April 11, 2021

Spare Parts

“You need to come home early,” my wife told me over the phone. “The toilet’s not working.”

“OK,” I said and hung up. ‘Not working’ is pretty vague, but I’m handy; I was confident that I would be able to cope.

When I arrived home, I found that ‘not working’ meant the tank didn’t fill after it was flushed. I fiddled around with this and that, turned the water off and back on, simultaneously clanking a wrench against the side of the tank, so it would sound like I was really working. After a proper amount of diagnostic time, I determined that I had a faulty fill valve, but I was in luck, because I had a spare. (It’s really good to have spare parts.) All I had to do was jerk the old one out, slam the new one in and I’d be done–twenty minutes, tops.

The biggest problem with this simple task is getting all the water out of the tank before removing the valve. Otherwise, you’ve got a mess on your hands. I shut off the water, flushed the toilet, and sponged out the remaining water. The old valve came out easily, I adjusted the new one so that it matched the old one, put it in, hooked it up and turned on the water. The tank filled, the valve shut off, and the water was about one-half inch low. Right there is where my luck started to change.

One thing that’s bad about these valves is that the fine-tuning adjustment only works in the down direction. You adjust them ‘up’ by un-screwing the two parts of the shaft, which makes it longer. This procedure requires that you loosen the mounting nut, and turn the bottom of the shaft. Remember now, the tank is full of water, so you have two choices: turn off the water, flush and sponge again, or take a chance on being really careful and loosen the nut just to the point where you can turn the shaft while keeping enough pressure on the assembly to keep it from leaking. It all depends on just how lucky you feel.

I was still feeling lucky, so I went for it.  It didn’t leak much, but I messed with it unsuccessfully for a while before finally gave up and went back to option one, which worked fine. Now I’m on a roll again.  Except now, the shut-off valve coming out of the wall is leaking. Not a lot, just a drop now and then. I don’t have a spare valve, but they do swap out fairly easily. Just turn off the main water supply, take off the old valve, put on the new one, connect the riser, turn the water back on and that’s it.

So, I went to the hardware store for a new valve.  When I returned, I shut off the main water supply, took off the old valve and started to put on the new one. What’s this? The nut didn’t fit! So I had to get the old nut off the pipe. Remember, I was on my knees on a wet floor, virtually hugging the toilet bowl, reaching around underneath the tank, and growing more frustrated by the minute. Suddenly, a big drop of sweat fell from my elbow, landed directly on my hot trouble-light and the bulb popped, but that’s OK; I’ve got a spare.

I finally got the new shut-off valve installed; turned the water on, and the tank filled perfectly. I flushed it one more time just to be sure, and the handle broke off. I didn’t have a spare handle, so it’s back to the hardware store for another. I installed the new handle and everything is fine. I gathered my tools and told my wife that the toilet’s fixed, and she said, “That’s nice. I’ve been using the other bathroom.  It’s good to have a spare.”

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