How to Fix a Broken Toilet Flapper Valve and Lift chain

By |Last updated on |Bathroom, Toilets|26 Comments

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 Toilet Flush Lift Chain

Broken Toilet Flush Lift Chain

How to Fix a Broken Toilet Flapper Valve and Lift chain

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 Flapper Valve which includes the lift chain. It’s 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

Copyright © 2018   Reproduction strictly prohibited.


  1. Brad February 5, 2009 at 5:20 am - Reply

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

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

    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 - Reply

    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 - Reply

      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 - Reply

    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 - Reply

    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 - Reply

      You’re very welcome! Glad my article helped.

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

    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 - Reply

    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 - Reply

      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) 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 - Reply

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


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

      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.

  9. Dumb Student August 7, 2014 at 9:47 pm - Reply

    Wow. I had no idea this would be SO easy.

    1. 3 minutes reading the article,
    2. 4 minutes taking out the old flapper
    3. 25 minutes going to the hardware store and matching the old one up with a new one
    4. 4 minutes installing the new flapper and flushing away.

    And here I had been dunking freaking arm into the tank to lift the flapper for the last 6 weeks…

    Lesson learned: Don’t wait until move out time to fix things, fix them when they break.

  10. Herb Aldwinckle November 12, 2014 at 1:40 pm - Reply

    My plastic chain gets all wound up on itself and reduces the effective length of the chain. Then the flapper won’t drop far enough to cover the outlet hole. Are metal chains less likely than plastic chains to foul themselves up like this?

    • Bob Jackson November 12, 2014 at 5:35 pm - Reply

      I prefer the metal toilet flapper chain for that reason. Plastic chains tend to float and twist. I adjust the chain length such that there is minimal slack; long enough the flapper closes completely with no tension in the chain, but short enough the flush handle feels firm with only a slight “give”. We’ve all experienced a sloppy flush handle has to be pressed down a long way before the slack is taken up from the lift chain.

  11. teresa April 23, 2015 at 12:20 pm - Reply

    Hi My valve post has the to posts that come out to hold the flapper valve but I can not get the valve off the posts. They do not stretch. I can’t seem to get the post to move either. Can I cut the flapper at the posts to remove it or do I need to replace the whole tube system as well?

    • Bob Jackson April 23, 2015 at 3:05 pm - Reply

      You may have a flapper valve with hard plastic hinges that fit on the mounting ears of the overflow tube. If so, you can carefully cut the flapper valve wings off at the flapper valve body so each wing is free. You should be able to slip each wing off the ears of the overflow tube and install a new rubber flapper valve.

      You can e-mail photos to bob[at] (replace the [at] with the @ symbol) if you’d like me take a look.

  12. Jasmine June 25, 2015 at 3:12 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much! I was able to repair it all on my own and impress the heck out of my husband.

  13. Frei June 11, 2016 at 10:43 am - Reply

    Thank you thank you and thank you! I did it by myself! Can’t wait to tell my hubby!

  14. mamaransom January 3, 2017 at 9:31 am - Reply

    The toilet was only running at times. Jiggling the handle did not work, so I took a look inside and saw that the flapper thing was not landing on the tube beneath it correctly. Assuming wear, I changed the flapper thing and the problem still remains. One out of ten times it lands on the tube correctly, but the other nine times it lands crooked causing the toilet to run off and on. If I manually slide the flapper thing over the tube, it stops running and I can then go to bed! This toilet is only six years old and this is the first time it has had any issues. Any ideas?

    • Bob Jackson January 3, 2017 at 6:11 pm - Reply

      Try a different flapper that fits better with less wiggle. Compare the Fluidmaster (top) and the Korky (bottom) in this photo. One or the other may work better.

    • Gilbert January 5, 2017 at 5:29 pm - Reply

      I have an American Standard toilet with the same issue. I looked the flapper over and all seemed fine, no tears or worn areas, no slime or calcium buildup. Home Depot and Lowes do not stock the replacement flapper in the store. It is a 3 inch flapper, so the universal ones were not going to work.
      So I had to special order a replacement.
      Im happy to say the new one works, no running.
      I read in an online forum that the flapper for this toilet in particular, American Standard, are not sold in most retail stores and are the first thing to go out on the toilets. Why? Who knows…

  15. Joe January 13, 2018 at 7:43 am - Reply

    Thanks. I had already tried doing this exactly as you describe, especially taking out all slack when the flapper is down. Chain still kinks and holds flapper open frequently. Any thoughts? Thanks again.

    • Bob Jackson January 15, 2018 at 11:01 am - Reply

      Hmm, remove the tank cover and watch what happens to the flapper chain when you flush to determine what’s causing it it kink. Maybe something’s out of alignment. You may want to try a flapper with a plastic chain.

  16. Jean Koehler September 9, 2018 at 6:37 pm - Reply

    My toilet flapper mechanism was replaced 1 month ago by my usually reliable plumber. Before that incident the metal chain had broken and we repaired it ourselves. But now a month after a totally new mechanism was installed (including flapper), the new chain also broke. Looks like the link was pulled open and an extra link was lying on it’s own at the bottom. My colleague fixed it but I have no confidence that it will hold.
    Is there a more reliable chain anywhere?
    The same plumber is coming tomorrow to look at it. Should I expect this plumber to replace this chain free of charge?

    • Bob Jackson September 10, 2018 at 1:11 pm - Reply

      I’ve never had a metal lift chain break. Korky flappers have worked well for me.

      > Should I expect this plumber to replace this chain free of charge?
      Did the plumber provide a warranty on the original repair job? Ask before the plumber makes the service call. Everyone needs a professional plumber they can trust (I’m no exception!) and I would think he’d make a non-emergency remediation call to get your future business.

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