How a Toilet Works and Toilet Tank Parts to Know

Basic human nature necessitates that we have at least one toilet in our home. Toilets are rather simplistic in design but can really wreak havoc when the parts start to fail. In the last century or so, minor aspects of the toilet have evolved, but the basic parts remain the same.
Your home toilet consists of two major parts: the bowl unit that rests on the floor, and the upper tank that holds the water that is released each time you flush the toilet. The bowl is little more than a solid piece of porcelain drain fixture with no moving parts at all. With only a few exceptions, there are not many repairs that involve the bowl. The tank, on the other hand, is where two important valves are located, as well as the handle that initiates the flush action.

How a Toilet Works
Most toilets work through a combination of gravity and siphoning. Water fills the toilet bowl about halfway and additional water remains in the tank. . When you depress the toilet handle, the seal between the tank and the bowl (called a flapper) lifts, and water from the tank floods into the bowl. The water pressure forces the contents of the bowl to flow out of the toilet through the drain.
Following the flush, the flapper settles back into place, and clean water from your water supply line fills the tank back up to a predetermined point. This causes the water flow to stop until your next flush.

Parts of a Toilet
Knowing what is on the inside of a toilet will help you should you decide to tackle some DIY toilet repairs in the wake of toilet plumbing problems.

Toilet Bowl
The toilet bowl is the large base on which the user sits. The toilet bowl plays a very important part in the removal of waste and the refill of water. The toilet bowl is directly below the toilet seat and is where waste enters are it is excreted from us. The waste sits in the bowl until the handle is flushed, and waste is emptied out of the toilet.

Toilet Tank
The toilet tank is the upper part of the toilet that attaches to the top of the toilet bowl. The toilet tank contains the water that gets released when the toilet is flushed. The toilet handle is attached to the toilet tank.
Toilet tanks are solid-state pieces made of porcelain. With no moving parts, they rarely malfunction. Sometimes, a toilet tank may crack or break.

Floor Flange
A toilet flange (also called a closet flange) is a pipe fitting that secures a toilet unit to the drain pipe in the bathroom floor. Taking after the name “water closet,” the traditional name for a toilet, closet flanges are typically made of PVC, rubber, copper, brass, stainless steel or metal and can be secured in place with bolts or screws.

Wax Seal
A toilet wax ring is a ring of molded wax on a short plastic pipe that is used to create a water tight seal between the bottom of the toilet and the drainpipe. Rubber gasket seals have in recent times proved to be an excellent alternative to wax rings. A wax ring is mounted on top of the toilet flange and then the toilet is installed on top of it. Toilet bolts on each side of the toilet are used to firmly hold the toilet on the floor and also squeeze it hard against the wax ring creating a watertight seal.

Handle
The toilet handle is the lever located on the toilet tank that is used to flush the toilet. In some cases, the handle is not a lever but a large button on the top of the toilet lid. Dual flush toilets have two buttons: one for flushing liquid waste and another for flushing solid waste.
The toilet handle is attached to a long arm that extends into the toilet tank. The end of the arm pulls the chain that releases the flapper. It is rare for the toilet handle itself to malfunction, but the arm inside the toilet tank can bend or break from repeated use. It is possible to bend metal arms so that they are straight again. Bent or broken plastic arms must be replaced. The handle and the arm are one piece, so both must be replaced together.

Float
A toilet float prevents it from overflowing. If you have ever lifted the lid on the tank of your toilet, you have most likely seen the toilet float. The float is the device that allows the water to fill the tank but prevents it from overflowing. Also called a float valve ballcock, older-style floats consist of a plastic ball attached to a metal rod.

Chain
The toilet chain, sometimes called a lift chain, is a short strip of metal-linked chain that connects the toilet lever to the toilet flapper. After the toilet lever is depressed, it pulls the toilet chain, which in turn lifts the toilet flapper.

Flapper
A toilet flapper is the rubber or sometimes plastic seal that sits on top of the flush valve opening at the bottom of the toilet tank. It opens to allow water to flow from the tank to the bowl during flushing, and then closes and seals the flush valve opening to allow the tank to refill.

Refill Tube
The toilet flapper is a device, typically rubber, located inside the tank of a standard toilet and designed to allow water to flow into the bowl of the toilet. The flapper can be damaged or deteriorate due to usage and toilet cleaning chemicals, so it should be checked fairly frequently to ensure proper sealing and prevent potentially costly water leaks. A faulty toilet flapper can also be the cause of many simple toilet problems and replacement of the flapper or connector can sometimes repair a seemingly larger issue.

Water Supply Shut-off Valve
A water supply shut-off valve is an oblong-shaped knob on the flexible braided water supply line. The water supply line comes from the home’s fresh water supply and attaches to the bottom of the toilet tank. The purpose of the shut-off valve is to turn off the water to the tank in case of emergency or for repairs.

Common Toilet Problems You Can Fix Yourself
Newer style toilets can differ greatly in terms of the flushing design and parts. It’s always a good idea to know the make and model of your toilet before you start to work on it. The manufacturer’s name is usually stamped into the porcelain, and the model appears on the underside of the tank cover.
You might be surprised to learn that most toilet problems are fairly easy to fix yourself.

Unclogging a Toilet
A clogged toilet is probably one of the most common toilet problems you’ll encounter, but in most cases, there is no reason to call a plumber. A specialized toilet plunger with an internal cup or flange will handle most clogs. Stubborn clogs may require a special drain snake tool, called a closet auger or toilet auger.

Fixing a Running Toilet
Most of the time, a leaking flapper is a culprit for a running toilet. To work correctly, the flapper should cover the hole that connects the tank to the bowl. A poorly fitting or worn down flapper will allow water to run from the tank continuously. The good news is that a flapper is one of the easiest things to fix. Replacement flappers can easily be found online or from your local plumbing merchants. While a plumber can replace your flapper, it’s straightforward to do it yourself.

Adjusting a Loose Flush Handle
Another very easy problem to fix is when the flush handle becomes loose or disconnected from the rest of the tank. It usually requires one of two solutions:
Reconnect the lift wire or lift chain that connects the lift arm from the flapper.
Adjust the handle mounting nut inside the tank; it has reverse threads that require counterclockwise rotation to tighten.

Fixing Leaks at the Toilet Base
While most toilet problems originate in the tank, there is one that involves the base of the toilet: water seeping out around the base of the toilet bowl, along the floor. While a little condensation is normal in the summer months, an actual puddle of water at the base of your toilet indicates a real problem.
Normally, this problem is caused because of problems with the wax ring that seals the base of the toilet (the horn) to the drain opening set into the floor. You will have to remove the toilet in order to replace the wax ring. Although this might seem like a major project, it is actually quite straightforward.

Know When to Give Best Plumbing a Call
If you need help with your garbage disposal, sinks, or any other plumbing issue, call Best Plumbing Services at 951-788-1321 for professional drain cleaning methods. Located in Riverside, California we are family owned and operated with over 10 years of experience. We take pride in our service and expect each job to be completed as if it were our own home or business. Our Licensed Plumbers and Technicians will be professional, clean and polite.