What To Do With An RV Toilet That Keeps Running

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A recreational vehicle or RV, also known to the Europeans as a Camper or Motorhome is a rather popular form of vehicle that's typically used by “snowbirds”. Snowbirds get their title from taking their time off from everyday life and migrating to a different state or even continent, in search of warmth. These types of people prefer an RV over renting a holiday house simply because it’s more flexible and exciting. Owning an RV isn’t a piece of cake.  Asides from their huge price tags, there are a few things you need to know in order to keep it running perfectly. One of the major problems that RV users face is the issue with the toilet. I know there are other major issues, but saving power is the sole purpose of an RV user because of their long-running times. So, what would you do if your RV toilet keeps running and overflowing with water?

Fixing an always running RV toilet may be tricky but it comes with some great hacks. The most intriguing fact is, with the right set of knowledge, you can fix that up real good without using any special tools. While the process may vary slightly according to your RV model, the base principle stays the same for all of them. Below, I will enlist the most common method of fixing an RV toilet that keeps running, through a step-by-step guide. And, there’s a special section at the end of this article where you’ll learn some tricks to keep your RV road fit at all times.

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Here’s a short introduction to the components you would be surfing through in the flush tank which might solve your problem!

Components Basic Function Problem
FlapperControls the flow of water from the tank to the toiletClogging due to blockage as a result of mineral in water
Float ValveAdjusts the level of water inside the tank through limiting the level at the desired positionLoses its initial position due to constant usage and level drops
Fill ValveFills the tank with the water from the reservoirGets broken or clogged due to the shift in the position of the float valve

Method of Fixing An Always Running Toilet

While fixing the toilet has several options, I’ll discuss the easiest one which can be done using regular home repair tools. That way, you can get right at it whenever a problem like this occurs.

Here are the basic tools that you may need to fix a running toilet:

  1. A Wire Cutter
  2. A Flathead Screwdriver
  3. A Philips Head Screwdriver
  4. Gloves

Surprisingly, that’s all the things you need to get down to business right away. The trick is in the procedure, not the tools. So you need to put extra care while following the steps as it can go the wrong way. Remember to use mild pressure on the sophisticated parts so they don’t break. Let’s start with the basic steps!

Step 1: Getting Things Ready

We’ll start by removing the lid of the flush tank. In most RVs, the lid is a loose fit with the tank. But in high-end RVs, the lid might be screwed together. If your RV has a screwed lid tank, just remove it carefully and keep the screw somewhere you have quick access to.

Step 2: Examining The Flapper

The flapper sits inside the tank and permits water to flow inside or outside according to the settings. It is always submerged in water and situated at the bottom part of the tank. When you press the flush button, the flapper is pushed upwards so that the water inside can flow directly to the toilet. The hole, through which the water streams down, is pretty small. And, because of its small diameter, the flow head of the water increases and thus the pressure can be found.

Most of the time, due to regular usage, the flapper gets a mineral coating around it. This coating builds up because of the minerals in water and increases with time.  Clogging is a common issue for the flappers just because of this. Asides from that, there are sometimes foreign materials in the water that do not wash away through a flush. If you find any type of coating around the flapper that could lead to clogging, it’s high time you cleaned it or replaced it with a compatible one. Flappers don’t usually cost much and are pretty easy to find. You won’t have to go through a lot of hassles for that.

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Step 3: Fixing The Flush

One of the reasons your toilet keeps running could be because of the incorrect flush mechanism. If you don’t know how flushing works, here’s what you need to know. The flush button is attached to the flapper through a metal chain. This metal chain is coated with noncorrosive material so it doesn’t pick-up corrosion at any point. The flapper is designed to move 90 degrees in a certain direction.  One end of the flapper is attached to the center tube and the other end can move freely over the valve. This valve is connected to the toilet through a pipe. The flapper can either work as a barrier to stop water from streaming down or allow a certain amount of water flow.

What happens here is, when you push the flush button, the flapper gets a push upwards. That way, the water inside the tank can flow through the valve and travel all the way to the toilet with the help from the interconnecting pipe. Because of the difference of suction head between the two open ports, the velocity of water increases and we get a strong cleaning flush. After the tank gets all the water out, it immediately starts collecting water from the reservoir. And, at that moment, the flapper comes down and blocks water from flowing downwards. This keeps the water inside and fills up the tank.

If there’s a problem with the flapper or the connecting chain, the connection between the flush tank and toilet may always stay at the open phase. Because of that, the water can’t stay inside the tank and the tank never gets filled up. If this occurred to your flush tank, find out which is creating the problem between the flappers and the chain. If the chain is too long, use the wire cutter to make it more compact. If the problem is with the flapper, look for leaks and replace it.

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Step 4: Float & Overflow Pipe

Another reason for water running non-stop can be because of the float and overflow pipe. The overflow pipe is designed to keep the water level adjusted so it doesn’t overflow from the tank. A float valve, sitting right beside it, determines the level of water inside the tank. Making adjustments to this float valve can provide a good fix at this point.

If you have a traditional and old type float valve, like those which have an actual round valve in it, you’ll need to adjust the position of this valve in order to change the water levels. For this one, you can manually set the water level through bending the rod that connects the ball to the valve. Another way is adjusting the screw. If you look carefully, you’ll notice a screw, bolted to the rod and valve. By rotating this screw counter-clockwise, you’ll be able to lower the valve.

If you have a modern type float valve, it will not come with a valve ball. Instead, there’ll be a simple setup with only a rod attached to the connection tube. There’s a screw right over the rod which can be adjusted through a flat screwdriver. Rotate it in counter-clockwise to lower the valve and adjust the water level.

If you have a diaphragm valve, rotate the screw that’s attached to the middle part of the main valve to adjust the height of the float device. Rotate the screw in a clockwise direction and make sure the water level stays way below the overflow pipe head.

Step 5: Spotting The Fill Valve

If you’ve done everything mentioned above and haven’t got any solution yet, the problem could be with the fill valve. The fill valve is the main acting component that brings in water from the reservoir and into the tank. To find out if your fill valve is okay or not, fill in the water while keeping the lid open. Look closely if the position of the float changes with the entrance of water or not. If the float goes upwards as water increases, your float valve is okay. If the float does not change its position, there’s a problem with your fill valve.

If you have a damaged fill valve, you can try adjusting the screws connecting the fill valve with the float. But that’s a risky shot as it may further damage the connection and make it worse. The safest option for you would be buying a new fill valve. You can find a universal fill valve at local shops and it costs way less than you think it would. You can replace the valve all by yourself as it is super easy to replace.