Troubleshooting Common Toilet Problems

The bathroom is one of the most important contributors to superior home comfort. When the toilet is out of order, the entire household seems to be thrown into a state of chaos. Low-powered flushes or strange noises can quickly dissolve peace of mind. Fortunately, unlike furnace repair, because the toilet is small and rather simple, many ailments can be solved from home.

The most common and widespread toilet problems include:

  • General Clogs
  • Phantom flushes
  • Hissing and water trickling
  • Slow or weak flushes
  • Leaks

General Clogs

General clogs are true nuisances. Not only is the toilet temporarily out of order, but backed up water can negatively influence air quality in the home. Clogs can be caused by a number of different reasons but are simple to fix with your household plunger.

When too much toilet paper is flushed down, your toilet may be unable to handle the load. In more serious cases, the drain line itself is clogged with chemical or hard physical build up. This is hardly ever the case. On average, a plunger will do the trick.

To unclog your toilet using a plunger, place the cup of the plunger directly over the drain and pump up and down with a strong grip. Once you release, the flush should naturally follow. Repeat until you receive a clean and full flush.

Phantom Flushes

Phantom flushes are when the toilet sounds a flush without anyone actually flushing it. It may also sound like the flush cuts off midway. These types of flushes are caused by a slow leak into the bowl from the tank above it. A poor flapper or flapper seat is usually to blame.

A toilet flapper is shaped like a dome with the top connected to a small chain. The flapper works like a stopper, allowing, with each flush, for clean water to enter the toilet tank. When the toilet flush is complete, the flapper closes off the inflow of water.

To keep your toilet from making any more phantom flushes, take time to drain the toilet of water. Lift the lid off the tank and inspect the flapper. Make the amendments needed to restore its condition, whether that is replacing a worn flapper or cleaning it.

Hissing and Water Trickling

When a hissing sound comes from the toilet, the supply line may be leaking water in the wrong places.

Check inside the tank and see if the pieces inside look like they are all where they should be. In particular, evaluate the inlet-valve assembly and refill tube. Does anything need adjusting? If the refill tube is more than a quarter of an inch below the rim of the overflow tube, raise it.

The adjustments may not eliminate the hissing sounds, in which case the inlet-valve assembly needs total replacement.

Weak Flushes

Weak flushes often result from clogged holes from under the rim of the toilet bowl. These small openings are the location from where water enters to start the flush and clean the bowl. These holes need regular cleaning as they can fill with debris and other types of waste.

Just as AC maintenance is essential to a healthy central air system, your own toilet maintenance program can prevent leaks, weak flushes and other irregular behavior.

Simply clear out the clogs by using a small wire, like a hanger that has been unwound. If you have trouble locating the holes under the rim of the toilet bowl, use a mirror to guide you along.


The toilet leaks when the seals holding the pieces together break, lift or shift. Usually, these seals can be mended or replaced with your own elbow grease but a licensed plumber should attend to serious flooding or leaks.

You can locate these seals at the:

Tank and Bowl
The seal that connects the tank to the toilet bowl is the largest seal in the toilet system. When this seal breaks, a large amount of water spews out from beneath the tank.

To replace the seal, first drain the toilet. Then, for ease of access, it is recommended that you flip the toilet upside down. Remove and replace the seal beneath the tank. When complete, reinstall the toilet in in its upright position.

Base with mounting bolts

At the base of the toilet bowl is a plate mounted down with bolts. When these bolts loosen or the seal lifts, water escapes from the bowl.

A simple tightening of the bolts may fix the leak. Otherwise, amend the leak in the same manner you would with the larger seal.

Flange underneath toilet base
The flange is a special gasket-like piece that affixes the toilet bowl drainpipe to the drain installed on the floor. When the flange shifts, lifts or breaks, water leaks from below the toilet bowl to underneath the flooring.

If you detect that a broken flange is to blame for bad leaks and rotting floors, call your local plumber to replace the seal. Similar to how you have your favorite HVAC contractor come troubleshoot your furnace and air conditioner, try to make a habit out of sticking to one plumber who can get to know your toilet and its idiosyncrasies.

Service Champions for Peace of Mind

The important parts of your home deserve the best in care and attention. Plumbing is an important part of basic home comfort.

We are proud to announce that Service Champions now offers drain cleaning. As Diamond Certified contractors, you’re used to Service Champions technicians delivering exceptional HVAC repair, now you can use the same extraordinary service for your drains.

To learn more about Service Champions’ approach to drain cleaning, air care, and other HVAC services, contact one of our friendly call center representatives or book an appointment online.