Understanding The Parts Of A Toilet And How They Work

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Most people take their toilets for granted, only ever worrying when they find a blockage, or they have to give it a deep clean. But if your toilet ever developed a leak or a problem, would you be able to fix it? The inner workings of a toilet might be a mystery to most, but if you ever want to be able to fix one yourself (and save having to pay out for a plumber), then understanding the toilet parts and how they work is crucial. 

We are going to run through the different parts of a toilet so that should you ever need to delve further and investigate a leak, you will be able to identify the problem and fix it right away! 

Table of Contents

Trouble with Your Toilet?

If you have been lucky enough not to have any problems with your toilet then that’s great! But you never know when your luck might run out. If you have had problems with your toilet before and you have had to pay a fortune for a plumber to come out for a super simple fix, then you are probably feeling pretty sore about it, especially when we tell you that you could have fixed it yourself for free! 

Leaks, blocked toilets, and running drips can all be issues that you can solve yourself, so long as you have the right knowledge and a “have a go” attitude. So, if you want to save yourself some money and a lot of time then let’s learn more about the parts of your toilet that might go wrong and how you can fix them. 

The Cistern Explained

The cistern is also known as the water tank and is the top part of your toilet that houses the water and the flush system. The water comes in from the water inlet tube that protrudes from your wall. It fills the cistern, and this level of water is monitored and adjusted by the ball cock or float. Once the float reaches a certain level, it stops the water from flowing in. This water then stays there ready for flushing! 

When the handle is pushed for flushing, the flapper (this is at the base of the cistern) is released, and the flush mechanism pushes the water through to the bowl. This flapper is operated by a chain that is connected to the handle. Should this chain become loose, then your handle won’t work properly. 

Another issue that might arise with your cistern is whether the tank is secured onto the bowl tightly enough. Often the bolts that hold the two components together can loosen over time and can create a gap that means water can escape out. If you have a leak below your cistern, then we recommend looking at your screws first as it is an easy job to fix and will take minutes. 

The Bowl Explained

The bowl is attached to the cistern by an inlet pipe and an O ring seal. The cistern and bowl’s alignment is vital to ensure there are no leaks or drips, and the integrity of the O ring seal is also very important. If you have a leak coming from your cistern, then you can pretty much guarantee it will be one of these two issues. 

The bowl also contains water and has siphon jets underneath the rim of the bowl where the water flushes out. With force, this water is pushed out of the cistern and swirls around the bowl, creating more pressure and forcing any waste downwards. There aren’t usually many things that can go wrong with your bowl other than a crack or a misaligned/perished seal. 

However, newer-style toilets have additional typhoon style technology and pressure systems that increase the velocity that your waste is flushed away. If you have one of these toilets, then we recommend keeping hold of the instruction guide so that you can be sure that when researching how to fix a problem with your toilet, you are researching the right kind of model. 

Waste and Water 

As we have already said, the water comes into the toilet from the water inlet pipe and into the cistern. It is worth noting that occasionally this inlet pipe can become clogged with limescale or debris, in general if you live in a hard water area. If your cistern isn’t filling properly, then it will probably have something to do with this. 

If you are finding that your toilet is running (i.e., it is constantly dripping or trickling water into the bowl), then you might have to adjust the float or the chain within your cistern. These help keep the water separate and monitor the water levels in the tank, so it will be the cause of water leaving the tank when it shouldn’t. 

As for the waste, your flange is usually built into your house either into the floor or into the wall. In order to connect your toilet to your waste outlet, you need to use a wax ring. These rings form a seal around the flange and within the toilet base so that no waste can escape. If you have a leak at your waste, then it is most likely that this seal is either dislodged or needs replacing as they can degrade over time. 

What to Do When Your Toilet Leaks

The first thing to do when your toilet leaks is not to panic! Panicking usually means you work with haste rather than precision, and as you can tell, toilets are all about precision! So, once you have yourself under control, you should turn the water supply off. This can be found either behind the toilet or near your kitchen sink. If you do need to turn the water off to the whole house, then pour yourself a bucket of water first. This is for testing later on. 

The next thing to do is to locate the leak. Remember, there are focal points to look at when you are detecting a leak, and you should start working from the top to the bottom to find it. If you are having trouble identifying the leak, then try adding dye to the water, first in the tank, and then in the bowl, to see if you can identify the leak more easily. 

Working on the leak is pretty straight forward when you know and understand the different parts of the toilet. 

  • Check the alignment
  • Ensure all the screws are tightened
  • Check seals for wear and tear
  • Look for cracks and pressure points

Finally, when you have dealt with your leak or problem, use your bucket of water to test the system before you turn the water back on. This will save you time should you find that the leak still isn’t fixed. If you are still stumped, then it might be time to call in a professional. We do recommend calling a professional for pressure system toilets and for specialist toilets such as SaniFlo systems. 

We hope that you can now say that understanding the toilet parts and how they work is something you have in your DIY arsenal and that this information will equip you to fix your own toilet should the need arise. We believe that most household items can be fixed by the homeowner/occupier, and now you will be able to address these issues too. Next time you have a problem with your toilet, don’t call a plumber. Try and tackle the issue yourself and save yourself a fortune! 

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