holding on toilet lever

Why Do I Have to Hold Down the Toilet Lever Completely to Flush My Toilet  Share

If you ever find yourself having issues flushing the toilet, chances are you will try to hold down the toilet lever for a few seconds. Usually, the toilet will flush well. But, have you wondered why? Why do I have to hold down the toilet lever completely to flush my toilet?

Suppose you have to hold down the toilet lever completely to flush the toilet. The issue usually is because the flapper is not fully lifted away from the flush valve. The most common solution is to reduce the length of the lifting chain that connects the flush lever to the flapper. 

This article will briefly discuss how toilets work in general before exploring in further detail why you have to hold down the toilet lever completely to flush the toilet. We will then look at what you can do to fix the issue. 

How Does A Toilet Flush Work?

In general, a toilet flush works in the following process:

  1. A toilet flush starts when you pull the handle. The action will lift the flapper from the flush valve.
  2. This opens the flush valve. Water will then exit the tank through the flush valve and flushes the toilet bowl. 
  3. The pressure from the water leaving the tank will keep the flapper lifted, even if you release the handle.
  4. The float drops as water leaves the tank, opening the water refill valve. At this point, water will flow in and start to refill the tank.
  5. When little water is left, the flapper returns to its original position and forms a seal with the flush valve. 
  6. The sealed flush valve stops water from exiting the tank.
  7. Water will continue to enter the water tank through the water refill valve. As the water is refilled, the float rises.
  8. The water refill process stops once the float is high enough to close the water refill valve.

Why Do I Need To Hold The Toilet Lever Down To Flush?

You might need to hold the toilet lever down because the flapper is not lifted far enough from the flush valve. This causes insufficient water to drain into the bowl, resulting in a lack of water pressure to keep the flapper away from the flush valve.

If we relook at the previous section, the flushing process starts with us lifting the flapper from the flush valve. We usually do this by pulling the handle outside the toilet bowl. 

When we do that, the handle usually connects to an arm. The arm is then connected to the chain that is connected to the flapper. 

This means the issue of the handle being unable to lift the flapper far away enough from the flush valve could come from either the chain or the arm. 

It could be that the chain has gotten ‘longer,’ usually through losing its original shape and rigidity. Chains can deform from being underwater for an extended period of time.

Some lower-cost toilet systems use plastic arms to connect the handle to the chain. Plastic can also deform and lose shape and rigidity over time, usually through bending. This could result in it being unable to pull the chain and lift the flapper high up from the flush valve. 

flapper valve not lifting high enough from flush valve

How To Fix Toilet Flapper Not Lifting High Enough From Flush Valve?

In general, fixes usually involve shortening the chain or changing the handle arm. These fixes will help lift the flapper high enough from the flush valve for enough water to enter the flush valve. The high pressure will keep the flapper away from the flush valve, even if you release the handle.

Fixing the issue of having to hold down the toilet lever completely to flush the toilet could be done using the following steps:

  1. Open up the cover of the toilet tank. Observe the condition of the handle arm and the chain. 
  2. Take note that the handle arm is straight, rigid, and sturdy and if the chain has developed rust and deformed. 
  3. Turn off the water source that feeds the toilet tank. It is usually underneath the toilet tank, behind the seat. 
  4. Flush the toilet, and observe the lifting of the flapper. Also, observe if the handle arm bends too much. 
  5. If the handle arm bends too much, it might be the reason causing the flapper to not be lifted high enough. You will need to compensate for this through shortening the chain. 
  6. If the handle arm does not bend too much, perhaps it’s the chain deforming. Shortening the chain will solve the issue as well.
  7. To shorten the chain, prepare a zip or cable tie. A steel wire would also work. Ensure that they can fit into the holes in the chain.
  8. Insert one end of the zip tie through one of the holes in the chain. Count a few chain holes down, and push the same zip tie end through it. 
  9. Tighten the zip tie. This should effectively shorten the chain. 
  10. Try to pull the handle and observe if the flapper is now being lifted higher than previously.
  11. Turn on the water source. At this point, water should enter refill the tank. 
  12. Pull the handle, let go, and see if the water pressure is high enough to keep the flapper away from the flush valve. 
  13. If yes, then you are done. If not, shorten the chain more before trying again.

Sometimes, even after shortening the chain to the maximum, it still does not solve the problem. This could be due to the handle arm bending too much to the point that it is not generating enough pull to lift the flapper. 

replacing a flapper valve
Image from Little Big Plumbing

In this situation, an arm replacement is required. You can purchase a new handle arm from the hardware store, or you can always call in a professional to help you with the job if you prefer that route. 

If you are considering an arm replacement, you can also look into the overall condition of your toilet tank. If suitable, you can also replace the whole assembly. It is not expensive, and by replacing the whole system, you can ensure great flushes for your toilet for a long time.

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