A toilet that cycles on and off by itself may have a leaky flapper. Identifying and fixing this issue is one of the easiest (and least gross) toilet maintenance tasks.
Why bother? A leaky flapper is a prime cause of wasted water (and increased water bills). It’s also annoying to hear your toilet cycle on and off by itself.
- Identify Leaky Flapper
- Check for a Long Chain
- Replace Leaky Flapper
Identify a Leaky Flapper
To see whether a leaky flapper is indeed the cause of a cycling toilet, follow these steps:
- Flush the toilet so that the water in the bowl is clear.
- Add a few drops of dark food coloring (not yellow) to the tank.
- Wait a little while, and then check whether the water in the bowl is colored.
- If the water in the bowl is still clear, the flapper isn’t leaking. You may have a different issue that requires more advanced toilet maintenance.
If the water in the tank is colored by food coloring, water is leaking around the flapper and into the bowl. You’ll need to identify and fix the cause of the leak.
Check for a Long Chain
Leaks caused by long chains are easy to fix, so you should first check for this. Take the lid off the tank, and flush the tank. Watch to see if the chain ends up under the flapper, which will prevent the flapper from creating a seal. (You may need to do this several times, as the issue can be intermittent.)
If the chain is getting caught under the flapper, simply shorten the chain by a few links. It should be long enough for the flapper to settle at the bottom of the tank, but not so long that the chain also rests on the bottom of the tank.
Replace the Flapper
If the chain isn’t the cause of the leak, the flapper’s likely worn out and not creating a complete seal. It probably needs to be replaced.
To replace your flapper:
- Turn off the water supply to the toilet.
- Flush the toilet so the tank empties.
- Remove your toilet’s current flapper.
- Bring the flapper to a hardware store and purchase a flapper that’s the same style.
- Install your new flapper.
Your toilet’s flapper may slide down over the overflow tube, or it might hook into two pegs at the bottom of the tank. Both types are easy to remove and install.
- Once you have a new flapper in the place, turn the water supply to your toilet back on.
If the flapper was the cause of the leak, you shouldn’t hear the toilet cycling on and off.
Checking that your toilet is cycling properly can pay off in lower water bills (and a quieter toilet).
Check out our Home Value Maintenance Minute video on Toilet Cycling for another inexpensive fix for the problem.
Download our Home Maintenance Schedule to keep up on this and other home maintenance tasks.