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Find source of water leak

By C. Dwight Barnett McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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  • Plugging the leaks

    A leaky toilet can increase your water and sewer costs. Learn more about plumbing leaks at http://1.usa.gov/1jI6oEx.



Q. I consider myself a novice DIY repairman, but plumbing repairs drive me crazy. I never have the right parts and have to return to the supply store more than once. I have a toilet that keeps making a swooshing noise like it is refilling the tank. I replaced the “flapper” valve inside the tank, but that did not help. I have adjusted the float on the refill valve, but that has not helped either. Any ideas? What do I need to make the repairs?

A. The first thing to check is the flapper valve that sets in an opening in the bottom of the tank.

Over time the rim of the opening where the refill valve sits can form a crust of minerals that prevents the rubber from sealing properly. Replacing the valve will stop the leak most of the time.

To determine whether this is the problem, shut off the water supply to the toilet. If there is no shut-off valve at the supply pipe, either install one yourself or have one installed by a licensed plumber. With the water off, add a dark-colored food dye to the water in the tank. Wait a few minutes to see if the dye seeps to the toilet bowl. If the dye shows up in the bowl, then the flapper valve is not seating and you’re wasting money on a silent leak. Remove the flapper valve and clean the open rim of the toilet tank using a knife, file, sandpaper or any combination of the three. Reinstall the flapper valve and try again.

If the dye does not seep into the bowl and you still hear the noise, then you need to replace the tower or the refill system inside the tank.

It could be that the refill valve is still running after the tank is filled to a preset level. The water leaking from the refill valve may cause a “swoosh,” or the water may silently leak to the bowl as the water levels exceed the height of the overflow pipe.

Most home and hardware stores carry the toilet towers and floats and other replacement parts for toilets. Most tower packages contain the tower that controls refilling the tank, a rubber gasket to seal the base of the tower inside the tank, a lock nut to secure the tower to the tank and a coupling nut to connect the water supply pipe to the tower. I would recommend you also purchase a universal toilet connection kit that contains a flexible metal supply pipe and three different sized connecting nuts for converting any size water supply pipe in the bathroom to the more common 3/8-inch threaded male fitting.

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