toilet troubleshooting - toilet handle

How To Replace Toilet Handle: A Step-By-Step Guide

This step-by-step guide gives you a clear set of instructions on how to replace a toilet handle — whether it’s broken, loose, or separated. In fact, if you follow our steps, your toilet should be purring once again with the satisfying sound of flushing water.

The Toilet Tank Parts You Need To Know

The diagram below illustrates the key parts that work together to make sure your toilet flushes properly. To replace a toilet handle, we just need to understand these 4 parts:

  1. The Toilet Handle (also called a flush handle or flush lever)
  2. The Trip Lever (also called a lift arm or handle arm)
  3. The Chain (also called a flapper valve chain)
  4. The Flapper Valve
Toilet tank diagram for toilet handle

As you can see in the diagram above, (A) the toilet handle is attached to the trip lever, (B) the trip lever is attached to the chain, and (C) the chain is attached to the flapper valve. It’s really just one mechanism made up of several different parts.

Pushing down on the toilet handle forces the trip lever to move up. This upward action also pulls the chain up, which then opens the flapper valve. Once the flapper valve is opened, the water in the tank, using the force of gravity, flushes down into the toilet bowl. That’s really all there is to it.

Now that you have a basic understanding of the parts involved in the toilet handle flushing process, let’s start by replacing a toilet handle that can’t be fixed. You will be amazed at how simple it is.

How To Replace Toilet Handle: Instructions

Most probably your toilet’s handle has cracked, especially if it’s plastic. Other common breaks occur with the bolt that attaches to your toilet handle or with the long plastic piece (the tank lever) that attaches your toilet handle’s bolt to a chain.

Regardless of how your toilet handle breaks, here are your steps for replacing the entire toilet handle flushing mechanism:

1. Buy A New Toilet Handle

Most handles fit most toilets, but there are exceptions to consider. For example, does your handle fit on the front or side of your tank? Before you go shopping, here are a couple of broken toilet handle tips that will keep you from having to make several trips to the hardware store:

Find the brand and model number (or model name) of your toilet. Often, the brand name is displayed on the outside of the tank while the model name/number is behind, underneath, or on the inside of the tank (don’t worry, the water inside the tank is clean). Write down the information and take it with you. You might get lucky and find an exact match.

Also, remove and bring with you the actual toilet handle mechanism — both the handle and trip lever (that long plastic or metal piece). Or simply take several photos of the toilet handle mechanism (both outside and inside the tank).

New Toilet Handle Mechanism
When you buy a new toilet handle, the package will include the handle, the tilt lever (or lift arm), and in between, the handle’s base (a bolt with a nut that attaches to it). Toilet handle prices start at about $5 and go up from there if you have a luxury toilet.

2. Remove The Tank Lid

Now that you have your new handle parts, here’s how to remove the tank lid before you replace the toilet handle (heck, this part is so easy, we don’t even need to show you a photo):

  • Carefully remove the lid from the top of your tank; most residential toilets are made out of porcelain which can be chipped or damaged easily. You don’t need to be as careful with wood or concrete toilets.
  • Place the lid on a thick towel and wrap it. For more protection, please it gently in the bathtub where no one can trip over it.
  • NOTE: This project does not require you to turn off the water to your toilet.
Step 2 How To Replace Toilet Handle Remove Tank Lid
Yup, removing a toilet tank’s cover is as easy as it looks. Place it on a thick towel away from your work area to protect it. Porcelain can break easily and it’s easy to forget about it while you’re working.

3. Unhook The Chain

The next step in replacing your broken toilet handle is nearly as easy as removing the tank lid:

  • Unhook the chain from the trip lever (but do not unhook the chain from the flush valve). Remember, the trip lever is that long plastic or metal piece that’s between the handle and the chain.
  • NOTE: Remember which hole — there are usually 3 or 4 holes in the trip lever — you unhooked the chain from. Later, you will need to rehook the chain to that same hole in the new handle mechanism.
Step 3 How To Replace Toilet Handle Unhook the Chain
Find the clasp that hooks the chain to the tilt lever. Remember (for later) which hole in the tilt lever that the clasp is connected to. Then simply unclasp the chain.

