimes be fairly expensive to replace, depending on the toilet model.
Step 2: Turn off your water.
The water supply valve is normally located behind and below the toilet on the left side as you are facing it. To turn the water off, turn the handle clockwise. It is always a great idea to turn the water off to your toilet whenever you will be working on the inside parts of your toilet tank.
Since the water in the tank will need to be removed to replace the seal, having the water turned off will prevent the fill valve from unnecessarily turning back on.
Step 3: Remove the water in the tank.
If you are water conscious, then you can remove the water from your toilet tank with a small cup and a bucket before attempting to remove the tank ball. You could then use this water on a plant or small tree. Sadly, this water, which we would not consider drinking ourselves, is cleaner and safer to drink than most of the World's drinking water.
Once you move or lift the float cylinder, the water will escape down through the flush valve and into the tank, and if the water has not been removed before hand, could be wasted.
Step 4: Remove the refill tube.
Simply pull the refill tube out of the stop cap that looks like a disc at the top of the flush valve. The refill tube can just stay there, suspended, until you are ready to put it back in a later step.
Step 5: Remove the stop cap.
The stop cap can be removed by unscrewing it off the top by turning it counter-clockwise if you are looking from the top down into the tank. Put the stop cap aside.
Step 6: Remove the float cylinder.
Lift the float cylinder up. It will slide all the way up and off the plastic guide underneath it. As you lift and slide the float cylinder off, twist the float cylinder slightly to remove the trip lever arm from "tea cup handle" on the top of the float cylinder.
If the tank lever attaches to the float cylinder by a chain, then remove the chain from the chain tab or eye loop molded onto the middle (#211) or bottom (#210) of the float cylinder. Slide the float cylinder off and set it aside.
Step 7: Remove the old flush valve seal.
The flush valve seal on the Mansfield #210 and #211 are usually red in color and fit into a groove at the base of the flush valve. Pull the seal out of the groove with your thumbs and fingers while lifting up on it. If needed, pull out on one side and work your way around the seal pulling it out as you go. Lift the seal off the flush valve and discard.
Step 8: Replace the flush valve seal.
Position the new flush valve seal over the top of the flush valve and slide it down to the bottom. Use your thumbs and fingers and put one side of the seal into the groove. Pull the other side down and into the groove on the other side. Check to make sure the seal has slipped into the groove all the way around.
Step 9: Reinstall the float cylinder.
Before putting the float cylinder back, wipe it clean with a towel or rag, where it will seal back onto the new seal. Slide the float cylinder back onto the flush valve while positioning the trip lever arm to slide though the "tea cup handle" located at the top of the float cylinder.
If the tank lever attaches to the float cylinder by a chain, then slide the float cylinder onto the flush valve and reattach the chain to the chain tab or eye loop molded onto the middle (#211) or bottom (#210) of the float cylinder.
Step 10: Reinstall the stop cap disc.
Threading clockwise, screw the stop disc back onto the top of the flush valve.
Step 11: Reinstall the refill tube.
Push the refill tube back into the top of the stop cap disc.
Step 12: Turn water supply on.
Turn the water supply valve back on by turning the handle counter-clockwise to the full open position and then turning the handle back a quarter of a turn to prevent the handle from "locking" in the open position.
We hope we have helped you understand how some of the most common types of flappers, tank balls and flush valves work. Hopefully the next time you find your toilet not flushing properly, you will know just how to fix it.
If a toilet tank is ever allowed to dry out, the rubber parts with in the tank will most likely need to be replaced before the toilet could be used. The rubber parts will sometimes loose their flexibility and become rigid if allowed to dry out. This can happen if a home's water supply is turned off and the tank is allowed to empty, often times this is the case when a home is left vacant for some time.
If you are uncertain of the type of flapper your toilet requires, you can try searching our site for your toilet model - we offer parts diagrams for many popular brands like American Standard, Eljer, Gerber, Kohler, Toto, and more. If you don't find what you're looking for on our site, we strongly recommend you contact the manufacturer of your toilet or perhaps consult with a local plumber for their advice. They will be able to determine which parts are needed for your particular project.