One of the most common problems homeowners run into with their plumbing is their toilet chains. You may have to jiggle the handle every time you flush, or your toilet chain may be falling off every time you flush the toilet. How do you keep the toilet chain from falling off? Your toilet chain could be falling off or not working properly for a variety of reasons:
  • There is either too much slack or not enough slack in the toilet chain
  • The flapper or other parts of the toilet tank have not been installed correctly
  • The toilet lift chain is broken, possibly due to corrosion
  • You have mismatching parts in your toilet tank
Whatever the cause of your toilet chain breaking off is, here you will find a guide helping you to get to the bottom of your plumbing problems. The guide includes a section on how to diagnose problems with your toilet chain. We’ve also answered the question of how tight or how loose your toilet chain should be.

Why Does the Toilet Chain Keep Falling Off?

There are several potential reasons that your toilet chain keeps falling off. The issue may be coming from the toilet lift chain itself, or it could be caused by another component of the toilet that is broken or not installed properly.

How to Diagnose a Problem With the Chain

If the lift chain in your toilet keeps falling off, then it is likely that you can hear your toilet constantly running. You may also have to “jiggle” the toilet handle often. You may even hear the metallic noise of a chain clanging against the side of the tank or other components of the tank. Any one of these issues can be annoying – and cost you extra money in the form of a high water bill. Fortunately, you can determine whether the flapper chain is the problem via a simple diagnostics test:
  • Check to see that the flapper is in place. If it is not in place, then the flapper chain is the likely culprit.
An issue with other components of the toilet bowl can contribute to problems with the toilet chain. If the flapper or flush valve is broken or incompatible with the toilet, they could cause strain on the toilet chain. Selecting the proper flapper and flush valve for your toilet will be discussed later in this article. There’s another test you can perform to narrow down the reason why your toilet chain keeps falling off. It is a simple dye test recommended by professional plumbers at The Pink Plumber.
  • Add a few drops of food coloring, such as the one found here, into the toilet tank.
  • Do not flush the toilet at all during this test
  • Let the food coloring settle in the tank for a duration of 20 minutes
  • Check to see if the food coloring has migrated to the toilet bowl
  • If you notice any food coloring in the toilet bowl, then there is likely an issue with your toilet’s flapper or flush valve
The toilet runs as one cohesive unit in the same way that all the separate components in a car run simultaneously to put the car in motion. An issue downstream of the toilet chain, such as an issue with the flapper or flush valve, could be contributing to the problems you are having with your toilet chain. Next, we will discuss issues that you may have related to the toilet chain itself, such as having a toilet chain that is too long or too short.

Too Much Slack in The Chain

If your toilet is constantly running after you flush it, then excess slack in the lift chain is one possible culprit, as is confirmed by these plumbing experts. Excess slack in the lift chain can cause the chain to hang underneath the flapper within the toilet tank. The chain may also be falling off as you attempt to remedy the situation by flushing harder. The flapper is responsible for opening up the hole underneath the water tank in order to allow water to travel into the toilet bowl.  When there is excess slack in the lift chain, the flapper does not form a proper seal within the toilet tank to keep the toilet from running constantly.

Not Enough Slack in The Chain

On the other side of the spectrum, there may not be enough slack in your toilet lift chain. The toilet lift chain may be too short in length. A lift chain that is too tight is also a common cause of a toilet that runs constantly. If the toilet chain is too short, it will also be too tight to comfortably allow the flapper to take its position as the seal in the water tank. An out-of-position flapper will cause a toilet to constantly run after flushing, whether it is due to the length of the toilet chain or another issue related to the toilet chain. A toilet lift chain that is too short or too long will also always fall off in frustrating fashion as you attempt to remedy the issue of a toilet not flushing properly by trying to change how you flush the toilet.

Broken Links in the Middle of the Chain

You may notice that links in the middle of the chain have broken off. This causes the toilet to malfunction as the flapper is not moved into its proper position. The chain may appear to be broken and beyond repair. However, there is a simple and straightforward way to repair broken linkages in the middle of your lift chain.  To fix broken links in the chain, you’ll need a pair of needle-nose pliers like this.
  • Connect the middle pieces back together
  • Using needle-nose pliers, bend the links back together
  • Get links as straight as possible so that they will not pull apart again
If the links are beyond repair, you may just need to replace with a new, sturdy piece of chain.

Corrosion of the Lift Chain

Your toilet chain may be falling off constantly because it has become corroded in some fashion. Lift the cover off of your toilet tank. Inspect the condition of the chain connected to the flapper in the middle of your toilet tank. If the chain is rusty or corroded to any degree, it will need to be replaced. You can find toilet flapper/lift chains online,  including this stainless steel one manufactured by LDR Industries.

