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How to Fix a Broken Toilet Flapper Valve and Lift chain

How to fix a broken toilet flapper valve and lift chain by replacing the broken items with new parts.

“Dad! The toilet handle is broken and it won’t flush!” Probably an easy fix I thought to myself. Better check it out to be sure.

I removed the cover from the toilet tank and saw that the lift chain connecting the handle to the flapper valve had broken. It was 5 years old and not surprising. A new flapper valve and lift chain costs about $5 and installs in minutes.

Broken Toilet Handle Lift Chain

The broken plastic lift chain is obvious in the following photo. Don’t worry about the brown sediment on the bottom of the tank, it’s minerals that have precipitated out of the water over the years. The toilet tank contains clean uncontaminated water.

Broken Lift Chain

Broken Lift Chain

How to Fix a Broken Toilet Flapper Valve and Lift chain

Detailed Repair Photos

My toilet has ballcock (or float-ball) toilet fill valves, which are really old technology. Also see How to Replace a Toilet Fill Valve to replace the old ballcock fill valve with a new Fluidmaster Whisper Valve.

Materials and Tools

  • Korky 1.6 Flapper Valve, includes the lift chain. Cost is about $5. Widely available at hardware and home improvement stores.
  • Pliers

Install the Toilet Handle Lift Chain

The Korky installation manual is available here in addition to the following photos and tips.

The new flapper valve and chain for a 1.6 gallon per flush toilet.

New Korky Flapper Valve

New Korky Flapper Valve

Step 1: Shutoff the water supply valve to the toilet.

Water Supply Valve

Water Supply Valve

Step 2: Remove the old flapper valve by slipping it off the mounting arms. Remove what’s left of the broken lift chain from the lift arm.

Old Flapper Valve and Lift Chain

Old Flapper Valve and Lift Chain

Step 3: Adjust the lift chain by moving the metal clip to take out the slack when the lift arm is down with flapper valve is closed. I adjust the clip such that there is one extra link of slack. This avoids leaks and provides for a positive flushing action. Too much slack will allow the chain to kink and interfere with the flapper valve.

Adjust New Lift Chain

Adjust New Lift Chain

Step 4: Open the water valve to fill the tank. Flush the toilet to check for correct operation. If needed, readjust the lift chain by moving the metal clip up or down a couple of links. When you’re satisfied, cut off the excess lift chain to prevent it from getting tangled. I like to leave an extra 3 links in case a later adjustment is needed. Replace the tank cover.

Cut off Excess Lift Chain

Cut off Excess Lift Chain

Hope this helps.

Bob Jackson

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12 Responses to How to Fix a Broken Toilet Flapper Valve and Lift chain

  1. Brad February 5, 2009 at 5:20 am #

    I think you did a great job writing a broken toilet flapper valve and lift chain | HandymanHowto.com. Bravo.

  2. video hosting May 6, 2009 at 1:15 am #

    I admire the time and effort you put into your blog. I wish I had the same drive :)

  3. Margie October 23, 2010 at 8:47 pm #

    I replaced the toilet flapper because the old flapper wouldn’t stay up long enough to flush all the water out of the toilet. I still have the same problem even with the new flapper…it stays up for a second and then flaps down and the toilet hasn’t flushed, so need to continue to hold down the flush lever for a count of 10. What’s wrong? anyone? help

    • Bob Jackson October 23, 2010 at 9:20 pm #

      It could be caused by too much slack in the lift chain. When the flapper is closed, the lift chain should have about 1 link of slack. Too much slack means the flapper isn’t raised high enough and closes before the flush cycle is complete.

      If adjusting the chain doesn’t solve the problem, try the Korky Premium Adjustable Flapper. It has a movable float on the lift chain to adjust the flush volume.

  4. helped June 30, 2011 at 3:36 pm #

    Your broken flapper valve was the exact same as mine. I had no idea how to change it, but followed your advice verbatim, and now the toilet is working fine. Thanks buddy

  5. MY FEARS ARE GONE! September 28, 2011 at 7:26 am #

    Considering I am a 19-year-old girl living in a crummy apartment with a room mate of the same variety, this kept me from jumping of my balcony. ilu!!!!

    • Bob Jackson September 28, 2011 at 7:42 am #

      You’re very welcome! Glad my article helped.

  6. Dave January 3, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    Hey there! Thanks for the help. First time having to do any kind of toilet repair was easy as pie!

  7. Paula May 30, 2013 at 7:25 am #

    The chain is fine the flapper connection broke, both are plastic. Can’t seem to get flapper off not very flexible, can I cut off. Don’t want to replace everything when it’s just the flapper. Maybe I’m missing something-help!thanks

    • BobJackson May 30, 2013 at 9:56 am #

      What style of flapper do you have? The flapper should have two rubber or plastic mounting clips that snap on/off at the overflow tube.

      Please e-mail a photo of your flapper to bob (at) handymanhowto.com as it may be an older style and I don’t want to give you incorrect advice.

  8. Anita January 25, 2014 at 12:34 am #

    Hi my flapper has a post in it..how do I replace it??

    Thanks!!

    • Bob Jackson January 25, 2014 at 10:54 am #

      Hi Anita,
      There are two styles of toilet overflow tubes: with- and without flapper mounting ears.

      Because your overflow pipe (or tube) doesn’t have mounting ears, you’ll need a flapper valve that includes the overflow tube adapter ring like the Fluidmaster flapper shown at the top this photo. The overflow tube adapter is the black plastic ring with the V shaped metal spring clip.

      See the image and Step #11 in the Fluidmaster installation instructions to install the toilet flapper overflow tube adapter.

      The overflow tube adapter installation steps are simple:
      1. Unsnap the flapper arms from the overflow tube adapter.
      2. Press the overflow tube adapter over the overflow pipe; press down with your thumbs expand the spring clip to get it over the pipe.
      3. Slide the tube adapter all the way down the pipe.
      4. Snap the flapper valve onto the tube adapter mounting ears.
      5. Check the alignment of the tube adapter and flapper such that the flapper is centered on the tank outlet.

      You can buy flapper valves with the overflow tube adapter at most any home improvement store.

      See How to Replace a Toilet Fill Valve for more details.

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