4. Unscrew Nut And Remove Handle

For this step, you might need a crescent (or adjustable) wrench:

  • Loosen the nut that holds the handle in place. It is located on the opposite side of the handle, inside the tank. You might be able to unscrew it with your fingers. But if it’s on too tight, grab a wrench that fits.
  • The nut is threaded in reverse (it’s a left-handed nut), which means you need to turn it in the opposite direction that you are used to. So make sure you turn the nut to the right (clockwise) to loosen it.
  • With the nut now removed, pull out the handle from the toilet. Allow the tilt lever to slide through the handle hole as you pull out the handle.
  • NOTE: Use a firm grip when loosening the nut, but be careful not to use extreme force as the wrench could slip off the nut and break the porcelain. If the nut still won’t loosen, spray it with WD-40 oil lubricant. This should remove any rust build-up that’s holding the nut in place.
Step 4 How To Replace Toilet Handle Remove Nut Mount
As you unscrew the nut from the back of the broken toilet handle, remember that the threads are usually in reverse. So you need to go in the opposite direction (to unscrew, you’ll need to turn toward the right (clockwise).

5. Insert And Attach New Toilet Handle

The really fun part of how to replace a toilet handle is when you begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Now that you’ve successfully removed that broken toilet handle, you’re now ready to replace it with a brand new toilet handle mechanism.

  • First, clean the hole where the toilet handle goes — inside and outside — with soap, water, and a sponge. Once thoroughly cleaned, dry off the area with a towel.
  • Next, remove the nut from the new toilet handle.
  • Slip the tilt lever all the way into the hole (from the outside).
  • Now place the nut back onto the tilt lever (see photo below) and slide it up until it reaches the handle’s threaded base.
  • Screw the nut onto the base by turning it counter-clockwise (to the left if you’re facing it).
  • NOTE: Make sure you have a tight fit without overdoing it. Use a wrench if you need to.
Step 5 How To Replace Toilet Handle Attach New Toilet Handle
After you slide the new tilt lever back into the toilet handle hole, place the nut on the end of the lever and slide it back up. Then you attach it to the handle’s base by screwing it on counter-clockwise.

6. Attach Chain To New Tilt Lever

You’ve reached the final step in how to replace a toilet handle. Now let’s finish what we started:

  • Re-attach the flapper valve chain to the tilt lever.
  • Make sure to clip the chain onto the same hole of the new tilt lever as it was in the old tilt lever.
  • Now flush the toilet to see if everything works properly. If so, you’re done!
  • NOTE: If the chain is set too tight, the flush valve won’t fully close, causing water to continuously leak into the toilet bowl. If the chain is too loose, not enough water will drain into your toilet bowl, causing a weak flush. In either case, simply try re-clipping the chain to a different hole in the tilt lever. Test it each time until you have the perfect fit.
Step 6 How To Replace Toilet Handle Attach Chain
Your final step is to re-attach the flush valve chain to the tilt handle. Clip the chain to the same hole as the old tilt lever. If you have any issues, you can readjust by switching to a different hole until the toilet flushes properly.

How to Replace the Toilet Handle: Final Thoughts

As you can see, replacing a broken toilet handle is pretty straightforward. If you’ve followed along and succeeded, congratulations. We knew you could do it. If you’re still having trouble, maybe this video will help.

Call 1-Tom-Plumber

If these methods for unclogging a toy stuck in your toilet don’t work, contact us here or call us at 1-Tom-Plumber (1-866-758-6237).

1-Tom-Plumber’s certified team of plumbers and drain technicians respond immediately to any emergency plumbingdrain, or water damage problem, including excavation of underground water lines and sewer main lines. Our immediate-response team is available every day and night of the year, even on holidays.

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