How to Replace a Toilet Lift Chain

If the lift chain in your toilet keeps falling off, then it’s probably time you looked into replacing it. Fortunately, replacing a toilet lift chain is an easy-to-do repair that shouldn’t require the expertise of a plumber.  You don’t even have to visit the store to buy a new toilet lift chain. You can order brand new toilet lift chains on sites such as this one. It is recommended that you also buy a new flapper because the flapper and the lift chain are one cohesive unit. Be aware that the same flapper doesn’t fit every toilet model.  Ensure that the flapper you are buying fits your toilet model before you buy it.  The specific flapper you go with will determine how much water is pumped out each time you flush. Your toilet may have a flapper that has some kind of meter or ball attached. You will need to replace the old flapper with the same type of flapper. The Korky Ultra High Flapper, which can be found here, fits most models and brands of toilets. You can find out which models the flapper fits by viewing instructions for the specific part number that can often be found on the manufacturer’s website and will also often be included on the web page where the part is being sold.  After you have obtained a new toilet lift chain and flapper, follow this step-by-step process recommended by professional plumbers for replacing the old, broken lift chain:
  • Turn off the water supply to the tank by closing the valve located along the wall behind the tank
  • Flush the water out of the tank
    • If the flush lever or lift chain is disconnected, you can flush the water out of the tank by manually lifting the flapper up
  • Unclip the chain from the flush lever and from the flapper
  • Replace the flapper first
  • Make sure the lift chain is connected to the flapper
  • Connect one clip of the chain to the flush lever
  • Flush the toilet to make sure that the lift chain has been installed properly

How to Tell the Flapper Has Been Installed Incorrectly

If the flapper has not been installed correctly, it can contribute to other problems with the toilet, which could put a strain on the lift chain. If the flapper has been installed correctly, it will have either an “ears” or a “ring” attachment, according to this article on home improvement.
  • In the “ears” attachment, the flapper will be on either side of the flush valve that stands in the toilet. The ears stick out slightly, and then the collar of the flapper fits into the ears.
  • In the “ring” attachment, there is a ring that goes around the flush valve tube and rests on the bottom of the toilet tank.
Both these set-ups are designed to keep the flapper in place over the hole that lets water into the toilet bowl.  You can have either set-up in place to keep the flapper stationary against the hole at the bottom of the toilet tank. However, if you happen to have both set-ups in place at the same time, then the flapper will go into a bind and then not work. In this case, your toilet will not refill the toilet bowl properly. This can put unnecessary strain on the lift chain as you may attempt to remedy the situation by flushing even harder.

Selecting the Right Parts For Your Toilet Tank

As has been mentioned, toilet parts are not universal, just like automotive parts are not universal. If the chain in your toilet keeps falling off, it could be because someone along the way has installed incompatible parts in your toilet tank.  If your toilet was already in your home when you bought it or signed the lease, this is a very real possibility. The fixtures within any home have a history of repairs, some of which may have been performed incorrectly. This may explain other issues you may have with your toilet, such as hearing it constantly run, not being able to fill the toilet bowl with water, or not being able to flush properly. According to several toilet repair experts, here’s what you should do in order to select the correct flapper and chain for your toilet:
  • Look at the size of the flush valve drain at the bottom of your toilet tank:
    • If the drain at the bottom of your toilet tank is roughly the size of a baseball or orange, then you will need a 2-inch flapper such as the one found here.
    • If the drain looks larger than a baseball or orange, then you will need a 3-inch flapper such as the one found here.
  • You may also consider measuring the diameter of the drain opening if you are unsure about the visualization.
  • Most toilets require 2-inch flappers, but 3-inch flappers have become more prevalent in toilets manufactured after 2005/
  • Your toilet may have or require a canister style flush valve such as the one found here. If it does, it will also require a flush valve seal, such as the one found here.
  • Flush valves run in sizes ranging from 2 to 4 inches.
Incompatible parts in your toilet may be the reason your toilet never seems to run properly. Before contacting a local plumber and paying for their services, it is recommended that you lift the lid on your toilet tank and check to see that all the individual components of the toilet are compatible with each other.

How Tight or Loose Should a Toilet Chain Be?

You can determine which adjustments you need to make to your lift chain via mostly trial and error. Make adjustments and then flush the toilet to see that there is a proper amount of tension in the chain. The chain should be on the loose side, providing the flapper with the capability to move into position to seal off the water tank. If the chain is too loose, it may cause part of the chain to position itself underneath the flapper, preventing the flapper from forming a proper seal in the tank.
  • Stop the flow of new water to the tank by closing the water supply valve located under the water tank
  • You can make the chain slightly shorter by removing the pin at the end of the flush lever and place it down a few clips in the chain
  • Make sure the lift chain is attached to the flush lever
  • Turn the water supply back on
Plumbing experts recommend not allowing any more than 1 inch of slack in it. If you allow more than 1 inch of slack to exist within your toilet lift chain, you will begin to have issues with the toilet chain getting tangled up in either itself or at the bottom with the flapper. Another way you can fix a lift chain with too much slack in it is to:
  • Cut the chain by an inch or less
    • You don’t want to immediately cut too much length off the chain
    • Having a lift chain that is too short is a problem in and of itself that can cause the chain to fall off repeatedly
  • Re-attach the chain to the flush lever
  • Flush the toilet to see if this change has solved the issue
  • If the issue is not resolved, you may need to cut off another little piece of the lift chain

In Summary

If loosening or tightening the toilet chain does not seem to be solving your problems, your issue may be related to the flapper or other components of the toilet tank. You can learn how to replace the flapper in the preceding sections of this article. If your toilet chain keeps falling off, you should:
  • First, check to see that the flapper and lift chain have been installed correctly
  • Make sure that the flapper is compliant with your specific toilet model
  • Run one or both of the diagnostic tests described earlier in this article to help determine whether or not the flapper itself is actually the issue
  • Check to see that there is a proper amount of slack in the toilet chain. There should not be more than one inch of slack in the toilet chain.

Learn More

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