How To Replace Toilet Tank Lever

Toilet tank levers often break and people find themselves needing to replace the broken tank lever. Replacing a toilet tank lever is an easy task that most people can do themselves with a minimal amount of talent and tools required.

One of the most important things for people to realize when they go to replace a toilet tank lever is that there was a reason why it broke. Many people assume that “It was just a cheap plastic lever and that’s why it broke.” The reality is that plastic is actually a great material for this application and many of the metal tank levers fail quickly from corrosion. The most common cause of a tank lever breaking is the flapper in the tank is too old and the deteriorated rubber is sticking too hard to the flush valve seat causing the tank lever to have to work too hard and break. There is nothing that will break a toilet lever faster than a bad flapper, so if you replace tank lever and not the flapper in most cases you will be doing it again soon.

To replace the tank lever you will need to find one that is compatible with your toilet. In a large percentage of cases a generic replacement tank lever will do fine with some minor adjustment and bending to make them work. Removing the old lever and taking it with you to match up is not a bad idea if you don’t have experience in doing this. To remove the old tank lever first remove the tank lid and set it on the floor where it cannot be broken by falling. Then simply unfasten the chain from the tank lever usually just simple clip or, snap in arrangement holds it in place, then unscrew the nut holding the lever on the tank with a pair of pliers, most of the nuts have a reverse thread so they turn backwards to unscrew. You will also have to note where the tank lever mounts as the levers on the front of the tank and ones mounted on the side are the major differences you will have to contend with. Whether the handle is a lever or, push button is another but they may interchange sometimes as long as internal tank components do not interfere with the tank lever’s operation. Toilets such as American Standards old flush disc style use a special short design and longer levers probably will not work right, as well a many of the Mansfield toilets where the tank lever goes through a loop on the flush valve and they need a special tank lever as well. While you are shopping for the tank lever make sure that you pick up a new flapper. This article I wrote How to Select and Change a Toilet Flapper should provide any help you need in selecting and changing a flapper.

Once you have gotten the parts and returned home with them turn off the water to the toilet them flush it to empty the tank. I usually do it on the fly with the water still on, because I am going to change the parts so fast that I would probably only loose about a couple of flushes worth of water, but persons with less experience could end up with the water running for a considerably longer amount of time so you are better off shutting the water off. Put the new flapper in place first while the tank lever is out of the way, then remove the new tank lever from the packaging, place it through the hole in the tank and put the nut on snugging it in place, remember most handles have a reverse thread so they will tighten by turning in the opposite direction you are accustomed to. Once the tank lever is in place see how it fits and if there are any adjustments you need to make. Many times some bending is needed to make the tank lever fit and work properly. Some like the Fluidmaster tank levers can be bent by applying slow steady pressure to bend them the way they need to be, others have to be heated slightly with a lighter then bent and held while they cool. Once the handle is set properly attach the chain leaving a slight amount of slack in the chain. Turn the water back on and check for operation making any adjustments needed for proper operation. Put the tank lid back in place and again check for proper operation sometimes when the lever is not set properly they may hit the tank lid and not work properly. If the tank lid is being hit usually shortening the flapper chain will fix the problem. As you can see the worst part is probably the trip to the store and finding the right parts, this is an easy job that almost anyone can do with minimal skills and a few tools.

Comments

  1. Lisa says

    Thanks for this info – esp. about checking the flapper. I hadn’t thought of that as a cause for the lever assembly breaking. But how do I know if the flapper needs replacing?

    I wish you had pictures!

    I think you have a typo in the middle of the 2nd paragraph. You say “remove the new flapper” but I think you mean the new tank lever or handle.

    • Redwood says

      Hi Lisa,

      Thank you for the proofreading! I fixed the typo, you are correct it was supposed to be tank lever.

      As far as the flappers deteriorating, when they do the rubber will usually feel gummy, it may stain your hands, or it may just turn hard and plastic like.

      I hope that helps and thanks again for the proofreading,
      Redwood

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